Atlanta Braves Luckily Avoid Facing John Smoltz...For Now

Joe MorganSenior Analyst IJune 22, 2009

After the Boston Red Sox defeated the Atlanta Braves by a score of 6-5 Sunday to take two out of three from Atlanta, it was hard to find a bright side in the series.

Sure, the Braves showed some fire with the ejections of Bobby Cox, Chipper Jones, and Eric O'Flaherty Sunday, but fire does not necessarily equate to a turnaround.

Sitting at 32-36 in fourth place in the NL East, four and a half games behind the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies, the Braves wouldn't know consistency if it slapped them in the face at this point.

If anything, barring a possible spur of motivation stemming from their losses to the Red Sox, Atlanta fans can take one consolation away from a dismal weekend.

John Smoltz did not take the mound for Boston.

Granted, the Red Sox make a trip to Turner Field next weekend and there is a possibility that Smoltz will pitch against his former team of 20 seasons.

However, the fact of the matter is that if the worst is to come, it has been delayed and Braves fans can dial down their collective anxiety for a few more days.

I, for one, would experience a great deal of difficulty if I had to watch Smoltz attempt to mow down the Atlanta lineup.

Considering Smoltz and Chipper Jones have always been my favorite Braves players, I both assumed and hoped that they would end their careers wearing an Atlanta cap.

Fortunately for me, Jones appears headed in that direction, but Smoltz, regrettably, is not, opting instead to take his services to the Red Sox.

And looking at what free agency in professional sports has evolved into, it looks like many more fans just like me will have to see their favorite ballplayers end up in the wrong uniform.

Not only is it a recurring trend, but it’s also a growing trend, creating that much more respect and love for those who play with one team for their entire career.

It was tough enough seeing Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine donning rival jerseys, but having to facing Smoltz is in an entirely different league for me.

My earliest memory of "Smoltzie" was seeing a resurgent flamethrower emerge as the most dominant closer in all of baseball from 2002-2004.

With the “o” in Smoltz taking the form of a burning baseball, I would experience an unmatched adrenaline as ACDC’s Thunderstruck blared at Turner Field whenever Smoltz took the mound to close out the ninth inning.

Then, I finally saw him as a starting pitcher, the position where he built his legend for the storied Braves teams of the 1990s.

The best moment came when I had the opportunity to see Smoltz start live, watching him pitch six shutout innings to beat the Houston Astros 3-1 in the 2006 season finale at Turner Field.

From watching recordings of his postseason efforts to reading about his career in the Braves magazine ChopTalk, I quickly grew to admire Smoltz as a hard-working competitor.

Smoltz embodies the ideal professional baseball player—a genuine, hard-working grinder who does everything in his power to help his team win.

Taking into account his unfortunately ugly exit from Atlanta this past offseason, Smoltz’s competitive nature that was once a Braves’ asset may now come back to hurt them.

I will undoubtedly pull for the Braves if they should have to face Smoltz because loyalty to a team overrides all loyalties to players.

However, I, along with the rest of Atlanta, will cringe with every pitch, hoping for the best and anxiously hoping that the episode will end quickly and painlessly.