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John Smoltz

Smoltz during his tenure with the Boston Red Sox on June 30, 2009.
Pitcher
Born: May 15, 1967 (1967-05-15) (age 42)
Warren, Michigan
Bats: Right Throws: Right 
MLB debut
July 23, 1988 for the Atlanta Braves
Career statistics
(through 2009 season)
Win-Loss     213-155
Earned run average     3.33
Strikeouts     3,084
Saves     154
Teams
Career highlights and awards

John Andrew Smoltz (born May 15, 1967 in Warren, Michigan) is a free agent Major League Baseball pitcher.[1] He is best known for his prolific career of more than two decades with the Atlanta Braves, in which he garnered eight All-Star selections and received the Cy Young Award in 1996. Though predominantly known as a starting pitcher, Smoltz was converted to a reliever in 2001, following his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and spent four years as the team's closer before returning to a starting role. In 2002 he became only the second pitcher in history to have had both a 20-win season and a 50-save season (the other being Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley). He is the only pitcher in major league history to top both 200 wins and 150 saves. He became the 16th member of the 3,000 strikeout club on April 22, 2008 when he fanned Felipe Lopez of the Washington Nationals in the third inning in Atlanta.

Smoltz throws a four-seam fastball that has been clocked as high as 98 miles per hour, a strong, effective slider, and an 88–91 mph split-finger fastball that he uses as a strikeout pitch. He also mixes in a curveball and change-up on occasion, and in 1999, he began experimenting with both a knuckleball and a screwball, though he rarely uses either in game situations today.[2]

Contents

Minor leagues and trade to Atlanta

John Smoltz was an All-State baseball and basketball player at Waverly High School in Lansing, Michigan and in college at Michigan State University before the Detroit Tigers drafted him in the 22nd round of the 1985 amateur draft.[3] He was the 574th selection of the draft.[4]

Smoltz played first for the Lakeland Tigers minor league team and then moved on to the Glens Falls Tigers in 1987.[5] On August 12, 1987, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves. The 1987 Tigers were in a three-team race, chasing the Toronto Blue Jays for the AL East division lead. In need of pitching help, Detroit sent their 20-year-old prospect to the Braves for the 36-year-old veteran Doyle Alexander.

Major leagues

Early years (1988-1997)

Smoltz made his Major League debut on July 23, 1988. He posted poor statistics in a dozen starts, but in 1989, Smoltz blossomed. In 29 starts, he recorded a 12–11 record and 2.94 ERA while pitching 208 innings and making the All-Star team. Teammate Tom Glavine also had his first good year in 1989, raising optimism about the future of Atlanta's pitching staff.

Smoltz began the 1991 season with a 2–11 record. He began seeing a sports psychologist, after which he closed out the season on a 12–2 pace,[6] helping the Braves win a tight NL East race. His winning ways continued into the 1991 National League Championship Series. Smoltz won both his starts against the Pittsburgh Pirates, capped by a complete game shutout in the seventh game, propelling the Braves to their first World Series since moving to Atlanta in 1966. Smoltz had two no-decisions against the Minnesota Twins, with a 1.26 ERA. In the seventh and deciding game, he faced his former Detroit Tiger hero, Jack Morris. Both starters pitched shutout ball for seven innings, before Smoltz was removed from the 0–0 game during a Twins threat in the eighth. Atlanta reliever Mike Stanton pitched out of the jam, getting Smoltz off the hook, but Morris would eventually pitch a 10-inning complete game victory.

The next year, Smoltz won fifteen regular season games and was the MVP of the 1992 National League Championship Series, winning two games. He left the seventh game trailing, but ended up with a no-decision as the Braves mounted a dramatic ninth-inning comeback win. In the World Series that year, Smoltz started two of the six games in the series, with a no-decision in Game Two and a win with the Braves facing elimination in Game 5.

Before the 1993 season, the Braves signed renowned control pitcher Greg Maddux, completing what many consider to be the most accomplished starting trio ever assembled on a single Major League team. Smoltz again won fifteen games, but suffered his first postseason loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS despite a 0.00 ERA.

Smoltz had a 6-10 record in the strike-shortened 1994 season, and during the break, had bone chips removed from his elbow. Returning as the Braves' #3 starter, he posted a 12–7 record in 1995. Smoltz had shaky postseason numbers, avoiding a decision despite a 6.60 ERA. But Smoltz and the Braves won their only World Series, thanks in great part to Maddux and Glavine, who had begun to overshadow Smoltz.

The following season, 1996, was Smoltz's best year as a professional. He went 24–8 with a 2.94 ERA and 276 strikeouts, including winning a franchise record fourteen straight decisions. He won the National League Cy Young with 26 of the 28 first-place votes. Smoltz's effectiveness in 1997 was only slightly less than his Cy Young season, but frugal run support limited him to a 15–12 record. Smoltz was also awarded a Silver Slugger Award for his batting.

Injuries and move to the bullpen (1998-2004)

Smoltz continued to post excellent statistics in 1998 and 1999, but he was spending significant time on the disabled list and missed about a fourth of his starts. In 1999, Smoltz began experimenting with both a knuckleball and a three-quarters delivery, though he rarely uses either in game situations today.[7]

He underwent Tommy John surgery prior to the 2000 season, missing the entire year. When he was unable to perform effectively as a starter in 2001, Smoltz made a transition to the bullpen, filling a void as Atlanta's new closer down the stretch, replacing John Rocker.

In 2002, his first full season as a closer, Smoltz broke the National League saves record with 55 saves (the previous record was 53; Éric Gagné would equal Smoltz's new record a year later). Smoltz finished third in the Cy Young Award voting. Injuries limited Smoltz slightly in 2003, but he still recorded 45 saves with a 1.12 ERA in 64.3 innings pitched. In 2004, Smoltz finished with 44 saves, but was frustrated with his inability to make an impact as a closer during another Braves' postseason loss.

By this point, Smoltz was all that remained of the once-dominant Atlanta Braves' rotation of the 1990s. Tom Glavine had moved on to play for the New York Mets, a divisional rival, while Greg Maddux returned to his old team, the Chicago Cubs.

Return to the rotation

After three years as one of baseball's most dominating closers, the team's management agreed to return Smoltz to the starting rotation prior to the 2005 season.

Smoltz's renewed career as a starter began inauspiciously. He allowed six earned runs in only 1 2/3 innings — matching the shortest starts of his career—as the Braves were blown out on Opening Day by the Florida Marlins. Poor run support contributed to an 0–3 start despite stronger pitching performances by Smoltz. After these initial difficulties, though, things fell into place. At the All-Star break, Smoltz was 9–5 with an ERA of 2.68 and was chosen for the 2005 NL All-Star team. Smoltz gave up a solo home run to Miguel Tejada in the second inning of the American League's 7–5 victory and received the loss. For his career, he is 1–2 in All-Star games, putting him in a tie for the most losses.

Smoltz finished 2005 at 14–7, with a 3.06 ERA with 169 strikeouts while allowing less than one hit per inning. Smoltz had answered the critics who doubted he would be able to reach the 200 inning plateau after three years in the bullpen. Nonetheless, Smoltz's increased workload caused him to wear down towards the end of the season.

Despite a sore shoulder, Smoltz pitched seven innings in the Braves' 7–1 win over the Houston Astros in Game Two of the 2005 NLDS. It was the only game the Braves would manage to win in the series against the eventual National League champions. The victory over Houston gave Smoltz a 13–4 record as a starter (15–4 overall) with a 2.65 ERA in the postseason. He has the second most postseason wins (15) behind only Andy Pettitte with 18. They are followed by Tom Glavine (14), and Greg Maddux (11).

In 2006, Smoltz finished the season with a record of 16–9, an earned run average of 3.49, and 211 strikeouts. He was tied for the National League lead in wins, and was third in strikeouts. The fact that the Braves bullpen blew six of Smoltz's leads in 2006 robbed him of a strong chance at a 20-win season.

On September 21, 2006, the Braves announced they had picked up Smoltz's $8 million contract option for the 2007 season. On April 26, 2007 Smoltz agreed to a contract extension with the Braves. The extension includes a $14 million salary for the 2008 season, a $12 million vesting option for 2009 dependent on Smoltz's ability to pitch 200 innings in 2008, and a $12 or $13 million team option for 2010 dependent on Smoltz's ability to pitch 200 innings in 2009.[8]

2007 was a year of reunions and milestones for Smoltz. On May 9, he faced Greg Maddux for the first time since July 10, 1992. Smoltz earned a win in a 3–2 victory over the San Diego Padres; Maddux received a no-decision. On May 24, exactly eleven years to the day after recording his 100th win, Smoltz recorded his 200th win against Tom Glavine.[9] He faced Glavine 3 other times faring 3–1 overall against him. On June 27, Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux all recorded wins on the same day. On August 19, 2007, Smoltz set the new Atlanta Braves strikeout record by striking out Arizona Diamondbacks' Mark Reynolds. It was his 2,913th strikeout and he passed Phil Niekro on the Braves all-time list; striking out a season-high 12 in the game.[10] He finished the year 14–8 with a 3.11 ERA and 197 strikeouts. The stalwart pitcher was the only holdover on the Braves' roster from their 1991 worst-to-first season until Glavine returned to the Braves after an absence of several years following the 2007 season.

On April 22, 2008, Smoltz became the 16th pitcher in Major League Baseball history to reach 3,000 career strikeouts. He is one of four pitchers to strike out 3,000 batters for one team, joining Walter Johnson, Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton.

On April 28, 2008, Smoltz was placed on the 15 day disabled list due to an inflamed right shoulder.[11]

Return to relief

On May 1, 2008, Smoltz indicated that he intended to return to being a relief pitcher. After coming off the disabled list on June 2, 2008, he blew his first save opportunity in three years. Two days later, the Braves placed him back on the disabled list. John Smoltz underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on June 10, 2008.[12] His contract expired at the end of the season, and the contract offer from the Braves was not sufficient to keep him.[13]

Boston Red Sox

In December of 2008, several members of the Boston Red Sox organization including pitching coach John Farrell, Vice President of Player Personnel Ben Cherington, and assistant trainer Mike Reinold, flew to Atlanta, Georgia to participate in a 90-minute workout with Smoltz. Throwing for only the second time since having surgery on a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder, Smoltz threw a 50-pitch side session and showcased not only his tremendous progress since the surgery, but an arsenal of well-developed pitches which has made him so successful throughout his career. Smoltz impressed the Red Sox members enough during the workout that less than a month later, a one-year contract was offered by the organization.[14]

On January 13, 2009, Smoltz signed a one-year contract with the Boston Red Sox for a reported base salary of $5.5 million with roster time incentives and miscellaneous award incentives which could net as much as $10 million.[15] He made his first start in the Boston Red Sox rotation June 25, 2009, allowing seven hits and five runs through five innings.[16][17] Smoltz struggled his entire time with the Red Sox posting a 2-5 record over eight games with an 8.32 ERA and no quality starts. He was designated for assignment on August 7, 2009, after a 13-6 loss to the Yankees, giving the Red Sox 10 days to release, trade, or send him to the minors.[18] The Red Sox offered Smoltz a minor league stint in order to prepare him to be placed in the bullpen, but he rejected the offer, leaving the Red Sox the options of either releasing or trading him. [19] On August 17, 2009 the Red Sox released Smoltz.[20]

St. Louis Cardinals

Smoltz pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals on September 3, 2009.

On August 19, 2009, John Smoltz signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, bringing a record of 2-5 with an ERA of 8.32 in eight starts in the American League.

Smoltz made his debut against the San Diego Padres on August 23, 2009. In his first game for the Cardinals, Smoltz went five innings, striking out nine and walking none, while setting a Cardinals franchise record by striking out seven batters in a row. [21]

That win against the Padres with the Cardinals was his only win with them that season. Smoltz finished 1-3 with an ERA of 4.26 with the Cardinals. He was 3-8 with an ERA of 6.35 overall with the Red Sox and Cardinals.

In Game 3 of the 2009 NLDS, Smoltz finished with a 4.50 ERA after pitching 2 full innings, giving up 4 hits and only 1 earned run.

On November 5, 2009, Smoltz, along with teammate Matt Holliday, both filed for free agency.

During the current 2009-10 offseason, Smoltz is thinking of re-signing with the St. Louis Cardinals, reuniting with the Atlanta Braves, or joining the New York Mets, Milwaukee Brewers or Detroit Tigers.

Personal life

Smoltz met his first wife Dyan at the Omni Hotel in downtown Atlanta; the couple had four children before divorcing in 2007 after 16 years of marriage.[22] Smoltz lives in Alpharetta and also has a home at Sea Island, Georgia, a golf resort. On May 16, 2009, Smoltz married the former Kathryn Darden at his home with 70 friends and family in attendance. [23] Smoltz is a born-again Christian and is Chairman of the Board at Alpharetta-based King's Ridge Christian School, and a member of the Presbyterian Church in America. He has also been involved in the development of a new Christian school in the metropolitan Atlanta region.

Smoltz is a good friend of professional golfer Tiger Woods. The two often golf together.[24] Woods has stated that Smoltz is the best golfer outside of the PGA Tour that he has observed.[25]

Smoltz is also involved in the sport of bowling.[26]

Smoltz counts Doc Rivers as a personal friend dating back to Rivers' playing days in Atlanta. In the January 12, 2008 edition of the Boston Globe, Rivers is quoted as saying, ″I offered him my apartment. .... I just told him about Terry (Francona) and the Red Sox organization. I told him it's a no-brainer.″

John made his debut as a baseball commentator on August 16, 2008. He was the color-commentator alongside Joe Simpson. On March 16, 2010 it was announced that Smoltz would serve as a color analyst alongside Joe Simpson for the the 45 Braves games on Peachtree TV. It was also announced that he would also serve as a guest analyst, from time to time, on TBS Sunday Afternoon Baseball.[27]

Smoltz is also an accomplished accordionist (accordion player) and also starred in a commercial for The Home Depot.

Politics and philanthropy

Smoltz produced an automated campaign phone recording on behalf of the candidacy of Ralph E. Reed, Jr. for Lt. Governor of Georgia during the 2006 primary.[28]

Smoltz's name has been speculated in running for Congress in 2010 as a Republican candidate to fill the departing John Linder's seat.[29]

Smoltz and his good friend Jeff Foxworthy teamed up for the charity event "An Evening With Smoltz and Friends" on November 9, 2008 at the Verizon Amphitheater in Alpharetta, GA to raise money for the John Smoltz Foundation, which has supported numerous charitable endeavors in the Atlanta area over the past decade.[30]

Accomplishments

Fans at Turner Field stand and applaud after Smoltz's 3000th career strikeout on April 22, 2008.
  • Eight-time All-Star (1989, 1992–93, 1996, 2002–03, 2005, 2007)
  • National League Championship Series MVP (1992)
  • Led the National League in Strikeouts (1992, with 215)
  • National League Cy Young Award winner (1996)
  • Holds Atlanta Braves record for most wins in a season (1996, with 24)
  • Led the National League in wins (1996, with 24)
  • Counting his wins in the playoffs and All-Star Game, John Smoltz amassed 29 wins in 1996. The only higher such total in the last 70 years is Denny McLain who had 32 in 1968.
  • Holds Atlanta Braves record for most strikeouts in a season (1996, with 276)
  • Led the Major Leagues in strikeouts (1996, with 276)
  • Led the National League in win percentage (1996)
  • Silver Slugger Award Winner for Pitcher (1997)
  • Finished 4th in National League Cy Young Award voting (1998)
  • Led the Major Leagues in Win Percentage (1998)
  • National League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award winner (2002)
  • Finished 8th in National League MVP voting (2002)
  • Finished 3rd in National League Cy Young Award voting (2002)
  • Holds Braves record for most saves in a career (154)
  • Holds Braves record for most saves in a season (2002, with 55)
  • Led the National Leagues in saves (2002, with 55)
  • Tied for National League lead in wins (2006, with 16)
  • Only pitcher to compile 200 wins and 150 saves
  • Holds Braves record for most strikeouts in a career (3,011)
  • Given the Branch Rickey Award for exceptional community service (2007)[31]
  • First pitcher in modern era (since 1900) to pitch exactly five shutout innings, strike out ten, and get the win (April 17, 2008 in the Braves' 8–0 win at Florida)[32]
  • 16th pitcher in the major leagues to reach 3,000 strikeouts (April 22, 2008)
  • Holds Cardinals record for most consecutive strikeouts (7) in a single game (August 23, 2009)
  • Only MLB pitcher with more than one postseason stolen base (3)

See also

References

  1. ^ Strauss, Joe (August 19, 2009), "Smoltz, Cardinals reach a deal", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/sports/stories.nsf/cardinals/story/E0B0BB9C72AC07FF862576170062FBFB?OpenDocument 
  2. ^ Neyer, Rob and Bill James, The Neyer-James Guide to Pitchers. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004. ISBN 0743261585
  3. ^ Porter, David L. 2000. “John Smoltz" In The Biographical Dictionary of American Sports, 1440-1441. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group
  4. ^ 1985 MLB Draft History - Round 22
  5. ^ Porter, David L. 2000. “John Smoltz" In The Biographical Dictionary of American Sports, 1440-1441. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.
  6. ^ Does sports psychology really work? - By Daniel Engber - Slate Magazine
  7. ^ Neyer, Rob and Bill James, The Neyer-James Guide to Pichers. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004. ISBN 0743261585
  8. ^ Bowman, Mark (April 26, 2007), "Braves give Smoltz an extension: Veteran almost certain to finish legendary career in Atlanta", MLB.com, http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20070426&content_id=1932258&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb 
  9. ^ The Official Site of The Atlanta Braves: News: Game Wrapup
  10. ^ The Official Site of Major League Baseball: News: Major League Baseball News
  11. ^ The Associated Press (April 30, 2008), "Smoltz Put on Disabled List With Sore Right Shoulder", New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/30/sports/baseball/30braves.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss 
  12. ^ "Smoltz has surgery, future as pitcher uncertain", Sports Illustrated, June 10, 2008
  13. ^ Braves' decision on Smoltz is upsetting
  14. ^ Bradford, Rob "How John Smoltz Convinced The Red Sox He Was Worth A Chance" Retrieved from WEEI.com on January 28, 2009.
  15. ^ Red Sox sign free agent righthanded pitcher John Smoltz to one-year contract
  16. ^ Smoltz signs offer sheet from Red Sox
  17. ^ Smoltz to Red Sox; Baldelli, Penny will join him
  18. ^ Smoltz designated for assignment
  19. ^ Smoltz won't go to Boston bullpen, time with Sox likely done
  20. ^ Jon Paul Morosi (August 17, 2009). "Red Sox officially release former Cy Young winner". Fox Sports. http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/9948512/Red-Sox-officially-release-former-Cy-Young-winner. Retrieved August 17, 2009. 
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ Bowman, Mark (February 9, 2007), "Smoltz, wife to end 16-year marriage", MLB.com, http://atlanta.braves.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20070209&content_id=1799205&vkey=news_atl&fext=.jsp&c_id=atl 
  23. ^ url = http://www.ajc.com/sports/content/sports/braves/stories/2009/05/19/john_smoltz_marriage.html
  24. ^ Official Website for Tiger Woods
  25. ^ Tiger Woods Joins Mike and Mike > 950 ESPN > Audio Relevant audio at 8:15
  26. ^ http://www.bowl.com/Downloads/pdf/usbowler/usbowlerSp08.pdf
  27. ^ "John Smoltz joins TBS as an analyst". Associated Press. March 16, 2010.
  28. ^ Not sad to see end of primary
  29. ^ http://www.yardbarker.com/mlb/article_external/John_Smoltz_for_Congress/2161567
  30. ^ Smoltz, Foxworthy team up for charity
  31. ^ ESPN - Smoltz wins Branch Rickey Award - MLB
  32. ^ Slugger's Tales from the Rails: Big night for Chipper, Smoltz, and the Braves

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
David Cone
Hideo Nomo
National League Strikeout Champion
1992
1996
Succeeded by
Jose Rijo
Curt Schilling
Preceded by
Steve Avery
National League Championship Series MVP
1992
Succeeded by
Curt Schilling
Preceded by
Greg Maddux
Dontrelle Willis
National League Wins Champion
1996
2006
(with Harang, Lowe, Penny, Webb & Zambrano)
Succeeded by
Denny Neagle
Jake Peavy
Preceded by
Greg Maddux
National League Cy Young Award
1996
Succeeded by
Pedro Martínez
Preceded by
Robb Nen
National League Saves Champion
2002
Succeeded by
Éric Gagné
Preceded by
Armando Benitez
National League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year
2002
Succeeded by
Éric Gagné
Preceded by
Jim Thome
Lou Gehrig Memorial Award
2005
Succeeded by
Trevor Hoffman

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