The Smoltz Story
July 30, 2015
Major League Baseball inducted four new members into its Hall of Fame last weekend. I listen to a lot of sports talk radio and one of the inductees, John Smoltz, received a great deal of attention. There is more to the Smoltz story than the fact that he had a legendary career with the Atlanta Braves.
Smoltz clearly had the statistics and productivity to he Hall of Fame worthy. The story features an injury comeback and selflessness that should inspire all athletes.
Smoltz was a workhorse early in his pitching career. He was not like starting pitchers these days who go five or six innings a start. Smoltz led the league in games started twice, and in innings pitched two times. This was a necessity since the Braves usually had a shaky bullpen. More often than not, manager Bobby Cox needed him to go deep into games during on their unprecedented postseason run from 1991 to 2005.
That mindset took it’s toll, and Smoltz’s elbow was done, an injury that derailed so many promising careers for pitchers. He could have retired then and make the move to the TV booth.
But now comes the rest of the story.
Smoltz came back after the ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, otherwise known as Tommy John surgery.
Hall of Famer John Smoltz
This is a surgical graft procedure in which the damaged ligament in the elbow is replaced by a tendon from elsewhere in the body. The surgery is becoming more and more common. And more and more pitchers are coming back from it with some success. But Smoltz was the first pitcher to get in to Cooperstown after undergoing the procedure.
The story gets even better after his recovery. It was not a secret that Smoltz clearly preferred being a starting pitcher for a number of reasons. First of all, he was one of the best starters in the game for an extended period of time. Secondly, he was one of the best hitting pitchers to ever play baseball, winning several Silver Slugger awards.
But if you remember those days, you remember that the Braves had a huge need. The bullpen had fallen apart, when the notorious John Rocker had his memorable and embarrassing meltdown.
Giving up his starter spot meant potentially giving up a Hall of Fame career. He wouldn’t be able to get many wins, his specialty, or many strikeouts, which many voters require of any starter. Plus, he wouldn’t get any of his beloved at-bats.
Selfish athletes would have said no, demanding a place in the rotation, or a trade. But Smoltz headed to the bullpen in 2001, where the team needed him.
The move was an immediate success. Smoltz recorded 157 saves including many in playoff action. He even finished third in the Cy Young voting once before the bullpen was fixed and he could return to the starting rotation, where the team needed him once again.
Smoltz, as a starter, picked up right where he left off, pre-injury. He once again led the league in starts and wins in 2006. The right-hander eclipsed the 200 win mark, and the 3,000 strikeout mark as well, before his career ended.
Among the chatter last week, I heard Smoltz detractors say there are other pitchers more worthy. I think not. Compare his numbers to two of his fellow 2015 inductees. Smoltz only has six fewer wins than Pedro Martinez, and won twice as many postseason games as Randy Johnson (and has nine more postseason wins than Martinez), with a lower postseason earned run average (ERA) than either. Both are deserved first ballot Hall-of-Famers. So is Smoltz.
But Smoltz is more than a stat collector and champion athlete. He is an inspiration to all who are injured in sports. He is a role model for how he put personal glory and dreams aside for what’s best for the team. And he is rightfully a Hall of Fame member.
Police Blotter In Florida
I have been spending some time in these pages discussing the recent criminal behavior by Florida State Seminoles football players.
In the spirit of fair reporting, I give you this about one of the Seminoles rivals, the Florida Gators.
The following also falls in the ‘Did you know’ category.
The 2008 Florida Gators were National Champs. That was the year Tim Tebow officially became a phenomenon. Tebow and Florida beat number-one Alabama in the SEC title game before upending Oklahoma in the National title game.
Fast-forward seven years. Did you know that of the 121 players that were on the roster that season, 41 have been arrested, either in college or afterward, and sometimes both.
One-third of head coach Urban Meyer’s team. Yes, as reported by the New York Times. I am sure Ohio State fans are hoping history does not repeat itself.
Or since Florida State has been picking up the slack since Meyer left Florida, they are hoping it is just a state of Florida thing.
Can It Get Any Worse In Miami?
How bad is the state of professional baseball in Miami you ask? Pretty bad. The Miami Marlins currently own the 2nd-worst record in baseball at 40-55. Despite somehow capturing two World Series, they’ve never won their division once in 22 seasons. That streak will reach 23 this season.
The franchise is clearly incompetent. Let me throw this evidence at you. In addition to ineptitude at the Major League-level, they also own seven other last place teams throughout the various minor leagues. I saw this on the internet last week.
DSL Marlins are 17-28 in the Boca Chica North Division of the Dominican Summer League.
GCL Marlins are are 12-15 and tied for last in the East Division of the Gulf Coast League.
Batavia Muckdogs are 9-22 and last in the Pinckney Division of the New York – Pennsylvania League.
Class A: Greensboro Grasshoppers are 36-59. They have the worst record in the South Atlantic League.
Jupiter Hammerheads are 43-54. Last place in the South Division of the Florida State League.
Class AA: Jacksonville Suns are 38-56. Last place in the South Division of the Southern League.
Class AAA: New Orleans Zephyrs are 42-55. Last place in the American – South Division of the Pacific Coast League.