Monday, June 2, 2008

I Can't Watch

John Smoltz -- a guy whose name I first heard when the Braves traded Doyle Alexander for him 21 years ago -- is near the end. And I fear it may not be a pretty end:
Smoltz's body has issued another ultimatum — a final one, very likely — and the pitcher who has re-invented himself more than Madonna is at it again.

He has altered his arm angle, dropping down from the classic over-the-top delivery in order to preserve his aching shoulder.

And once more he has bounced himself to the bullpen, where theoretically he can best coax the last little bit of steam from an engine held together by baling wire, Elmer's and weapons-grade confidence.
As the article goes on to note, the last time Smoltz played around with his arm angle -- 1999 -- he ended up having Tommy John surgery. I remember watching those last pre-surgery games. Yes, he was still effective enough, but he looked odd and obviously wasn't happy with himself. I remember watching and thinking that Smoltz's labors were not unlike Bo Jackson's when he tried to run down the line after his hip replacement. The feeling that came over me in each instance wasn't pity or anything like that. Smoltz and Jackson were both astounding athletes, and even in their diminished, compromised conditions they did things mere mortals could only dream about. And make no mistake, each of them had earned the right to go out blazing, even if they weren't 100%. But they didn't go out -- or in Smoltz's case, out for a little while -- on their own terms and as themselves.

Wait, strike that. Being competitors willing to do anything to keep going probably is their terms. No, they didn't go out on my terms. My selfish, subjective terms that for as irrational as they may be, I simply can't shake.

I don't think athletes are heroes anymore. I know they are simply men doing a job, even if it is one that consumes their lives and which most of them would do for nothing. They owe me nothing, and I can't sit here and make any kind of rational case for how I think an athlete should approach the end of his career.

But dammit, I needed Jackson to end with a roar and not a whimper, just like I need Smoltz to end with a devastating split-finger fastball, not a sweeping sidearm curve.

As a Braves fan and a Smoltz fan, I hope to God he can pull it off. But I just don't know if I can stand to watch it.


wavydavy said...

Not looking good after tonight's blown save (Monday 6/2)

Anonymous said...

Press conference at 11:30. Expectation is an announcement of season (career?) ending surgery. Damn.