A friend of mine who is a frequent reader of this site sent me a link for a site calling for the firing of Frank Wren. While that was my first reaction to the news of Smoltzie leaving the Braves, I've tried to make sense of what happened and give Frank the benefit of the doubt. Smoltz is in the twilight of his career (albeit a Hall of Fame career) and there's no guarantee that he will throw a single pitch off the mound in a major league game this season. Our rotation was in shambles and Frank had to focus on the best way to solidify it. After a disappointing go at Jake Peavy, he was focusing his efforts on Lowe and Kawakami. Perhaps he thought they were more important to the rotation. Perhaps he was so busy working out deals for them he didn't realize Smoltz was looking at Boston.
The flip side of that is that perhaps he took Smoltz for granted. I certainly never thought Smoltz would entertain an offer from anywhere but Atlanta. After twenty-two years in the organization, I certainly didn't think he'd become one of only a handful of players who play 20+ years for one organization only to leave for another in the end. I've never been more shocked than when I saw the news that he was leaving for Boston.
My gut reaction was not only shock and dismay but also anger, mostly directed towards Frank Wren. Not only did I think he'd taken Smoltz being a Brave for granted, but I thought he had disrespected him by not going on blind faith and believing that Smoltz could come back again and be a valuable part of the rotation. In my heart I knew Smoltz would be back. I never questioned it and I thought Frank shouldn't either. I felt like that heart was being ripped out with the news he was leaving for Boston (even though they're my other team). I needed to blame someone and I certainly couldn't blame Smoltz who I've seen give up his blood, sweat and tears for this team. I blamed Frank Wren, just like many of you.
Then my friend, JJ, sent me the link for a site calling for Wren's firing. I took a few minutes to try and reflect on what happened as an impartial observer. I've always been told that a woman could never be a GM of a MLB team because we'd make emotional decisions. I know that I often get too attached to players or I'm quick to judge them based on their off-the-field actions and then I don't want them on my team. So, I thought about what it would look like on paper if you heard about this situation and the name John Smoltz wasn't attached. I decided that maybe it didn't look like that bad of a decision. He's a 41-year-old pitcher just coming off his second surgery on his throwing arm and he only started five games last season. There are absolutely no guarantees he'll pitch this year, much less as a starter. That's as far as I got in my unbiased attempt to look at why you wouldn't want Smoltz in your team's jersey next season.
Even if you ignore his name and only look at the stats, you'll see he was 14-8 in 2007, 16-9 in 2006 and 14-7 in 2005. He is the only pitcher in MLB history to have 200+ wins and 150+ saves. He's a first ballot Hall of Fame pitcher who claims to still have gas in the tank. With or without knowing his name, you take a chance on this man. Especially if he spent the past 22 years with your organization while compiling those numbers.
Do I think Frank Wren should be fired? No, that seems a little hasty considering I think he made good moves with Lowe and Kawakami. Do I think Frank Wren (and probably others in the front office) took it for granted that Smoltz would be in a Braves uniform if he could pitch next year? Absolutely. Do I think it's a huge mistake? Absolutely. Will it break my heart to see him in a Red Sox jersey (despite the fact they're my American League team)? Absolutely.
I'll leave you with words from the press conference yesterday - and I won't lie, the whole press conference made me tear up, and I don't even cry at sappy movies!
"I've loved every second, every minute [of playing for the Braves]," Smoltz said. "I'm not dying. I'm not leaving. I'm just playing for a different team.