Monday, March 24, 2008

Smoltz's Shoulder

The Braves fan in me had been toying with the notion that my boys may be friskier than many give them credit for this year. Indeed, I had even constructed a non-emotional argument that they stand a much better chance of winning the East than the Mets or Phillies. It wasn't perfect, but I was liking it more and more as the spring wore on. Then I read that John Smoltz is going on the DL with shoulder stuff, and the dream, such as it was, died.

Sure, the story tries to spin it into a positive: "Hey, now we have a roster spot for Jeff Bennett!" Bobby Cox even goes so far as to say that the timing of this is "perfect."

I love the optimism, but long-time Braves watchers know that, under the Cox regime, injuries to stars have often been described in somewhat Kremlinesque terms. The series of Smoltz setbacks between 1998 and 2000 were often spun this way (hey, check out Smoltzie's new arm slot! Wow! With that knuckleball, no one will ever be able to hit Johnny!" All that changed of course once Tommy John finally came calling.

I'd like to think that this is nothing but a 41 year-old player feeling like a 41 year-old, but we've been through this before, and frankly, I won't believe that he's OK until I see him pitching in a real game with real, pain-free effectiveness.

In the meantime, forgive me if I fail to get excited over the Braves' newly found roster flexibility.

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