Interview with TBS Baseball Analyst John Smoltz


I recently read Starting and Closing: Perseverance, Faith, and One More Year by longtime Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz, who briefly played for the St. Louis Cardinals in late 2009. He recently spoke to Redbird Rants in an interview.

Daniel Solzman: Thanks for joining Redbird Rants. How are things going today?

John Smoltz: Going pretty good.

Daniel Solzman: I really enjoyed reading Starting and Closing. Could you talk about your time in St. Louis and how pitching coach Dave Duncan helped turn around your season in 2009?

John Smoltz: It was a combination of a couple things. When I got released, I spent two weeks at home trying to figure out what the heck I was doing wrong mechanically. My trainers and agent came to look at me. I knew there was something that I was doing wrong so I fixed the mechanical flaw with my foot and the rubber. And then, really when I got to St. Louis and threw my first bullpen, it was Carpenter and Duncan that noticed I’ve, maybe, been tipping my pitches. I corrected that and really simplified everything I was doing with a new shoulder and pitched pretty darn good. I felt like I pitched really good. I was really pleased to be in St. Louis with the familiarity of everything I was used to. But more importantly, it makes mechanical changes really worth it for me.

Daniel Solzman: St. Louis is known for having the best fans for baseball as you mentioned in the book. Did knowing that help your decision to sign with the Cardinals?

John Smoltz: You know what helped was I knew some of the players that were there. I heard what the clubhouse was like. I know the fans, based just by being there all my life as a visitor, but never to the degree did I understand what it was like until you are there. It was unbelievable. In St. Louis, I was more humbled by that than anything else I’ve really experienced with the exception of the Braves retiring my jersey. That was–well, it doesn’t get much better than that. Just to have kindness, unbelievable, standing ovation, twice, when I was walking to the mound and then, of course, to the plate. It really was, if nothing else, it made worth going through everything I went through to have experienced it.

Daniel Solzman: You were a member of one of the best pitching rotations that I can recall in baseball history. Outside of the Phillies, are there any rotations today that come close?

John Smoltz: Oh, yeah. I think of the opportunities that the Nationals have with Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Detwiler, and Jackson. There are staffs that are going to be better than us on a year basis, you know, statistically. It’s kind of hard to compare these two eras because so much has changed but what the Angels have, certainly what Tampa has, San Francisco when they’re healthy. There’s so many guys that can just–the Rangers had when they’re healthy, just incredible staffs. You know, I think baseball has changed in its ways where they are placing importance. Pitching is certainly in the forefront of a lot of clubs. You can definitely see which ones have it and which ones don’t. It shows up in the records most times.

Daniel Solzman: Looking at the Cardinals this season, what are your thoughts on what Lance Lynn has done for the rotation in the absence of Chris Carpenter this season?

John Smoltz: It’s really remarkable. You go back to train for a job that you’re going to do—that’s going to be out of the pen down the stretch. Has a heavy arm, a heavy sinker. Now you come out of the gate—it’s just been unreal. You know, I hope he can continue in a way that defies all these theories that are out there and hope he wins 20 games. I think this is a credit to his ability just on the fly. It’s like…the more that you think about something, the more thinks something is going to happen to him. You know what? I don’t understand it, the philosophies—I understand they’re going to have to watch him a little bit because of the difference of innings but he’s been a starter most of his life. He knows how to start. He’s going to be a darned good one.

Daniel Solzman: Thanks again for joining us. Any final words for the best fans in baseball?

John Smoltz: Well, I never realized how a section of the country could be so passionate and knowledgeable—I felt like they hand out fliers but it really is welcoming. They really love the game and the efforts of players when they get it done or not. It truly is a joy to have been part of it and see it as a broadcaster and the team that has been through so much. The Cardinals, they’ve supported them in ways that are invaluable—the team and the success.