Knowing When to Fold ‘Em: A Lesson from #23
Why do professional athletes have such a hard time knowing when it’s time to hang it up? Have we learned nothing from Michael Jordan circa the Washington Wizards era? I bring this up now because two of our most beloved former Braves players have reached the end of their long and distinguished careers; in fact, they have gone well past the end of their careers. Smoltzy, Glavine, this post is for you.
In a move that instantly turned Braves fans from angry to sad, the Boston Red Sox released John Smoltz last week. It was a sad but inevitable ending after several unfortunate and horrendous starts for Smoltz in a Sox jersey. His last outing saw him allowing 8 runs in just 3 innings of work. I feel certain that when Smoltz broke the hearts of Braves fans during the off-season and signed with the Red Sox, it was undoubtedly because he wanted to end his career on his own terms. The current situation in which he finds himself was most certainly not what he had in mind. (But, PS – Frank Wren looks like a baseball savant right now.)
The same can be said for Tom Glavine. Let me preface this by saying that at the time, I was furious with how Braves GM Frank Wren handled the Glavine situation. I thought it was an extremely disrespectful way to treat a 300-game winner who spent 16 years of his career helping our team win title after title. To release him like that with no warning….unacceptable. Tom Glavine and Paula Abdul should grab a drink sometime.
When Greg Maddux appeared at Turner Field several weeks ago to have his number retired, I thought, “wouldn’t it have been nice if all three of them could have left the game the way Maddux did?” Mad Dog knew when it was time to hang up his tomahawk, which I found to be completely refreshing in an era when athletes try to force themselves to have a career when they are well past their prime – Michael Jordan, Brett Favre, and now, Smoltz and Glavine.
I hope both Smoltz and Glavine come to the realization that it would be far better for their respective legacies to retire now. I think Glavine probably will, but Smoltz seems determined to find a way back. I hate to break it to you Smoltz, but there are VERY few pitchers who can pitch into their 40s, and I’m pretty sure Jamie Moyer is an alien. (A side note to Smoltz: just know that the Braves fans who were so disheartened when you left this spring, look forward to your return when we can retire your number and celebrate all you helped us achieve.) And, on a personal note, John Smoltz has always been my favorite Brave, and I hated to see him go down on such a sour note last week.
For now, I thought as a tribute to the best pitching trio in the history of the game, I would post a link to my fave commercial of all time, featuring Glavine and Maddux. An oldie, but goodie…”Hey, we’ve got Cy Young winners over here!” Never. Gets. Old.