Sorry for the newspaper-ish punny title, but it’s the best I could come up with. So John Smoltz got his 3,000th strikeout last night. This gives me an opportunity to explain the reasons why I have such strong man-love one of the best pitchers in the game, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes my wife:
He’s been around so long that he was here for the absolutely dreadful “Pre-Schuerholz” years–pitching with the likes of Zane Smith, Joe Boever, Marty Clary, etc–and also for the glory years of endless division championships and a World Series title.
He’s done WHATEVER is best for the team at every step of his career. Closer? Sure. He was one of the most dominant closers in the game. Pitch while injured? Okay, he threw sidearm and still owned the rest of the National League. Re-join the rotation? Can do. He moved back to starter, and quickly became our #1 guy in the rotation.
He’s clearly been the team leader and has handled that post with unwavering courage. He has called out other players when they needed to be called out (many forget last year when Chipper was out for a game or two, and Smoltz called him out in the paper saying “certain players” needed to fight through their injuries. Miraculously, Chipper was in the lineup the next night and for the rest of the season,and performed well).
But most of all, he’s been one of the best pitchers of the last 20 years, and is always the first or second answer to the question “If you had to win one game, which pitcher would you want on the mound?” Many say he has the best split-finger in baseball. Others say he has a focus unlike anyone this side of Tiger Woods. Whatever it is, it has led him to a Hall of Fame career, a Cy Young, a World Series, and the record of the most postseason wins of any pitcher (even though he’s only had one postseason start since 1999).
Now, he has his “number,” since a select few numbers (500 HRs, 3,000 hits, 300 wins, 3,000 Ks) are the ones that most candidates are measured by. Most pundits agree that he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and as a Braves fan, I couldn’t be anymore proud. He’s a monster on the diamond, and will leave a gaping hole that will never be filled when he decides to retire.
I better quit, before I have to hold one of those Mike Piazza-esque press conferences to tell everyone I’m not gay. I’m not…really! You gotta believe me!!!