John Smoltz to Pitch Relief For Atlanta Braves?

Kevin MarkumCorrespondent IAugust 8, 2009

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 12:  John Smoltz #29 of the Atlanta Braves deals a pitch against the New York Mets during their game on September 12, 2007 at Shea Stadium in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

I must admit, I chuckled a little bit when I saw the headline "John Smoltz: DFA" on several sporting news websites over the past couple of days.

It came no surprise to me.

I've followed the Braves for years. Don't get me wrong at all, John Smoltz is my favorite of the "Big Three" including him, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux, who all played a vital role in the Braves success in their division championship streak.

I believe the guy is 42 years old now, long past his prime.

However, what I truly remember most about John Smoltz was not how he was a dominant starter, but how he was an untouchable closer for the Atlanta Braves for a few seasons before going back to the rotation.

In his three full seasons as the Braves closer, he finished with save totals of a then-record 55 in 2002, 45 in 2003, and 44 in 2004. Smoltzie rivaled the also untouchable Eric Gagne every season as the league's most devastating closer.

I still give the edge to Smoltz if I'm being honest.

The fact is, Smoltz should be retired. However, Smoltz will not retire until he does it on his terms. Not when the Braves tell him, not when the Red Sox tell him, but when he tells himself.

Don't be shocked if in a few years, Smoltz is still trying to make a major league club at the age of 50.

The Braves do not need a starter. Frank Wren has done enough as the general manager to ensure that the system is stocked full of high quality starting pitching.

This was one of the main reasons the Braves really weren't too aggressive when it came to re-signing the future Hall of Famer.

However, Smoltz still has stuff. Not Hall of Fame stuff, but major league level stuff.

Stamina is an issue, starting pitching is out of the question at this point.

Before I state my conclusion, there is another point I want to express.

Smoltz is a fan favorite of the Atlanta faithful. Many of us were disappointed in John's reaction to not being offered more guaranteed money in the off-season.

I side with Frank Wren on that decision with the perspective that we didn't really need him in the rotation and that he is past his prime coming back from major off-season surgery.

Offering him a higher contract would have been nothing but a good P.R. signing, not a good baseball signing.

Two points Frank Wren.

Smoltz made statements that startled me. He questioned the loyalty of the Braves management.

Yeah, right. Exactly how many organizations would offer guaranteed money to not just one, but two 40+ pitchers that are coming off season-ending injuries from the previous year? I can think of one: the Atlanta Braves.

How many teams would allow a struggling Jeff Francoeur to attempt to resurrect his career while allowing the entire team's offensive numbers suffer in the process? I can think of one: the Atlanta Braves.

World Series championships require less loyalty, and more common sense.

As much as I hated Smoltz's comments concerning the lack of loyalty in the Braves system, I miss him dreadfully in the clubhouse.

Roger McDowell should fear for his role with the Braves. The second Smoltz calls it quits, Bobby Cox will be ready to make the call to offer him the job as the new pitching coach for the team, and he deserves it.

The conclusion to all of this rambling is that the Braves should consider putting Smoltz in the bullpen for the remainder of the season.

From a P.R. standpoint, let him retire a Brave. Don't let him end his storied career by being cut from the Boston Red Sox.

From a baseball standpoint, the Braves need bullpen help. Smoltz would be a great help. He would be very cheap and could probably be had for a low-level minor leaguer.

Who knows, if the Braves make it to October, it could be Smoltz closing a World Series and ending a sure Hall of Fame career with the team that loves him, the fans that adore him, and the city that deserves a championship.