Smoltz will forever be a Brave
This was truly a sad afternoon for the Braves. While John Smoltz might have spent the past few months wearing a Red Sox uniform, he’s forever a Brave and arguably the most succesful athlete to ever play for one of Atlanta’s professional organizations.
When the Red Sox announced this afternoon that Smoltz had been designated for assignment, Braves general manager Frank Wren didn’t pump his fist or perform a celebratory dance.
Instead like everybody else who has ever known the veteran hurler, he felt sympathetic to emotional battle that is waging within Smoltz.
While Wren might have been correct in his assessment that Smoltz’s shoulder would prevent him from being an asset in the Atlanta rotation this year, Smoltz was anything but wrong to accept yet another great challenge in foreign territory.
Smoltz’s days as a starting pitcher are likely complete. But after he takes some time to mull his options at his Atlanta residence this weekend, there’s a chance he’ll opt to go to the Minors and prepare himself to spend the final weeks of this season as a reliever.
Smoltz sent me a text earlier this afternoon saying that he’d call later. If that call doesn’t come until Sunday or Monday, I won’t be surprised. For the first time since he struggled during the first half of the 1991 season, he’s in a position where he’s wondering if he is still capable of finding success at the Major League level.
While I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility that Smoltz would sign with the Braves and attempt to regain his form with Triple-A Gwinnett, I think it’s much safer to assume that he’ll return to the Red Sox and spend the next couple of weeks attempting to right himself with their Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket.
Right now, Smoltz doesn’t even know for certain whether he’d be capable of coming out of the bullpen as few as three times in a week. This is a question that can only be answered by him going to the Minors and testing the strength and durability of his shoulder.
The Red Sox seem to be open to this arrangement and the ever-competitive Smoltz would seemingly welcome the ability to accept yet another challenge.
But if this was indeed the end of Smoltz days on the mound, Braves fans can shed a tear for one of their legends and then celebrate the fact that he at least now will be returning home with the opportunity to be a part of their organization for the rest of his life.
There’s no doubt that Smoltz has some hard feelings toward the Braves organization. But hopefully his relationships with members of the club’s upper management can be mended qhick enough for him and Tom Glavine to soon have the opportunity to experience the same kind of joy that Greg Maddux found a few weeks ago, when his Braves career was celebrated at Turner Field.