And Then There Were None: Red Sox Axe Smoltz

There’s a tendency to want everything the way it was when we were, oh, 15. We want a propogation of the greatness we first discovered in our own maturation process, the people who were so good at what they did that we couldn’t help but be hooked by it all. We don’t want to acknowledge that our heroes are getting old at the same time that we are, that they have their own arcs and evolution. It’s why Seattle brought Ken Griffey Jr. back for a curtain call, even though he’s languishing below .240 and poking bad pitches for singles instead of sending them over the fence. It’s why we’re especially upset that MCA of the Beastie Boys got throat cancer, ignoring the fact that even if he were healthy, the Ill Communication era’s gone and never coming back. And don’t get us started on Metallica and their “evolution.”

John Smoltz
(He probably knew.)

So pardon us if we feel that much older on the news that the Red Sox have designated John Smoltz for assignment.With Greg Maddux’s retirement from a while ago and Tom Glavine’s release earlier this season, it seems that the most iconic pitching staff of our generation and one of the greatest iin history has, for all intents and purposes, ceased to be.


The future Hall of Famer had been humbled by pitiful performances on the mound. Now he was humbled by the Red Sox’ decision yesterday to designate him for assignment.

“It’s never easy,’’ [Theo] Epstein said. “I think we just felt like we had to try something different. It’s never easy to tell someone they’re designated for assignment, especially a Hall of Fame pitcher like that. I think it was certainly time to try something different.

Ah, the old “something different.” It’s a diplomatic way of saying “I don’t know what’ll work, but I do know this won’t.”

And thus, the inglorious yet inevitable end of the Three Aces. One part of us wants the era to end with all three on the same staff, all retiring at once after season’s end, hailed as heroes, etc. But that’s just Hollywood. In reality, the same drive that pushed them to the top (and, undoubtedly, to the Hall of Fame) is also pushing them to pitch until they’re told not to, usually by an uncomfortable GM in the middle of a season. Finality is not, by its nature, graceful.

So happy trails, John Smoltz, and thanks. We’ll see you at Cooperstown.