Bradley’s Buzz: So maybe Wren was right about Smoltz

Now carrying an ERA of 7.12, the iconic J.S.

John Smoltz won a game Friday night. This was big news in Boston, where the locals were already having what-should-the-Sox-do-with-Smoltz conversations. By beating the Orioles 6-5, his record improved to 2-4. His ERA did not improve. It actually rose from 7.04 to 7.12. Which is not so hot.

Smoltz has made seven starts. He has yielded five or more earned runs in five of them. He has been touched for 50 hits (and six home runs) in 36 2/3 innings. Opponents are hitting .325 against him.

Last week Smoltz told John Tomase of the Boston Herald: “I just think I’m going to keep getting better, and the patience they’ve shown in me, the fruits will be seen down the road.” He meant in October. But if you’re the Red Sox and you have Beckett, Wakefield, Lester and Penny, do you even give Smoltz a postseason start?

Probably. That’s why they signed him, after all. But Inside Edge on ESPN.com broke down Smoltz’s pitches this season, and it found — big shock — his fastball hasn’t availed him much. The Sox, reports Inside Edge, want Smoltz to throw more inside fastballs (link requires registration), but the Braves’ philosophy was to throw down-and-away fastballs. So there’s that.

There’s also this: According to Inside Edge, opponents were hitting (prior to the win in Baltimore) .453 against Smoltz’s fastball. The result has been that Smoltz, who IE reports threw 51 percent fastballs his final four seasons as a Brave, had thrown only 32 percent fastballs before Friday’s start. The good news? His slider seems just dandy. So there’s also that.

But let’s face it: The Braves aren’t the Red Sox. The Braves couldn’t have afforded to wait until October for Smoltz to do his Smoltz thing. They needed pitching from Day 1. And right now the Braves have five starting pitchers better than John Smoltz. Frank Wren, sage!

Then again, maybe Wren was wrong about Frenchy

Jeff Francoeur as a Brave in 2009: 82 games, five homers, 35 RBIs, a .250 average. Jeff Francoeur as a Met: 19 games, four homers, 19 RBIs, a .301 average.

So what happened? According to Brian Lewis of the New York Post, Francoeur has benefited from the Mets’ way of teaching. (Thanks to Diehard for the tip on the link.) Writes Lewis: “He credits hitting coach Howard Johnson — as well as [manager] Jerry Manuel, [and teammates] David Wright and Gary Sheffield — with helping his mechanics.

Lewis quotes Frenchy thusly: “It’s helped. That slider [a Jon Garland pitch off which he homered Sunday], I was able to get the foot down and put a good swing on it. Those are things I wasn’t doing a couple weeks ago.”

Now I know this will lead a few of you to jump up and down and blame Terry Pendleton for everything, but Lewis also offers this Frenchy quote: “It’s been good to get out of Atlanta, get to a new place and get going.” And that, at least to me, is the key.

Whatever good happens to Jeff Francoeur in New York — and here’s hoping much good does come his way — it wasn’t going to happen here. Too much water under the dam. Or over the bridge. Or something.

How Michael Vick is like Michael Owen, sort of

Just when you think you’ve read everything about No. 7, along comes this from The Independent, which is among the leading newspapers in England. And here’s a veddy English lead:

“If Michael Vick were to follow the example of the erstwhile England striker Michael Owen and send out a promotional brochure to prospective employers, it would read something like this:

“Star quarterback in National Football League. Six seasons’ experience, including two appearances in post-season playoffs. Multiple honours and achievements, including holder of most rushing yards for a quarterback in a single season. In prime of career, and willing to accept substantial cut in pay.

“And that is not all. Like Owen, Vick is 29 years old. But despite having played one of the most destructive sports on the planet, he is in sounder physical condition than the injury-prone Owen touted in the prospectus drawn up by his agent earlier this summer, to hasten his escape from relegated Newcastle United.”

Some notes: Michael Owen was once the wonder boy of English football/soccer but kept getting hurt. He wound up last season with Newcastle United, which finished among the bottom three in the Premier League and was therefore relegated — demoted — to a lower league. (A great idea, by the way. It’s the only way baseball could ever get rid of the Pirates.) His agent put together a resume´ and made it clear Owen would be willing to accept less money to play for a bigger team. He wound up signing with Manchester United, the reigning champion.

One difference, though: As the Independent notes, “Vick is coming off a couple of years in which he did nothing at all –  but that is precisely the problem. Between November 2007 and July 2009, he was behind bars.”

Well, yeah. So maybe he’s not exactly like Michael Owen.

A little more about the massive Garret Siler

I’m not going to get off this hobbyhorse until the Hawks break down and sign Garret Siler, the free agent from Augusta State, to a contract, which could happen. They had him in rookie camp and apparently liked what they saw enough to invite him to training camp come the fall. And here, from Chris Gay of the Augusta Chronicle, is what Siler would bring to the Hawks:

“A hard worker, a dominant force inside, a quick learner, a great field-goal shooter and more importantly, a solid citizen. Garret is a solid role model. A gentle giant. Someone who could easily become a fan favorite. Someone with an ocean of upside.”

Me, I’m sold. Shouldn’t Rick Sund be sold, too?

143 comments Add your comment

NY Frenchy

August 3rd, 2009
10:56 am

Im Lovin the Big Apple, see ya Bravos! You guys need a new hitting coach??? DUH!

Mac

August 3rd, 2009
10:56 am

He couldn’t be any more of a stiff than Randolph Morris and Solomon Jones.

Chris

August 3rd, 2009
10:57 am

A few things:
1) One of your better columns recently. I’ll dish out the hurt when I need to, but I’ll also give praise
2) True, Frenchy wasn’t going to do it here. But, KJ stops hitting when he gets up here. Frenchy leaves town and takes off. I’m not saying, but I’m saying.
3)I’m not a big basketball fan, but why exactly isn’t Siler already a part of the team? Hello, McFly!
4)Smoltz was always going to struggle in the AL. I’m not sure why anyone is suprised, and I would have been surprised if he was this bad here.

Anakin Joe

August 3rd, 2009
11:00 am

Sign Siler and bring in a big man coach who knows something about offense. Like Antoine Carr!

Greg from Marietta

August 3rd, 2009
11:02 am

John Smoltz was a great pitcher and will always live in the hearts of Atlanta Braves fans. Saying this I respectfully submit that all great players eventually reach a time in their career that they no longer are at their peak and their performance degrades to a point where they become a detriment instead of an asset. Most great players know when that time comes but some, like John Smoltz, try and hang on a little to long. I honestly wish him well, and I will always remember him in his glory days as an Atlanta Brave.

Mark Bradley

August 3rd, 2009
11:02 am

You know, Antoine Carr did have some post moves.

Haven’t seen (or heard anything about) him in a while now. I should ask around.

Mac

August 3rd, 2009
11:15 am

Antoine Carr would pivot around this way and that, tie his opponent’s feet in knots and then go in for the score. They could do worse to teach Siler.

utfaninga

August 3rd, 2009
11:20 am

It wasn’t that Wren LET Smoltz go…it was HOW he let Smoltz go (same applies to Glavine). And I WILL say it, Chipper goes to his dad for advice, McCann goes to his dad for advice, Frenchy went to TX for advice, Andruw IN TX gets advice…hmmmm…anyone notice a common thread here?

mcdawg

August 3rd, 2009
11:21 am

we need pitchers that are unde 30 yrs old-how much money did the Braves pay Hampton to not pitch-smoltz is a great competitor but …..

Herschel Talker

August 3rd, 2009
11:25 am

Bradley – another great blog. You’re on fire. You just love Mr. Smoltz.

“Whatever good happens to Jeff Francoeur in New York — and here’s hoping much good does come his way — it wasn’t going to happen here. Too much water under the dam. Or over the bridge. Or something.”

Exactly. Doesn’t matter what happens elsewhere, it wasn’t happening here. And still don’t discount this as him being hot early. Let’s see how he handles the first swoon when the NY fans are killing him. It will happen, and I don’t believe he’s mentally strong enough to get through it. He got angry when Atlanta fans booed him. I don’t know that anyone has ever complained about Atlanta fans.

Hrundhi Bakshi

August 3rd, 2009
11:28 am

Mark, like Michael Vick, Michael Owen had supreme athletic ability (was as fast as Vick – see his goal vs. Argentina in ‘98 WC), but due to injuries he has had to change his game from an out and out goalscoring predator to a more rounded game linking attacking to the midfield. Similiarly, Michael Vick will have to change his game from a starting QB to a wildcat option.

Ken Stallings

August 3rd, 2009
11:30 am

Mark, I am puzzled why you link both players directly to Frank Wren. The GM isn’t the person who evaluates the talent. That is the prime responsibility of the manager and coaches. The GM goes out and finds the talent the team needs and works with the coaching staff to determine who is the best fit available.

Your comments about Smoltz have some validity because Wren has to make the ultimate decision on who to release.

However, perhaps the situation with Frenchy points again that Terry Pendleton may be highly respected and might end up an excellent manager. But as a hitting coach, his record is spotty. Frency got good help from the Rangers’ hitting coach and now you report he’s had success with Met’s coach Howard Johnson.

That’s two strikes against Terry Pendleton. Once is a possibility. Twice is a trend! Three times? Well, the Braves don’t have the luxury of throwing away hitting talent because their coaching staff cannot find a way to connect to the talent with effective training!

Bryan G.

August 3rd, 2009
11:32 am

So, Mark…since you admittedly weren’t a Smoltz fan…are you getting a little schadenfreude????

Ken Stallings

August 3rd, 2009
11:34 am

In terms entirely about Smoltz, once again we see signs that another Braves iconic pitcher just could not bring himself to admit his talent has ebbed due to the relentless effects of age. It stops for no one.

I sincerely hope that Smoltz and Glavine both take a hard look in the mirror, recognize the painful reality, and come to admit to themselves they could have handled their splits with the Braves with a bit more dignity and self-respect.

I think the Braves are a magnanimous enough organization to understand all athletes have that drive that makes them great also tends to make them stubbornly resistent to retirement with dignity. It’s humanity!

I look forward in the not so distant future when both players retire and come home to Atlanta for their well-earned tributes such as were given to Greg Maddux who was one of the rare elites who knew when it was time to “hang ‘em up,” and depart with grace and dignity we’d wish all athletes could depart with.

PoliticalMan

August 3rd, 2009
11:34 am

How much did the Braves pay Smoltz and Glavine in their careers? The Braves stuck with those two way past their primes. Many of us making not more than a couple of percent of their wages get downsized all the time with no warning. No tears for sure. The entitlement that pro athletes seem to feel is pathetic, not to mention their exaggerated self-assessment.

Space Monkey

August 3rd, 2009
11:40 am

Frenchy is streaky. He will become himself again very soon. Also, many of his RBIs have been on groundouts. Pitchers will adjust to him. He’s too stupid to adjust to the pitchers.

Ken Stallings

August 3rd, 2009
11:43 am

Now hold on a minute, SM! Are saying switching from one NL uniform to another NL uniform suddenly made all the NL pitchers who previously faced Frenchy ignorant of how they got him out?

You do actually watch baseball, right?

Robert

August 3rd, 2009
11:44 am

Atlanta’s fan base has changed from losing. If Frenchy has deserved the boos he got here, then Hampton should have been run out of town on a rail or whatever the expression is. When we were winning divisions, there was a lot less getting on players.

Spud Webb

August 3rd, 2009
11:46 am

lol, Maybe????????? No maybe about it. A few of us predicted that Wren did the right thing here. The Wren bashers, we out of their minds mad!! Go figure a 42 year old with multiple, multiple arm/elbow/shoulder problems isn’t nearly effective in the American League????????????? I’m glad to see it, the way he bashed the braves and took the money so to speak. I wrote it before and will write it again, you’re not in the National league anymore Johnny, let the beatings continue in the American League. It’s funny, I haven’t heard too many quotes lately from John???? Interesting for SURE…Have fun, hope you’re happy with your decision!!!!
GO BRAVES!!!!!!!!!!!!

LSU

August 3rd, 2009
11:49 am

Hello Mark, how’s it going?

Smoltz is 2-4 with a huge ERA… I wonder how much worse he’d be if he had to pitch for a very mediocre team like the Braves? Looks like the Braves have blown any real shot they may have had by losing the last 2 series..Francoeur is looking good but he’s playing for a dysfunctional team that will never be much better than the Braves unless there’s major changes at the top.

Does anyone really the Braves still have a chance? Does anybody really care that much about this boring MLB franchise anymore? Is the “Best manager in baseball” comfortable with the fact that he’s not getting anything out of this team other than maybe winning half their games? Would be nice to see a pulse on this coaching staff & team, but that’s not gonna happen with this cast of underachieving characters.

Please someone, buy the team from Liberty so the Braves can have a real baseball team again.

Go Tigers!!!

cosmos

August 3rd, 2009
11:51 am

Glad to see Francoeur doing well with the Mets. The change of scenery has done him good but I always thought he had too much upside to trade away without getting a great player in return. Smoltz had his chance to remain a Brave, he opted for the money. Can’t blame him for that but don’t whine about it after you made the decision.

Henry

August 3rd, 2009
11:53 am

Space monkey right on target . Braves are playing better without him .

SWAT Native

August 3rd, 2009
11:53 am

Smoltz had major offseason surgery, and everyone should expect that it will take a while for him to build his arm back up. I believe that the Red Sox understand that they if they make the playoffs, and even down the stetch, they will be able to take advantage of the all-time winningest pitcher in post-season history in “Big Game” Smoltzie.

Steve

August 3rd, 2009
11:54 am

He needs to lighten up on the Just for Men; his gotee is staring to look like he paints it with shoe polish. We know he’s old. We can count.

dap01

August 3rd, 2009
11:55 am

Wren offered Smoltz a very good contract. The only thing that Smoltz had to do was be on the roster and he would collect millions. Of all the nerve….. expecting Smoltz to actually be on the roster to get his money. Smoltz could have simply taken the offer from Boston and no Atlanta fans would have said anything. But no, he ran his mouth. That is my problem with Smoltz. He kept running his mouth.

Jeff Francine, he was way too good to actually have to listen to advice and way too good to actually go to the minor leagues and PROVE himself.

Don’t blame the Braves or the ATL fans for karma.

Marc in FL

August 3rd, 2009
11:57 am

Good article and all, but who cares about Michael Vick? Here’s to him getting hit head-on by a tour bus and we can talk about stuff that matters again. Like how the Braves are gonna play .700 ball this month and run into the post-season!

Jeff R

August 3rd, 2009
11:59 am

I do think Wren was correct about Smoltz, even if his numbers were better in Boston. At his age, coming off surgery, Smoltz was a gamble, an expense one for the Braves. No one knew then if Smoltz would ever pitch with his previous effectiveness.

Boston has the luxury of taking chances; the team has a deep pockets.

Letting Smoltz go was the right move.

Jeff R

August 3rd, 2009
12:01 pm

Good for Francouer. He wasn’t doing it anymore as a Brave, for whatever reasons. A change of scenery has been to his benefit – so far. We’ll see what he does in the longer term. I wish him good luck.

mr baseball

August 3rd, 2009
12:04 pm

How exactly is it that Francouer suddenly starts hitting the minute he sheds a Braves’ uniform? I thought one of the strengths of our alleged Hall of Fame manager was to get the most out of the talent on hand.

I recall a trade the Braves made about a decade ago. They sent Ryan Klesko & Bret Boone to the Padres for Reggie Sanders & Quilvio Veras. (One of the absolute worst talent for talent swaps in MLB history by a supposedly Hall of Fame GM.) Sanders & Veras were absolute flops and out of Atlanta before we knew it.

Boone, who reportedly was not a favorite of the manager here, became an All-Star and put up some monster numbers the next few years in Seattle (I think we have a pretty good reason why).

More instructive was the play of Klesko in SD. He lost a lot of weight as soon as he got out of here (Braves’ players over the past 15 years have been known to get fat in an Atlanta uniform). And when finally given the chance, proved he could hit LH pitching and steal an occasional base, two things that never happened when he was a Brave.

Francouer went from a 100-RBI-a-year, clutch-hitting machine to a near total waste the past two seasons in Atlanta, but has suddenly become a quality run-producer again (19 RBIs in his first 19 games as s Met with a .300 BA).

If Bobby Cox is no longer able to get the most out of his players, exactly why is he still managing this team. I think he has long since proven that when it comes to in-game decisions, he is an sbsolute detriment to this team, but that’s a topic that even our intrepid blogmaster has refused to touch.

Other than the decision to sign Kawakami and the lopsided nature of the post-trade Francouer/Church performances, Wren has pretty much been right on target in every personnel decision he has made since last season, big & small.

Why is it then, that this team is barely over .500 and on the verge of dropping out of playoff contention?

Couldn’t be our Hall of Fame manager (with an assist from the batting coach), could it?

Russell

August 3rd, 2009
12:09 pm

It’s amazing that Frenchy felt the need to work with the Texas Rangers hitting coach in the offseason over TP, and then he gets to NY; gets hot and credits the hitting coach there. Kelly Johnson gets sent down to the minors and credits the Gwinnett hitting coach with getting his swing back.

I never hear any Braves players giving credit to TP. I think we need a new hitting coach.

Russell

August 3rd, 2009
12:10 pm

I agree with Mr. Baseball!!!

Bama Aaron

August 3rd, 2009
12:15 pm

I’ll always be a huge Smoltz fan but he should’ve retired.
Not surprised Frenchy is doing better….his problems here were never about ability. It was all in his head. Get him away from the ATL and just let him play and he’ll be fine.

Steak Shapiro

August 3rd, 2009
12:15 pm

Smoltzie and Glav were great guests on my show and therefore, Frank Wren butchered the team!

They’re my buddies!

Mac

August 3rd, 2009
12:21 pm

I now predict Vick will not sign a contract with any team outside the UFL.

That prediction made, he’ll probably get several NFL offers this afternoon.

Ron E.

August 3rd, 2009
12:23 pm

Frenchy has 1 walk in 73 AB for the Mets. He hasn’t changed. He’s just had a little hot streak. Soon enough he’ll revert to form and the Mets will be wondering what was so bad about Ryan Church.

Get real

August 3rd, 2009
12:24 pm

Told you guys long ago, Braves needed to move Lowe, KK, Gonzales, Soriano and Moylan with the possiblity of moving guys like KJ, Diaz and G. Anderson. They could have restocked and made out like bandits, but here we are… still lossing and the same problem… HITTING!! It’s always been this way in Atlanta, they’ve never hit in the last 2 months of the season. If you look at what Cox loves to do, sitting the hot hitters, then all of a sudden when they come back they can’t hit. Can anyone explain to me why he would be sitting anyone when the season is on the line. It’s not like you can afford to lose these games, you know it is crunch time. Never makes sense to me. The players should demand to play, to win!!

sports psychologist

August 3rd, 2009
12:27 pm

What was wrong with Francouer is he is a mental midget.He has all the ability for success.However, he does not know how to deal with adversity. Every player will hit slumps…it’s how they deal with it. He will hit a slump in NYC also. NY fans , as we all know, are brutal…
we’ll see if he becomes another mental, shrinking violet when it does.

Get real

August 3rd, 2009
12:29 pm

And for those of you that say we can’t afford to trade these guys because we’ll need them next year. May I ask you this, do you seriously believe that magically their going to get better? Or somehow they are going to be different? Time to move on.

Tami

August 3rd, 2009
12:30 pm

Sadly, I had a feeling that Smoltz was done, even before he signed with the BoSox. I hoped I was wrong, but it doesn’t seem so. I have also been wondering with a team showing postseason aspirations early on in the season, WHY they continued to wait on Smoltz. It should have been painfully obvious from the start that he just wasn’t improving back to his top form. If they keep him pitching into postseason, they’ll likely get burned. He’s no longer in starting pitching form. I think John will have to force himself to have that “talk” with himself (and SOON) that maybe it’s time to hang it up. It’s sometimes very tough for athletes to be talked into retirement by anyone else. This sort needs to unfortunately learn this the “hard way”. You’ve had a terrific career, John. Go….and go on in peace.

PTC DAWG

August 3rd, 2009
12:32 pm

Best of luck to JF and who didn’t know Smoltz was washed up?

Marc in FL

August 3rd, 2009
12:35 pm

Get Real, the people you’re suggesting we trade aren’t the problem, lol, aside from KJ we don’t need those players to get better, we have other holes to be fill this offseason, and we’ll have the resources to do so without moving any of those guys this year. Your philosophy sucks.

Marc in FL

August 3rd, 2009
12:35 pm

And Frenchy isn’t going to have a hall of fame career or anything. Anyone that has to try that hard to be good isn’t actually that good.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

August 3rd, 2009
12:38 pm

Wren was dead on with Smoltz. We are in August and he has an ERA over 7. He would have been no help to the Braves cause by the time he found his groove the playoff race would have been over for the Braves. I have been as Smoltz fan but I beating he doesn’t admit that Wren was right even if his ERA continues to grow. Mr. Baseball and Russel are right, I agree, I can’t remember anyone giving TP credit for their improved hitting either. Maybe the coach in Gwinnett should be promoted.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

August 3rd, 2009
12:39 pm

Damn that’s some bad spell check

don

August 3rd, 2009
12:43 pm

I’d say Wren and his predecessor were also wrong about Marquis, Wainwright, Saltalamacchia, Andrus, Feliz and a few more.

chbeyer

August 3rd, 2009
12:49 pm

The Frenchy trade was a stupid mistake and time will prove that. Frenchy haters ignore (or are not informed) of his two outstanding seasons with 100+RBI’s and one with 29 HRs. He has proven he can be a power MLB hitter and is doing it again. Mr baseball gets it right for the most part. Still think Bobby Cox is an excellent player/coach but his loyalties to coaches (Terry Pendleton) sometimes get in the way of good decision making. Not only did the Braves trade a 25 year old player with huge upside for a 30 year old so so platoon player, they threw in some money as well.

All I'm Saying Is...

August 3rd, 2009
12:50 pm

Mark:

I agree with you that the Hawks must sign Siler to have some bulk in the middle. And I agree with you that Frenchy needed to go and, maybe, now he will start listening to the advice of the hitting coach and manager and implement it when up to bat — I suspect, however, that at the first sign of trouble (i.e. minor slump), Frenchy will revert to his ready-fire-aim approach to hitting by swinging at the first pitch and considering a strike zone later.

As for Smoltz, Braves could have used him but more in terms of a relief pitcher role (which he probably would not have accepted). Ultimately, I think that the BoSox will move him to the bullpen when the playoffs come around and they will use his batting practice regular season pitching performance to justify the move.

This Sorry Government NOT working for Americans

August 3rd, 2009
12:57 pm

When are we getting our regular players back because these major league want bees are beginning to drag us right down were we were. IE Norton, this young ss whos not ready.

When are we getting Church, Escobar and Infante back. They should have left LaRoche right where he was. Him and Chipper are buddies but Chipper tutored LaRoche and he stopped hitting. I thought thats why we traded LaRoche in the first place. Why now do we need him back?

ijudgenot

August 3rd, 2009
1:00 pm

“It’s been good to get out of Atlanta, get to a new place and get going,” said Francoeur, who went 2-for-3. “I’m just glad to be here. It’s a great opportunity to come up to a big city, to a team that’s expected to win. I know it’s a little tough right now, but I’m sure there are brighter days ahead.”

The above is Francoeur’s full qoute. Mark you conveniently left out that part that says “he is happy to come to a team that is expected to win”.
This is an obvious dig at the Braves. Like it or not managers and players around the league give lip service to the Braves i.e.,”they do things the right way”, “their manager is a HOF manager”, “they play business like baseball” etc. but in reality most don’t see the Braves as they were once regarded while owned by Ted. With the cut cost, limited budget owners, they are seen as a mediocre team built to do just enough to keep the fans hopes alive, but not really a team that is buit to or, expected to win it all.

Get real

August 3rd, 2009
1:01 pm

Marc in FL, your right they aren’t the problem but they aren’t the cure either. Pull your head out and use your head. Your right these guys are great, lets continue to be .500 club, get real!! I would have traded Lowe to Angels for Wood and Will Smith, and stocked up with some highly talented prospects for the other guys. They aren’t going to make it to the playoffs this year no matter how much you love these guys, but why not have an exciting team already built for next years run? They could have gotten the players necessary to build a team that could have made another decade run but I bet some of these players decline in talent and the others leave with nothing to show for them. SO continuing to continue is stupid!! Could have moved Gonzalez for Buchholtz, and the guys you could have picked up for Soriano and Moylan could have been used to grab a Braun in the off season. So wake up!! Get a BRAIN!!