Before the Atlanta Braves take on the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night they will retired the #29 worn by ace pitcher John Smoltz for twenty seasons in Atlanta. When the Braves traded for Smoltz in 1987 for Doyle Alexander, they couldn’t have expected they would be retiring Smoltz’s number 25 years later. It will go down as the best trade in Atlanta Braves history.
Smoltz won 210 games in an Atlanta uniform, a number that you don’t think is that high, but when you add in the fact that Smoltz also recorded 154 saves for the team it’s remarkable. Smoltz led the Majors in saves in 2002, with 55, his first full season in the closer role. He is the only pitcher in MLB history to record 200 wins and 150 saves in his career.
For as good as Smoltz was in the regular season, he was even better in the playoffs. Smoltz went 15-4 in his postseason career with a 2.67 ERA against the best of competition. His 199 strikeouts are a postseason record. The 15 wins are only surpassed in postseason play by the Yankees Andy Pettitte, who is “just” 19-10. Smoltz never shied away from the big game. His greatest moment may have actually have been in the worst loss of his career. Smoltz shut down the Twins, giving up no runs over 7.1 innings but got out-dueled by Jack Morris. Smoltz would eventually get his World Series ring in 1995 as the Braves topped Cleveland in six games for the title.
Smoltz accomplished everything you could want in his (hopefully) Hall of Fame career. He won a Cy Young award in 1996, he was a World Series Champion in 1995, he tacked on a Silver Slugger in 1997, he’s one of only sixteen players with 3,000 strikeouts, plus throw in eight All-Star games for good measure.
The Braves have retired just nine numbers in their history. They are #3 (Dale Murphy), #6 (Bobby Cox), #21 (Warren Spahn), #31 (Greg Maddux), #35 (Phil Niekro), #41 (Eddie Mathews), #42 (Jackie Robinson), #44 (Hank Aaron), and #47 (Tom Glavine). I’m incredibly pleased that #29, John Smoltz, will be joining those great players in Braves history. The countdown is now on for #10, Chipper Jones, to be the tenth number to join them.
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)