Posts Tagged ‘Smoltz

05
Feb
09

Looking back at a Brave legend…

Smoltzie celebrating

Smoltzie celebrating

Long-time Braves fans will never forget the day that John Smoltz was acquired. August 12, 1987 still resonates in the hearts and minds of the Atlanta faithful.

John Smoltz, a Michigan native, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 1985 draft. But, when the Tigers were in the midst of a three-team pennant race and chasing the first place Toronto Blue Jays, they decided to trade their 20-year old prospect Smoltz to Atlanta for 36-year old veteran starter Doyle Alexander. And, while Alexander helped lead the Tigers to a division championship, the cost of giving up Smoltz hurt the franchise for years.

What was Detroit’s loss was Atlanta’s gain. John Smoltz helped lead a fumbling franchise to lengendary stardom. Smoltz, joined by Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, formed the “Big Three,” that anchored Atlanta’s rotation for years during their run of divisional dominance in the 1990’s. John Smoltz won the 1996 National League Cy Young Award and was selected to eight All-Star games during his more than two decade career with the Braves. Smoltz was also a part of all of the 14 consecutive division championships the Braves won, making them the winningest team in any of the four major professional sports over the regular season stretch.

John Smoltz’s years with the Braves weren’t without a few bumps along the way. Smoltz underwent Tommy John surgery on his arm prior to the 2000 season, forcing him to miss the whole year. When Smoltz returned in 2001, he ultimately found himself in a new role… the Atlanta Braves closer. The Braves moved Smoltz to the bullpen down the stretch, where he proved effective. The team felt Smoltz’s new role would be less taxing on his arm and would also provide the team with the dominant, power closer they had been lacking in years past. In his first full season as a closer in 2002, Smoltz broke the National League save record with 55 saves. Smoltz went on to have three successful seasons as the team’s closer, proving his versatility and his willingness to put the team first.

Before the 2005 season, Smoltz’s desire to return to a starting pitcher was too strong to deny. The team finally granted his wish and moved Smoltz back to the rotation, where many critics doubted Smoltz’s ability to stay healthly and return to the effective starter he once was. But like always, Smoltz proved all the naysayers wrong finishing the ’05 season with a record of 14-7 and an ERA of 3.06. More importantly, he reached the 200 inning mark despite the odds stacked against him. Smoltz’s move from starter to closer to back to starter has garnered him Hall of Fame buzz.

Arm injuries continued to dog Smoltz and in June of 2008, he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. His contract with the Braves expired at season’s end and while Smoltz had hoped to re-sign and ultimately retire for the only professional team he’s ever played for, the two sides could not come to an agreement and Smoltz went elsewhere.

It is now with a heavy heart that Braves fans must now watch John Smoltz try to defy the odds yet again and make another successful return from arm surgery with the Boston Red Sox.

But for a man who has given so much of himself, his heart and his soul to the city of Atlanta, the fans, his teammates and ultimately the Atlanta Braves organization, no Braves fan can say they won’t be rooting for Smoltz.

John Smoltz turned the Atlanta Braves into winners. John Smoltz was the face of this franchise. John Smoltz was and still is a Brave legend.

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29
Jan
09

Brave New Rotation

The Atlanta Braves starting rotation has underwent a great deal of change this winter, and with Spring Training on the horizon, even more changes could be on the way.

The Braves have worked hard this off-season to rebuild a starting rotation that was depleted by injuries last season. The team acquired veteran right-hander Javier Vazquez from the Chicago White Sox in hopes of providing a stablizing force at the top of the rotation. Vazquez is steady if not flashy, winning at least 10 games in nine straight seasons and most importantly, pitching at least 200 innings in eight out of those nine seasons.

After adding Vazquez to the mix, the Braves continued their search for a proven ace to place atop their new look rotation. The team attempted to land Padres ace Jake Peavy via trade and also tried to sign free agent starter A.J. Burnett, but failed in both attempts.

In another shocking turn of events, Atlanta Braves pitching legend John Smoltz shocked the baseball world by leaving the only professional team he’s ever played for to sign a one-year contract with the Boston Red Sox. Many baseball experts and pundits predicted Smoltz would retire a Brave.

In the midst of the shock of Smoltz’s departure, the team finally found success in its search for more rotation help and added not one but two new starters, quelling some of teammates and fans concern.

The Braves signed Japanese free agent starter Kenshin Kawakami, making him the first Japanese player in franchise history. Kawakami spent the last 11 seasons as one of the top Japanese pitchers in the Japan’s Central League. Kawakami went 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA last season for the Chunichi Dragons before missing almost three weeks in September due to a strained back. Kawakami passed a physical before signing with the Braves and is expected to be a healthy and vital part of the Braves rotation this coming season.

In the same week that the Braves held a press conference announcing the signing of Kawakami, the Braves finally landed their much sought after ace. Atlanta increased its pursuit of Los Angeles Dodgers free agent Derek Lowe after John Smoltz officially departed for Beantown. The Braves finally got their man, inticing Lowe to sign a four year, 60-million dollar contract with the club. Lowe, 35, has proven to be one of baseball’s most reliable starters. He has averaged 15 wins and over 200 innings over the past seven seasons. Lowe, who is known for his sinkerball, will anchor a potentially strong Braves staff in 2009.

The Braves have penciled in the first four slots of their rotation for the coming season. While the order has yet to be decided, the team knows Lowe will lead a staff that will also be comprised of Vazquez, returning phenom Jair Jurrjens, who enjoyed a successful rookie season and Kawakami. The fifth slot remains up for grabs but storied Braves pitcher Tom Glavine has his eye of the spot.

At this point, Glavine’s future with the team remains up in the air. Glavine is recovering from surgery to repair the torn flexor in his pitching elbow and has yet to decide whether he will pitch another season or retire. Glavine’s rehabilitation is going well after throwing two mound sessions and the hurler has said if he does return he hopes to work out a deal to remain in Atlanta and retire a Brave.




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