John Smoltz’ comeback from shoulder problems — and possibly his career — have hit a wall.
On Wednesday, Smoltz announced that he will undergo season ending surgery in the hopes that he can return to pitch next year.
At the tender age of 42. After his fifth right arm procedure. Smoltz is resilient as hell, but the odds of him taking the mound again for the Braves just dipped to approximately 100-1. Which is about fifty percent better odds than Mike Hampton has. So he’s got that going for him.
Meanwhile, the chatter from Smoltz at his press conference sounded suspiciously like someone who knows the end is near or someone who just retired:
“We’re talking about enjoying life a little bit more than I’ve been able to enjoy it,” he said. “It’s very difficult. A shoulder is like a lower back problem; it puts you in a pretty bad mood. You use your shoulder for everything.“
Not “I’ll be back for certain” or “This shouldn’t hold me down for long“. More “Gee, it’d be nice to be able to get a decent night’s sleep and play with my kids again“. For a guy who’s endured — and overcome — an awful lot of pitching arm discomfort in his career, Smoltz’ attitude at today’s press conference speaks volumes about Smoltz’ chance to return from this latest setback.
Unfortunately for the Braves, it means they’ll be without Smoltz in any role for the rest of 2008. The bullpen role that worked for two-and-a-half years to protect his wonky elbow did little to save his sore elbow. His reprise as closer lasted just one game — a blown save against the Marlins — and convinced Smoltz once and for all that surgery was the only option.
“If I had struck out the side, we would still be having this press conference,” he said. “It was just too much.”
Probably true. But at least we’d have a more apt swan song appearance (probably) for the Major Leagues’ all-time postseason win leader (15), the 16th pitcher to reach 3,000 strikeouts, the 1996 Cy Young winner, an eight-time All-Star, and the only man on the planet with 200 wins and 150 saves.
(That’s 210 and 154, to be exact. But who’s counting? The nice big, round, easy-to-understand numbers are all the figures the Hall of Fame committee are going to need.)
And there’s still the chance, however slim, that Smoltz will show up in Spring Training ‘09 as something more significant than a ’special advisor’ or ‘bullpen consultant’ for the Braves.
(Or perhaps the first coherent, non-conniption-inducing baseball color analyst FOX Sports has ever employed. But I digress.)
No one yet knows what Dr. James Andrews will find when he opens up Smoltz’s shoulder. Inflammation? Bone spurs? Jimmy Hoffa? Could be anything. And it could very well mean the end of Smoltz’ long and distinguished (and all-Brave) career. If that’s the case, all we can do is thank John Smoltz for a string of wonderful performance, appreciate his effort and professionalism, and wish him the best for his retirement.
And hope to hell he replaces one of those bozo windbags on FOX. Seriously, those games are unwatchable now. Smoltz would give them one guy, at least, with a functioning brain, a quiet charm and an ego that doesn’t require its own press box. If he can’t take the mound, put him in the booth!