Smoltz will be missed by Braves fans

Published 3:57 pm Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Boy, was that Doyle Alexander trade ever a good one.

That was my first thought Thursday when I heard that future Hall of Fame right-hander John Smoltz, who has been with the Atlanta Braves for his entire 21-year major league career up until now, was preparing to sign with the Boston Red Sox.

I’m sure many young Braves fans have never heard of Doyle Alexander. He was a veteran right-handed pitcher with the Braves in 1987 when current Braves manager Bobby Cox was the team’s general manager.

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The Detroit Tigers were in a pennant race and needed a veteran pitcher for the stretch run. They were willing to give the Braves their top young pitching prospect and a Michigan native in a trade for him. That pitching prospect was a young right-handed fireballer named John Smoltz.

I don’t recall how well Alexander did down the stretch for the Tigers, but what Smoltz has done during his 21-year career with the Braves is historic.

His name is all over the team’s record book. He is one of only 16 pitchers in major league history to record 3,000 career strikeouts. He also has a major league record 15 post season wins, and with 200 career wins and 150 career saves, he is a sure-fire future Hall of Famer.

It is not unprecedented for great players who, like Smoltz, have spent the majority of their careers with one team, to end their careers with another team.

Long time home run king and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, who had many great years with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, ended his career with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Willie Mays, the great New York and San Francisco Giants Hall of Fame outfielder, who was my hero as a youngster growing up in Keyport, N.J., ended his career with the New York Mets.

Veteran Braves left-hander Tom Glavine, another sure fire Hall of Famer with more than 300 career victories, left briefly to pitch for the New York Mets before returning.

While armed with that knowledge, it will still be difficult to watch Smoltz, who is not only a great pitcher, but also a great humanitarian, pitch for a team other than the Braves this season.

He has headed and been a part of numerous charitable projects during his time in Atlanta.

Smoltz, who is 41, had shoulder surgery and is not scheduled to begin pitching for the Red Sox until June.

He signed a $5.5 million contract that with incentives could increase to as much as $10 million.

I understand that baseball is a business and the Braves, who are now owned by a media company in Colorado, are on a budget, but I sure would have liked to have seen a class act like John Smoltz end his major league career in a Braves uniform.

As a long time Braves fan, the fact that he will not makes me a little sad.