No More Smoltz and Mirrors; Braves No Longer The Usual Suspects

Colin ChristopherContributor IJanuary 8, 2009

Last night, I went to bed heartbroken. No, it had nothing to do with my wife. She's lovely.

The Atlanta Braves had broken my heart.

I had just read a report that John Smoltz was going to call the Braves this morning to let them know he was signing with the Red Sox for $5.5 million in guaranteed money, with easily attainable incentives that could push that to $10 million.

I was shocked and disheartened that the Braves would make no attempt to go a little above that to retain the face of the franchise.

Now that I've slept on it, however, I've decided that John Smoltz shares some of the blame for my heartbreak.

True, the Braves offered him "only" $3 million to pitch this season, but looking at it from their side, he is a big injury risk. He's 42, and he's had several operations on his pitching arm in the last eight to nine years.

The kicker, for me, is that the Braves paid John Smoltz $14 million last year to pitch in FIVE games.

Certainly, paying that amount of money to a 41 year old man, with a history of arm issues, is showing some good faith. The return they got on that money was not acceptable, and it would have been nice, if, after making over $100 million from the Braves in the last decade, Smoltz had taken a hometown discount. (Incidentally, when Smoltz signed a four-year deal for $31 million with the Braves in late 1996, it made him the highest-paid pitcher in baseball. Now, that wouldn't cover the salary of a third starter.)

I understand that the dude is chasing a ring. For that, I cannot fault him. He may as well try and make it happen now.

I also know that, for years, I and other Braves' fans have been spoiled by guys like Andruw Jones or Chipper Jones giving hometown discounts when they enter free agency or approaching team management, offering to restructure their contracts to free up money and make the team more competitive.

Heck, Smoltz even gave us a hometown discount when he signed that two-year extension for $20 million in late 2004.

All of these things make this hurt even more.

For years, Smoltz has been our dominating warrior on the mound. He was the only one we had left, after Glavine chose to head for the Big Apple and Maddux was not offered a contract.

We've watched him pitch at times when we knew he shouldn't be out there, when it made our arms hurt, and we thought he'd pitch in the hot summer sun of Atlanta until his arm literally fell off.

He was our guy who would never break, never lie down, and never bend over for anybody. Anbody.

And like that…he is gone.