This is an emotional day. It's going to be an emotional day for John Smoltz, and it's going to be an emotional day for many Braves fans. So far there has been a lot of anger directed at various people ranging from Smoltz to Frank Wren to Benjamin Franklin's face on money. These are all natural emotions that I myself have been going through today as well.
CB had a good point early this morning (link, then go to his 12:42 post):
[...] the more logical part of me is actually behind not bringing Smoltzie back (and even less behind bringing Glavine back). The truth is, the guy only pitched 28 innings last year and he looked like he was in pain on every single pitch. And yeah, when he’s healthy he’s still as dominant as can be, but he’s turning 42, he’s had a ton of major arm surgeries [four to be exact], how often can you reasonably expect him to be healthy anymore?
As much as I hate to say it, if somebody is willing to guarantee him a major league job and a bunch of money, then good for him, but I don’t think it would be prudent for the Braves to do so. We saw how having a bunch of money tied up in players who aren’t playing hindered them this season, but more importantly, we saw how expecting players to play who can’t, hurt them. Signing up for another season of counting on guys who are likely to see more days on the DL than off just doesn’t seem like a good plan.
And JC seemed to echo CB's point in his post this morning:
From a team-quality standpoint, I really don’t see what the big deal is. John Smoltz is not just slightly hurt, and $5.5 million is a lot of guaranteed money to cough up for an injury risk. He didn’t just get his knee scoped. He’s about to turn 42, and he’s coming off major shoulder surgery. Yeah, I know he’s throwing off the mound, yadda yadda yadda, but that’s a long way from being the dominant pitcher he has been over the past few seasons. [...]
From the reports I’m reading, Smoltz’s injury should keep him out for the first third of the season. [...]
I don’t think Frank Wren deserves the heat that he is going to get for this. The Braves have paid Smoltz $130 million over his career. Smoltz wanted more, and I don’t blame Wren for passing. Signing and not signing Smoltz both have risks, and I think he gambled on the right side.
And of course Mark Bradley from the AJC also chimed in:
As heretical as this may sound, the Braves would be wise to take a tip from the Falcons, who have rarely been great or grand or even very good. Thomas Dimitroff arrived from New England and proceeded to lop four Pro Bowlers and his team was the better for it, and he’s about to dump more big names this winter.
Put simply, the professional team that isn’t going forward is falling back. The Braves keep recycling old ideas, which is a sure sign they’re running out of new ones. Not coincidentally, they’ve also finished third, third, and fourth over the past three seasons.
As difficult as it would be to see Smoltz in a different uniform, it’s nothing the Braves couldn’t get over. (They got over seeing Glavine work for the hated Mets.) This is big-league baseball. These things happen. Better to let a 41-year-old pitcher take a guarantee of $5 million to play for the Red Sox, who toss millions around like pennies, than to risk $5 million of your own on his surgically altered shoulder.
By trying to repeat the past, the Braves are guaranteeing they won’t have much of a future. They need to learn how to say goodbye and mean it. If Smoltz wins 20 for the Sox, more power to him. But you can’t plan for tomorrow on the basis of what a 41-year-old might (or might not) do. You have to move on.
Wow, I can't believe I (A) actually posted that much of a snippet from a Mark Bradley column and (B) kind-of agree with him. I will say that the Braves keep recycling "old players" as well as old ideas, but it is exactly that old idea that we are trying to build our team on again this year, so don't disparage it too m uch.
The goal for Frank Wren and the Braves remains the same, almost exactly the same as it was when the off-season started -- find a couple of quality, healthy starting pitchers and another impact hitter. By their low-ball offer, the Braves clearly didn't feel that John Smoltz fit into that plan, and this Frank Wren run team certainly seems to want to be very careful about how it spends its money.
Having money tied up in the wrong contracts is what has hampered the Braves for the past few years -- is Wren learning from that lesson?
Counting on players who have question marks about their health -- is Wren learning from that lesson?
I certainly wouldn't call the Braves' significant interest in A.J. Burnett or Rafael Furcal learning from either of those two lessons, but I wouldn't call throwing a lot of money at John Smoltz learning from them either. With these two opposing positions on players I can see how Smoltz might be confused if the team is willing to shell out money to injury risks Burnett and Furcal, but unwilling to match the Red Sox offer for him.
I'm sure we could go on all day with reasons why and people to blame, but the reality is that Smoltz is no longer a Brave. We get to move on and build the team with other players. Healthier players and younger players. But still... something just doesn't seem right.