Is This the End for John Smoltz's Career?

Matt SchaeferCorrespondent IAugust 12, 2009

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 20:  Pitcher John Smoltz #29 of the Boston Red Sox on July 20, 2009 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Could this be the end to one of the best pitchers of this era?

One question has been answered though, and that is that John Smoltz's short lived career with the Boston Red Sox is officially over.

Smoltz—who was designated for assignment by the Red Sox last Friday after going 2-5 with an 8.32 ERA in just eight starts this season—cleared waivers, which gave Boston a few options on what to do with him.

They could send him to Triple-A, release him outright, or find a trading partner for him very quickly.  One choice though was quickly crossed off the list.

Not surprisingly the 42-year-old refused the option of an assignment to the minor leagues and now may be facing an end to his storied career.

The question now is whether or not Smoltz will be able to throw again, or if he might just hang it up for good.

The Red Sox's only real option now is to release the struggling great, seeing as no team will be giving up any value to get a 42-year-old pitcher at the decline of his career and no matter if he is traded or not, Boston will be on the hook for his 1-year, $5.5 million contract he signed back in January.  Any team that does want him (the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers are teams rumored to be interested) will just wait out the ten day period in which he is allowed to be traded, and wait for the Red Sox to cut him lose.

Smoltz is of course not happy with how things worked out and is very disappointed in his performance this year.  Whether he still wants to come back and pitch though is now up to him. 

Smoltz underwent off-season shoulder surgery to try to have a chance at pitching again in the the major leagues this season.  The Red Sox took the gamble on him, seeing as before he had to be put under the knife, he was pitching very well for the Atlanta Braves, going 3-2 with a 2.57 ERA in six starts.  He also had 36 strikeouts in 28 innings pitched last season, and had a WHIP of 1.179.  He was also lights out in the post season.

Smoltz commented last season that if he was going to undergo the operation to fix his right shoulder, he would be coming back for more than one year.  Now, it remains to be see after he struggled mightily this season.

Smoltz's shoulder obviously didn't allow him to pitch like he used to be able to with his time with the Red Sox.  At times he showed flashes of his old self, but wasn't able to put it together for five innings of work each game.  He would be able to string together a nice run for an inning or two but it always seemed to blow up on him.

The question now is whether or not Smoltz has anything left in the tank to work hard during the off-season and try to make a return again for the start of next season (while also making very little money).  He already had to battle his way through the minors this season, it is unclear if he wants to attempt that again in order to make the rotation of another team.

If his arm returns to full strength, a starting spot with a National League team might be in-store or even a return to the bullpen.  It's up to Smoltz to decide whether he wants to continue or not.

Just like with what we saw in the Brett Favre saga, it will be extremely hard for an all-time great to walk away from the game he loves.

"He's certainly not a quitter, that's one thing he's not," General Manger of the Red Sox Theo Epstein said. "So it never entered his mind to stop pitching."

The eight-time All-Star helped the Atlanta Braves to their single World Series championship along with 15 straight division titles, won a Cy Young Award, and is the only pitcher with more than 200 victories and 150 saves.

If this is indeed the end, Smoltz will end his career with a 212-152 career record, 154 saves and a 3.32 ERA.  Smoltz was also 15-4 with four saves and a 2.65 ERA in the postseason.

This won't be the last from Smoltz if this is indeed the end; we will be reliving his career a few years down the road when he is elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"Pretty humbled right now, the way things have gone," Smoltz said Thursday night, after the New Yankees chased him in the fourth inning of a 13-6 romp. "Time may not be on my side if this continues."