Atlanta Braves: John Smoltz Defines Greatness

Troy CredleContributor IApril 18, 2008


Greatness defines John Smoltz.

Say What!?! 

This is a term that brings about emotions, arguments, and opinions. A clear of example of greatness is not hard to find. Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth - these are all names that almost anyone in the world would know. But the question remains, how is greatness defined?

Greatness is defined in terms of accomplishments. Michael Jordan led the league in scoring a record 11 times, and has the highest career scoring average of all time. Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs, a record that stood for 39 years, he hit 54 home runs in 1920 (which is more impressive than his 60 in '27, in that he outhomered all but 1 Major league team!), and was the first player to hit 30, 40, 50, and 60 home runs in a season. Tiger Woods has won 13 Major Championships in his first 11 years, and has 64 PGA tour wins overall (averaging 2.5 more wins per year than Jack Nicklaus!), his 68.17 scoring average in 2000 was the lowest of all time. Oh yeah, and he's only 32 years old.

 Greatness is defined by awards. Among these players, Jordan won 5 MVP awards (and was the first player to be both MVP and defensive player of the year in 1988), but the list goes on, and on, and on....1984 unanimous college player of the year, 1985 ROY, 10x NBA 1st team, and 9x NBA Defensive 1st team, just to name a few. Babe Ruth was the 1923 MVP, a 2-time all star, and elected in baseball's first Hall of Fame class. Tiger Woods, well, he has just flat out won - his career isn't over yet.

Greatness is defined in terms of championships (and performances in the clutch). Jordan won 6 NBA championships (and was the MVP in ALL 6 of those wins). The Babe won 7 World Series championships (remarkably, 3 with the Red Sox, 4 with the Yankees), and his World Series pitching feats are unbelievable - 3-0, 0.87 ERA, 19 hits in 31 innings. Tiger has won 13 majors in only 10 years as we already stated, including 4 majors in a row in '00-'01. To put this into perspective, only Jack Nicklaus has more (with 18), and he did this over 24 years!

Ok, so we have a defined a basic outline of greatness - accomplishments, awards, and championships. Well, Smoltzy fits the bill. He is the ONLY pitcher in major league history to have won 200 games and saved 150 games in his career. The only guy to ever have accomplished something? There's your accomplishment! OK, OK...but he's done a lot more! He holds the Braves' franchise records for K's in a season (276 in '96), career K's (2,996), career saves (154), single-season saves (55 in '02), and most wins in a season (24 in '96), and he is 15-4 with a 2.65 ERA in the postseason (the most postseason wins of all-time).

Awards? Smoltz won the 1996 Cy Young, is an 8-time All Star, 2002 Reliever of the Year, 2005 Roberto Clemente and Lou Gehrig Awards, and the 2007 Branch Rickey Award.

Championships? Well, only 1 Championship (1995), but he was the only player to be a part of all 14 of the Braves' consecutive Division titles. But as we have already alluded to, he is the all-time winningest pitcher in postseason history, even though he has only been a starting pitcher in 1 postseason series since 1999.

Some may agree, and many more will not, but Smoltz's career defines greatness. He has accomplished something no other pitcher in major league history ever has, he has won the highest honor a pitcher can receive with one of the greatest pitching seasons of the decade in 1996, and he is arguably the most clutch pitcher of the last 20 years. All of this is fantastic, but it is his off the field work that has really defined his greatness. He has won every community service award that MLB has to offer: 2005 Roberto Clemente Award (for character and charitable contributions to the community), 2005 Lou Gehrig Award (given to he player who best exemplifies Gehrig's character and integrity both on and off the field), and the 2007 Branch Rickey Award (given in recognition of exceptional community service).

John Smoltz is a leader on and off the field. Babe Ruth was an icon, but he had several issues off the field. Jordan, he has his gambling scandals. Tiger, well Tiger is Tiger. To sum it all up, greatness is defined by many standards, and the standards people have are all different, yet they all hold similarities. John Smoltz fits the bill for any standard of excellence and greatness. The shame is his lack of media recognition. One thing is certain - sometime within the next decade, with his inevitable induction into the Hall of Fame, he will get his recognition - eternally.