Smoltz will officially sign with the St. Louis Cardinals today after he clears post-release waivers at 1 p.m. eastern time. Here’s a guy to pull for at the end of his career, not a guy to mock.
Smoltz will sign with St. Louis because the Cardinals are giving him a chance to be a fifth starter. That’s something that wasn’t afforded him after his collapse with the Boston Red Sox. He also presumably won’t have to rehab in the minors, which the Red Sox also wanted.
So you might say, “Smoltz is getting his way. How selfish. He’s just like Favre.”
Not even close. Favre has managed to get his way and signed with the Minnesota Vikings Tuesday, which is what he wanted to do two years ago. But in getting there, he stepped on three NFL franchises along the way and scorched any remaining bit of character left in his soul. He cried crocodile tears at a retirement press conference in Green Bay after the Packers gave him a prolonged period (again) to make his decision. Almost immediately, rumors circulated that he wanted to come back — and never intended on leaving. The idea all along was to force the Packers to trade him to Minnesota, a division rival. The Packers dealt him to the New York Jets. A similar chain of events occurred in New York after last season, except that the Jets, convinced Favre had really retired, just released him. Then came the Minnesota abomination.
It’s one thing to get your way. It’s another to do so without regard to the teammates you’ve played with or the ones you’re about to play with.
Nobody can say that about Smoltz. Whether you believe he can still pitch or not, he never damaged the Braves’ franchise on the way out the door. He still has universal admiration in that clubhouse, and it’s the same in Boston and around baseball. Favre is not embraced the same way. Players, coaches and management have come to recognize him for what he is.
As for Smoltz, while there was little tangible evidence in Boston (2-5, 8.32 earned run average) to lead many to believe that he can still pitch after major shoulder surgery a year ago, some high profile teams obviously still believe he’s worth the risk. The National League West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers and wild-card contending Florida Marlins both expressed interest. Ultimately, Smoltz will sign with the Cardinals, who are contending for the N.L. Central title. It puts Smoltz back in the National League, where he spent his entire major league career with the Braves.
It also puts him in a potential face-to-face meeting with the Braves, who go to St. Louis for a weekend series Sept. 11-13. And I guarantee you when the Braves meet the Cards, every Brave will wish him luck. Can you imagine a similar scenario when Favre plays the Packers? Didn’t think so.