As I celebrated the Yanks huge 4th inning last night, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness for the great John Smoltz (or ‘Shmoltz’ as Paul O’Neill would say) as he walked off the mound. He’s one of the best pitchers of his generation, part of Yankee history with Game 5 vs Andy Pettitte in the 1996 World Series, and by all accounts one of the most hard working and classiest guys in the game. Here’s what Red Sox manager Terry Francona said after yesterday’s debacle:
“Once it went, it seemed to go in a hurry,” said manager Terry Francona, who looked downtrodden. “We have a lot of things we need to talk about. When I get done answering questions, I will give Theo [Epstein] a call.”
Even Smoltz himself is unsure of his own fate, and said this after the game in the same article:
When asked if he’s confident he’ll make his next start, Smoltz had a curious, if not understandable, answer.
“I just want to wake up and go to work tomorrow and see what happens,” he said.
So much for the much-ballyhooed Red Sox pitching depth we heard about all spring. I never bought into it myself. The idea behind the Smoltz signing was to have a great pitcher (albeit an aging one) with an amazing pedigree who would get better as the season progressed, and be ready to dominate by this time. His age wouldn’t be an issue since he’d only have to work half a season. This was Theo creating this year’s Roger Clemens, covering his bases with a HOF pitcher if somebody in his rotation got hurt. He could even use him out of the bullpen if needed, setting up a dream 1-2 punch with Smoltz and Paps. At the time he was signed, Theo said this:
“The reason that we’re acquiring John Smoltz is to put him in a position to get back to 100 percent and dominate in the most important times of year for us,” said Epstein, the team’s general manager, on the day of Smoltz was introduced. “That works backward from October, the stretch run, the second half of the season.”
But as we Yankee fans learned with Clemens and Randy Johnson, it’s hard enough for a healthy 40+ pitcher to go from the NL to the AL East and succeed, much less one coming off major shoulder surgery. Had the Yankees signed Smoltz, all we would have heard about are the question marks surrounding him, but for some reason the Sox got a pass. Two World titles in the past 5 seasons will certainly buy you some slack with the media, but that doesn’t mean the move made sense. And when will people ever learn that when the Atlanta Braves give up on a pitcher (Smoltz, Glavine, Jaret Wright) they probabaly know something you don’t. Mainly that he doesn’t have much left.
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