In an interview with Jay Busbee of Atlanta Magazine and the blog Right Down Peachtree, John Smoltz fired the first shot in what is sure to be a long winter of contract discusssions... and he didn't hold back:
"I say this for the first time, without reservation, if I’m going to bust my butt and if I feel like I’m good enough and it doesn’t work out here, I will be pitching somewhere else … My dream scenario would be to pitch in the playoffs again, and that’s coming from a guy who’s been in 13 of them. (Smoltz missed the 2000 playoffs with Tommy John surgery.) To me, that’s what I’m about. So if the door gets closed here, it’ll have to be explored somewhere else."
He later clarified his statement a bit more with this comment:
"Make no mistake," he said a few minutes later. "I am absolutely, 100 percent committed to playing the rest of my career for the Atlanta Braves. But this can’t be my only option … I may not be in the [Braves’] plans. It’s no given right, where I’ve spent 21 years here and [so] they owe me whatever I want."
This is going to be a hotly debated topic during the off-season and even before the off-season, starting right now. With this shot from Smoltz, the race is on and each party will likely have their say. The reality is that the Braves may choose to go young and not retain Smoltz or Tom Glavine, or they may choose to spend money in other areas and on younger and healthier players. It will be interesting to see what Smoltz and Glavine will be asking for in a contract -- guaranteed money, incentive-based deals, or just a low minimum.