Leyland respects Smoltz, but "he's struggled"

Tigers manager Jim Leyland has been on the opposing side of John Smoltz more times than he cares to remember as a manager. He knows the rumor mill will percolate suggesting that the 42-year-old right-hander should close out his Major League career where it should’ve started in Detroit, where Smoltz was a top prospect more than 20 years old before going to Atlanta in the Doyle Alexander trade in 1987.

But sentimentality is not going to get the Tigers to make a move.

“I’m not getting into all that stuff,” Leyland said Saturday. “Evidently, at this particular time, in my opinion, possibly the best big-game pitcher of all-time and one of my all-time favorites is just struggling, and they decided to designate him. That’s all I know about it.”

Leyland went on to call Smoltz “the best postseason pitcher I’ve ever seen,” a compliment to the way the Lansing, Mich. native pitched against the Pirates in the 1991 and ’92 NLCS on his way to a 15-4 career playoff record.

“I don’t know John that well,” Leyland said, “but I have the utmost respect for him.”

He also doesn’t know the situation with Smoltz’s struggles this year in Boston, which has 10 days to make a move and either trade Smoltz, let him go somewhere on waivers, or simply release him. But he knows that before anyone can speculate on Smoltz pitching anywhere again, Smoltz has to make a decision himself.

“It’s sad, and I don’t know this, but sometimes it’s time to go. I don’t know if that’s the case with John or not. Obviously he’s struggled. You hate to see that. I don’t know him that well, but I know the competitive spirit that I saw for all those years. I would doubt very much that John Smoltz would want to hang around if he can’t compete. Now, maybe he still can. I’m not saying he can’t.”

6 Comments

I find this hard to believe when you see how Denard Span hits against Tiger pitching, but the guy is a .261 hitter against everyone else. After tonite’s performance, Span’s avg. is .299. That’s right, hitting against us has added 38 points to his average!!! Unbelievable. Time to come up with a plan for him, I’d say.

–Ed

(and I am not gonna press too hard about that inaccurate crap info about Denard Span in the previous comment)

but

Smoltz is a quasi-recently born again Christian

he lives in Atlanta

he does not need money

he does not need fame

he has 4 kids that are about to start school in Atlanta

why in anyone’s imagination he would go back to Detroit, beats me…

(and, in all fairness, I am a Twins’ fan so I would love it if he goes to Detroit and blows a few games… but…)

Not worth commenting on. What’s up with callng up Lambert? He is obviously never going to be a MLB pitcher. Why waste the time and roster spot? Call a spade a spade. It is to your advantage when you can recognize a minor league player from a minor leaguer.

Span is 88-337 vs. all pitching besides Detroit—a .261 avg. He’s gone 25-40 against Tiger pitching this year (that’s .625). All total that’s 113 for 377 for a .299 avg. Them’s just the facts. Sorry I can’t keep up our repartee, got to get to work.

–Ed

Speaking of inaccurate comments, I may have made one last night. I talked of JL’s comments on Pavano and watching video, but he may have been speaking of Span at that point. I don’t remember now. The point remains the same.
.
–Rich

No, you’re right, Rich, it was about Span. Leyland isn’t happy about the approach against him.
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“He’s killed us for two years, and we keep throwing him the same pitches, and he’s hitting them. As long as we continue to do that, he’ll continue to get four hits.”
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He said much the same thing about it this morning. But he also gave Span credit for seemingly hitting the ball where his defenders aren’t.
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“It’s unbelievable,” Leyland said. “If he hits the ball hard, it finds a hole. If he hits it soft, it finds a hole.”

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