Sports Outside the Beltway

John Smoltz’ Season Ending Surgery

John Smoltz valiantly tried to fight through the pain but he’s now having shoulder surgery that will sideline him the rest of the season and, quite possibly, end his career.

Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz will have season-ending shoulder surgery, but he hopes to return in 2009.

Smoltz and general manager Frank Wren declined comment until the briefing, but the pitcher said on his radio show that he will miss the rest of the season. “I’m having surgery with the hopes of pitching beyond this year,” Smoltz told 790 The Zone. “We’re only kidding ourselves if we try to mess around any longer.”

Still, the decision to have surgery raises serious questions about Smoltz’s future. He turned 41 last month, and it would be highly improbable for a pitcher to come back from a major operation at his age. Smoltz had only returned from the disabled list on Monday, hoping to make it through the rest of the season as a closer after starting five games this season.

His loss was a huge blow to an Atlanta team already dealing with a rash of injuries to its pitching staff. The Braves went into Wednesday’s game 3½ games behind Philadelphia in the NL East. “Not having him at all for the rest of the season is devastating, flat out devastating,” third baseman Chipper Jones said. “Going into this season, I said there’s one guy on this club we cannot do without. That’s John Smoltz.”

The right-hander is the only pitcher in baseball history with 200 wins and 150 saves, and he reached another milestone this season with his 3,000th strikeout.

While on the disabled list, Smoltz changed his pitching motion, going to a three-quarters motion to ease the pain in his shoulder. He came on in the ninth inning of Monday night’s game against Florida with a 4-3 lead but gave up three hits and two runs, blowing his first save chance since 2004.

Manager Bobby Cox said the pitcher was “pretty sore” the following day, and Smoltz apparently decided that it was futile to continue his comeback even though he’s long indicated another surgery would probably end his career. He’s already had four operations on his right elbow, including Tommy John surgery that kept him out for all of 2000.

“I’ve always said that if it gets to that point, I don’t know the value of coming back,” Smoltz said Monday. “At the same time … the right choice will be made. It won’t be made emotionally.”

Truly a shame. Smoltz is a class act and the Braves sure need him.


Smoltz to Return to Closer Role?

John Smoltz may return to the bullpen in light of recent shoulder problems and injuries to the Atlanta Braves‘ closer an setup man, David O’Brien reports.

John Smoltz hopes to be back pitching in 15 to 30 days and said he would consider returning to the closer role.

After going on the disabled list Tuesday with inflammation in the rotator cuff and a biceps tendon in his pitching arm, Smoltz said it’s possible he would return to the closer role where he dominated during the 2002-04 seasons. “Yes,” he said during a phone interview Tuesday night. “Right now I’m sitting at ground zero, taking it day by day, looking at every option to help this team get to the playoffs and end my career the way I’d like to end it.”

It was a surprising acknowledgment from Smoltz, who returned to his preferred starting role in 2005 after converting 154 saves in 3 1/2 seasons as a closer, including a National League-record 55 saves in 2002. He is 47-26 as a starter since the beginning of the 2005 season. The condition of his shoulder, coupled with elbow problems for Braves relievers Peter Moylan and closer Rafael Soriano, has made Smoltz open-minded about moving back to the bullpen.

First, he has to heal. He has been ordered to go 5-7 days without picking up a ball. “I won’t rush back,” he said. “I’ll use the best judgment to do what it takes to come back and be successful. The last thing I want to do is bounce back and forth on the DL. “I will be fine. The team will be fine. And the next time I throw will be because I’m ready.”

It’s an intriguing idea. Smoltz was dominating as a closer but then found himself helplessly sitting in the bullpen during the playoffs while lesser starters gave away games. An ace starter is simply more valuable to a team than even the best closer. But a great closer is better than a starter who can’t stay healthy.


Ryan Klesko retiring from MLB after 16-year career

The Left fielder/first baseman was a key member of the 1995 Atlanta Braves who won the world series. From AP-

IRVINE, Calif. — Ryan Klesko is retiring after 16 seasons in the major leagues, agent Joe Sambito said Friday.

Klesko, an All-Star in 2001 with San Diego, hit .260 last season with six homers and 44 RBIs in 362 at-bats for the San Francisco Giants. He played in only six games the previous year for the Padres because of shoulder surgery. The 36-year-old became a free agent following the World Series and didn’t sign.

For his career, Klesko batted .279 with 278 homers and 987 RBIs. His best season was 2001, when he hit .286 with 30 homers and 113 RBIs.

He spent seven seasons with San Diego after playing his first eight years in the big leagues with the Atlanta Braves.

Note- Klesko’s agent is a former MLB relief pitcher.

My main memory of Klesko is from the 2001 Star tournament season. Where I finished 4th in the National pts. standings. Most tournaments that year I had iron glove Edgar Martinez at 1b(there was no DH use). Klesko was my ‘glove man’ platoon with Edgar in two tournaments, one of which was the Worlds. That was one ugly defensive combo, but I made it to the World quarterfinals that year. So Edgar/Ryan at 1b worked.

Good luck in retirement Ryan.


John Smoltz and Chipper Jones Lead NL, Near Milestones

Chop Chick points out that two longtime Atlanta Braves stars are coming up on major career milestones. John Smoltz is just four strikeouts away from the 3000 K mark. And Chipper Jones is just 10 home runs shy of the 400 milestone.

Smoltz is 5th on the active list, two slots ahead of once-and-again teammate Tom Glavine and three behind former teammate Greg Maddux. And he’s already up to 16th on the all-time list; it’s not inconceivable he could finish past some of those ahead of him.

John Smoltz Career Strikeouts

Jones’ achievement is less spectacular these days. He’s 8th among active players in homers, 9th if someone signs Barry Bonds. And five of them will likely be in the 500 club (six, counting Bonds) by the time he gets to 400.

The season’s still young but they’re also leading the National League in key categories. Smoltzie is 3-0 with an astounding 0.56 ERA while Jones has 27 hits and is batting .443!

John Smoltz and Chipper Jones Lead NL

Not bad for a couple of old timers!


Mike Hampton on DL Yet Again

Mike Hampton, who has missed the last two seasons with various injuries, hurt himself warming up for his first start of 2008 and will go back on the disabled list.

Mike Hampton’s return to the mound is once again in a holding pattern. Or a disabled pattern. The Braves pitcher landed on the 15-day disabled list once again, this time for a strained pectoral muscle in the left side of his chest, which flared during his pregame warmup Thursday night. The left-hander was scratched minutes before his scheduled start against Pittsburgh, which was to have been his first regular-season game in 31 1/2 months.

“It’s unbelievable that something else could pop up like that,” said manager Bobby Cox, who announced that left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes would be brought up temporarily from Class AAA Richmond and that lefty Chuck James would join the rotation in Hampton’s place before his next scheduled turn.

James (shoulder) will be activated from the DL on Sunday. He was scheduled to begin the season in the Richmond rotation, but that plan changed abruptly with Hampton’s latest injury.

“Nobody’s more disappointed than I am,” said Hampton, who missed the past two seasons recovering from two left-elbow surgeries 16 months apart. “I worked pretty hard to get to this point. “I hate it for Bobby and the team, and I hate it for myself. … I don’t know if snake-bitten is the word for it.” Hampton said he and Braves doctors believe the injury is minor. He added, “I hope that’s all it is.”

Cox and the pitcher said Hampton felt some discomfort in his chest when he threw a bullpen session Monday, but that it was better when he threw Wednesday in the outfield. About 20 pitches into his warmup session Thursday, Hampton said the muscle began to “grab” and he decided he shouldn’t risk more serious injury by making the start. He said it was hard to step off the bullpen mound and tell pitching coach Roger McDowell that he wouldn’t be able to start.

I feel bad for the guy, because I’m sure he’s working hard to get back. At the same time, it’s frustrating from a fan’s perspective that he’s eating so much of the Braves’ salary allocation without contributing. He’s been a giant liability to the club’s success.

Baseball’s guaranteed conracts are a joke. At least in the NFL, if a player goes down, the team can give him an injury settlement and cut ties. In baseball, guys like Hampton are an anchor on a team.


Atlanta Braves New Road Uniforms

The Atlanta Braves debuted a new road uniform in their 2008 season opener against the Washington Nationals.

Atlanta Braves New Road Uniforms Photo 1 Braves manager Bobby Cox runs out for player introductions. The Braves broke out new blue alternate road jerseys and caps for the opener. The navy design represents the first change in the Braves' road uniform since 1987. Pouya Dianat / AJC

The Braves’ rumored blue jerseys became a reality Sunday when they broke out the new alternate road jerseys and caps without prior notice. The navy design represents the first change in the Braves’ road uniform since 1987. The Braves said they would wear them in periodic road games during the season. The alternate red jersey remains the gear for Sunday home games.

The new jersey is solid navy with “Atlanta” in script above the familiar tomahawk. The player’s name is in solid white on back, above his white-trimmed navy number. The cap is solid blue with only a white “A”, similar to caps worn by the Braves in the 1960s.

“We feel that we have one of the classic uniforms in all of baseball,” Braves president John Schuerholz said in a prepared statement. “Our new road jersey and navy cap are perfect representations of Braves baseball. They are emblematic of the traditional style of Braves uniforms over the years.”

The jerseys and caps will be available starting Monday through the Braves’ catalog, Braves Clubhouse Store at CNN Center and at Turner Field.

These uniforms, like the red Sunday jerseys, are atrocious. But that last line — the ability to sell them — explains their existence. Sure, the braves have “one of the classic uniforms in all of baseball” but it’s been around for years and people already own them. So you have to introduce some “alternate” unies — even if they’re ugly — to make more money.


12 Former Braves Named in Mitchell Report

A dozen former Atlanta Braves were among those named in yesterday’s Mitchell Report documenting the abuse of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.

Former Braves All-Star outfielders David Justice and Gary Sheffield and pitchers Denny Neagle and John Rocker were among 12 ex-Braves players linked to steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs in the Mitchell Report released Thursday.


Among former Braves named, three (Sheffield and pitchers Paul Byrd and Darren Holmes) were cited for incidents during their time with the Braves. Other ex-Braves named: pitchers Kent Mercker and Mike Stanton, catcher Todd Pratt, and infielders Matt Franco, Ken Caminiti and Wally Joyner.

Sheffield, Byrd and Rocker were cited for allegations from previous investigations, rather than new information.

Justice, a Brave from 1989 to 1996, was said to have purchased human growth hormone in 2000 from a former Mets clubhouse attendant, Kirk Radomski. The report said former Yankees strength coach Brian McNamee recalled Justice asking him about human growth hormone in 2000 or 2001, while McNamee and Justice were both with the Yankees. According to McNamee, Justice admitted he obtained HGH from Radomski. Justice, recently inducted into the Braves’ Hall of Fame, could not be reached for comment.

Radomski and McNamee were the sources for most of the new information in the report. Some players expressed concern over the report’s heavy reliance on statements from those individuals.

“Unless you have hard truth, you’re just taking the word of a clubhouse guy,” said Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur, Atlanta’s player representative. “If you have anything with substance, we want to know. We want to rid that [drugs] out of the game, but I think you have to have some evidence. You just can’t take someone’s word for it.”

I think that’s right.

The news coverage also is doing a poor job distinguishing between steroid use to build big muscles and the use of HGH to aid recovery from injury under a doctor’s care.

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Tom Glavine Rejoins Braves

Future Hall of Famer pitcher Tom Glavine has rejoined the Atlanta Braves, the team where he spent his glory years.

Tom Glavine is coming home.

The 303-game winner returned to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday, agreeing to an $8 million, one-year contract.

The agreement between the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner and the Braves was hammered out during weekend talks, said Glavine’s agent, Gregg Clifton. The pitcher already has taken a physical for Atlanta, the final formality in the deal.

The Braves needed less than a week to lure Glavine back after an acrimonious split in 2002 that led to him spending five seasons with the New York Mets. His old — make that new — team was expected to formally introduce him at a news conference Monday at Turner Field.

“While Tom is disappointed to be leaving New York and all of his friends and teammates there, he has an opportunity to go back to Atlanta to continue his career with the Braves,” Clifton told The Associated Press. “Ultimately, as everyone knows, Tom’s decision was tremendously influenced by the importance of his family being paramount in his life.”

Glavine, who is married and has four children, kept his primary home in suburban Atlanta even after he signed with the Mets, and it was clear the crafty left-hander wanted to finish his career with the Braves when he turned down a $13 million option to return to New York in 2008, taking a $3 million buyout. He then gave the Braves a bit of a hometown discount, something he wasn’t willing to do five years ago. The contract includes no performance bonuses.

Excellent news for both the Braves and Glavine. This is a very young team, except in its starting pitching rotation, and on the surface it’s a bit odd to add yet another guy at the end of his pitching career.

But Glavine is not just another guy. He’s still a premium pitcher and, at $8 million, is actually a bargain in this ridiculous market. If Glavine, John Smoltz, and Tim Hudson can all stay healthy — and, if by some miracle, Mike Hampton can pitch, too — this will be one awesome lineup.

As for Tommy, clearly, the man doesn’t need the money at this point in his life and the ability to see his family every night they’re not on the road is a huge plus. Hopefully, the fans who still hold his leadership role during the 1994 strike against him will welcome him back in a manner befitting one of the greatest players in the team’s history.


Atlanta Braves trade Oscar Villarreal to Houston for Josh Anderson

The Braves are looking for someone to replace Andruw Jones. From AP-

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Braves traded reliever Oscar Villarreal to the Houston Astros for speedy outfielder Josh Anderson on Friday. Villarreal went 2-2 with one save and a 4.24 ERA in 51 games for the Braves this season. The right-hander turns 26 next week.

Villarreal is 23-12 with a 3.71 ERA in two years with Atlanta and three seasons with Arizona. In 2003, he set an NL rookie record by pitching in 86 games for the Diamondbacks.

With free agent Andruw Jones gone and outfield spots open, the Braves might try the 25-year-old Anderson in the leadoff spot. He hit .358 in 67 at-bats for Houston after stealing 41 bases at Triple-A Round Rock.

Anderson was MVP of the Double-A Texas League All-Star game in 2006. He led that league in stolen bases for two years, and topped all of minor league baseball with 78 steals in 2005.

Anderson is at best a B- prospect. He will turn 26 next year, and that’s late for someone to turn into a quality MLB player. In addition while Anderson can steal bases, his On base percentages are not of the type you want a leadoff hitter. He can’t steal first base, and 27 walks with 560 AB is not good statistics for the person who is needed to set up an offense.

Other things of note-

If Anderson is a hot prospect, why did he spend two years in AA?

Also Anderson had only 17 Doubles in over 500 PA this year. He’s a singles hitter.

Thirdly Anderson’s SB totals have been in decline since 2004(Those 78 stolen bases were in 04, not 05).

Basically the trade was a middle reliever for a fourth outfielder.


Francoeur Gets 1st Gold Glove, Maddux 17th, Jones 10th

Atlanta Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur won his first Gold Glove award as the top defenseman at his position in the National League. Former Braves pitcher Greg Maddux and center fielder Andruw Jones (who played for the Braves last season but will not be re-signed) won their 17th and 10th, respectively.

You know it’s been a big week when winning your first Gold Glove ranks a distant second on the scale of importance. Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur was honored for fielding excellence with a National League Gold Glove on Tuesday — three days after marrying his former Parkview High School sweetheart, Catie McCoy.

Center fielder Andruw Jones won his 10th consecutive Gold Glove in presumably his final season with the Braves, who have said they won’t re-sign the free agent. Former Braves pitcher Greg Maddux, now with San Diego, won his record-setting 17th Gold Glove.

“It’s great for him that people are taking notice,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “We’ve always taken notice. It’s always a surprise to us when an opposing third-base coach tries to challenge him, because seems like more often than not the result is an out at the plate.”

Francoeur, 23, was on his honeymoon, and his voicemail message said he didn’t take his cellphone with him and would not return messages until he got back in mid-November.

Congrats to all.


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