expressed his displeasure with the whole situation. AJC "bloggers" (aka commentators to articles) responded to the news with all the lucidity of a crack baby.
As a lifelong Braves fan, I loved watching Smoltz pitch, and appreciated his lifelong commitment to the city and the organization. During the upcoming season, which was sure to feature it's share of snoozefests pitting the Braves against some other cellar-dweller, I could count on the following dialogue taking place between myself and others, and I'd imagine we wouldn't be alone:
Person A: Wanna go to the Braves game tonight?
Person B: Eh, I just went last week and they lost 12-3. Who they playing?
Person A: The Nationals.
Person B: Oh. Fuck No.
Person A: C'mon, the tickets are free I got them (one of the myriad of ways people will acquire 2009 Braves tickets for free).
Person B: Who's pitching?
Person A: Smoltz.
Person B: Hmm...Sure, ok.
Needless to say, I was outraged as well. You're letting a franchise icon walk away for a reportedly $3 million gauranteed? $3 million that is seemingly covered in anthrax given the way other free agents have been hesitant to take the Braves' cash this offseason? Weak, weak, weak. However, a couple of days have passed since then, and I am pleasantly surprised with how quickly myself and other like-minded Braves fans have been able to plow through the five stages of grief. To wit:
Stage 1: Denial - When OBJ texted me on my way to work Thursday morning "Smoltz to BoSox," I quickly switched from my 2728263823rd listening of "The Recession" to 790 and 680. Phew. They were reporting it wasn't a done deal yet...there was still a chance the Braves could up the offer and Smoltz would stay here. Surely he wouldn't leave the team he's been with for 21 seasons to finish his career as a mercenary with the most loathsome franchise in sports...
Stage 2: Anger - When it became apparent that Smoltz wouldn't pull a Furcal and was indeed an f'n Red Sock, my scorn was directed at Frank Wren. How could you let one of the faces of your franchises go over such a measly sum? How could you fuck up this offseason anymore? Is there a more incompetent GM in baseball right now? Is there anyone out there worth a damn that would want to play for this team in 2009? Are we really going to panic-sign Derek Lowe for more than Jake Peavy would be making over the next four years?
Stage 3: Sadness - This stage pretty much started when I realized their was a good possibility the Braves could trot out a starting rotation of Vazquez-Jurrjens-Campillo-Morton-Reyes in 2009. It culminated while reading that Chipper interview when he insinuated there was a good chance he could be traded by the trading deadline; and seeing Mark Bowman report that Bobby Cox made an 11th hour plea to Smoltz early Thursday morning asking him to reconsider.
Stage 4: Reorganization - Whats done is done. As my diehard Braves fan Gelski mentioned to me, maybe Smoltz leaving isn't such a bad thing...the Braves can't keep trotting out old injury-prone pitchers simply because of what they've meant to the franchise in the past. Just because they extended this luxury to Mike Hampton and Glavine, doesn't mean they should keep making similar mistakes. Then the news came out that Smoltz would likely be out until June, which in all honesty, made this pill alot easier to swallow. Rebuilding might be a painful process, but it's necessary at times for nearly every franchise outside of New York or Boston (look at how the current Phillies team was built). Maybe that money could be spent better elsewhere...
Stage 5: Moving On - So where do the Braves go from here? Well, they finalized the long-anticipated signing of Japanese free agent Kenshin Kawakami. Is this a good thing? Who knows, but he is an experienced pitcher to add to the middle of the rotation. He's 33, but pitchers in Japan typically pitch less innings than they would in the bigs (whether this is a positive or negative is a story for another time). Whatever...the Braves finally found someone to take their money. And there's a good chance we could get another epic Furman Bisher column out of this whole ordeal that would lead to Ole Furm lamenting the days when ballplayer's names had less K's, Z's, and Y's.
As for the Derek Lowe thing...I don't want to see him get AJ Burnett money. Hell, I didn't even think Burnett should've gotten Burnett money. I'd rather see the Braves go after the much younger, vastly improving and marginally cheaper Oliver Perez. Or maybe finally trade Escobar and prospects to San Diego for Peavy, plugging Martin Prado in at shortstop (no, I'm not giving up hope until Peavy has landed elsewhere, sorry). However, I'm more concerned about the LF and CF positions.
I was hoping the Braves would grab Pat Burrell to take over cleanup duties and slide into the middle of the lineup between Chipper and Brian McCann. When he signed with Tampa Bay for the bargain price of $16m over two years, I was dumbfounded. Pat the Bat would be a HUGE upgrade over anyone currently on the roster. Adam Dunn, who has hit exactly 40 homers in each of the last five seasons and is an OPS machine, would be a nice addition in left as well, but would make the middle of the Atlanta lineup too lefty-centric. I have no idea what the Braves will do in left, but I didn't actually see them venturing into the "Matt Diaz, everyday player" thought process when the offseason started.
As for center, it looks like one of the young bucks will get every chance to win the job in spring training. I won't lie...the idiotic part of my brain wants to see Andruw Jones return to his old stomping grounds at the major league minimum once the Dodgers cut his (huge) ass. The logical portion of said brain then reminds me that the 90's are over, and perhaps it is time for the Braves to begin the rebuilding process. After the events of this week, I don't know how much clearer the team's front office can send that message to Braves fans.