Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Cardinals could do worse than taking a chance on John Smoltz

Even if he never makes a single pitch, having John Smoltz on your staff during a run for the playoffs is a smart move.
John Smoltz agreed to a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, giving the 42-year-old former ace a chance to rejuvenate his career in the middle of a pennant race.

Smoltz joined the NL Central leaders shortly after he cleared waivers, following his release by Boston. He was 2-5 with an 8.33 ERA in eight starts for the Red Sox.

The Cardinals hope Smoltz can either fill a void as the fifth starter or provide right-handed relief in the bullpen. Detroit, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas and Florida also were said to be interested in signing the longtime Atlanta star.

"We feel that this is an opportunity to strengthen our pitching staff," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "When you have an opportunity to bring the expertise and experience of a future Hall of Famer to your club, it's easy to see why we are excited about the prospects of what John Smoltz can do to improve our team's chances as we approach the stretch drive."

St. Louis has a six game lead in its division and needs to get to the post-season as healthy as possible. The distance between now and the playoffs is paved with players who are going to have to keep them in the hunt--a collapse would be devastating for a team that is going to have to win it all soon to bring Tony La Russa another championship. St. Louis may be the best baseball town in the country, and a World Series there would showcase their wonderful fans and their wonderful new stadium. Forget the coasts, baseball is a sport where cities like St. Louis can shine on national television.

Smoltz can show the Cardinals whether he can pitch or not on Saturday, when he is scheduled to make a start for them. He's a big game pitcher who could set the Cardinals up for a solid September. He can help with the little things, and he knows the National League, inside and out. He's also seen enough of the American League to make him valuable in the clubhouse when the playoffs get underway.

Why didn't someone lock him up so that he couldn't compete against them? Someone should have taken a risk on Smoltz before St. Louis could get to him.

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