John Smoltz: out for the season
John Smoltz: out for the season

The Atlanta Braves have been getting a lot of attention, even before the season has heated up. Pitcher John Rocker’s controversial comments in December drew negative response and tainted the team by association. In February, first baseman Wally Joyner’s fractured his right foot during the Braves’ batting practice workout. Going back to last season, the Braves heavy hitter Andres Galarraga took the season off to battle cancer. In 1999, the Braves also lost Kerry Ligtenberg to an elbow injury that took him out of the bullpen.

Now, more bad news. On March 8, the Braves camp announced that pitcher John Smoltz will not play any more games this season. Post-game pain five hours after meeting Tampa Bay made the pitcher seek medical assistance. The results of his magnetic resonance imaging exam came back with the bad news that Smoltz has a torn media collateral ligament in his right elbow. The veteran right-hander will have surgery on the elbow March 23.

Watchers wonder whether the elbow injury will jeopardize Atlanta’s World Series return. The Braves appeared to have a winning pitching rotation ready with Smoltz, 1998 Cy Young Award winner Tom Glavine and four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux. Kevin Millwood joined the rotation full-time last year and won 18 games.

Now that Smoltz is out, who will take his place?

When Denny Neagle was traded to Cincinnati two winters ago, this left room for pitchers to step up into the rotation. Possible replacements for Smoltz on the mound are the pitchers that have been competing for the No. 5 space in the rotation: Bruce Chen and Terry Mulholland. Chen is a lefty who pitches in a style that has been compared to Glavine, but with more heat. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a great season last year. Steve Avery may also return, if his shoulder heals.

General manager John Schuerholz believes the remaining pitchers will be able to step up. Yet, he also keeps open the possibility that the Braves will be receptive to trade opportunities as well.

Smoltz is one of the most physically talented pitchers in the majors, but a few injuries have prevented him from reaching super stardom. The 1996 Cy Young Award winner was on the disabled list twice with a strained right elbow (May 17-June 1 and July 5-24). Smoltz underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery to remove bone chips and a bone spur in 1994 and 1998. According to his fellow players, Braves Number 29 has been pitching while in pain the last few years.

Players who have faced Smoltz say he is one of the hardest pitchers to hit in the National League. Because of his “up and down” saga, prices for his cards seems to undulate in response to the demand. Smoltz has had some outstanding seasons when he is healthy, but several bumps in the road have prevented him from rising above the rest.

Critics say that pitching teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who don’t have nearly the talent compared to Smoltz, have remained healthy and consistent for the most part. Maddux seems to get most of the credit and attention despite what some would call inferior raw ability. However, his consistency and composure keeps him in the game.

Will the Atlanta Braves be in the World Series? Can they hold off the New York Mets in National League East?

Considering their performance last season, the Braves are no strangers to adversity. Last spring, pitcher Kerry Ligtenberg had the same torn ligament injury as Smoltz. Ligtenberg had an elbow injury before opening day. Braves heavy hitter Andres Galarraga left the team to battle cancer last year. Their All-Star catcher Javy Lopez also got pulled out of play. Even without Ligtenberg and Galarraga for the year, the Braves were 103-59 and won their eighth straight division title. Although the New York Yankees beat the Atlanta Braves last season, the team has a way of meeting the shakeups to their lineup.

Fortunately for the Braves, slugger Galarraga has returned in high spirits and good form after undergoing chemotheraphy. In an odd twist of fate, the Atlanta Braves got Ligtenberg back into pitching for his first spring appearance this year since recovering from the injury. Then, a day later, the club received news that Smoltz would be out for the remainder of the season

Even now, Chipper Jones is throwing with a bone spur in his elbow. The Atlanta Braves have been hoping that Jones can play the rest of the season without undergoing surgery. If Jones can’t hold out or sustains more injuries, the Braves will face even more stormy times ahead.


Atlanta Braves Players
Sportscard Values
John Smoltz

NM MT 8

MT 9
GEMMT 10
1986 Minor League (ProCards, Lakeland A)
20
40
100
1988 Minor League (BC, Richmond AAA)
20
50
110
1988 Minor League (ProCards, Richmond AAA)
6
15
50
1988 Fleer Update #74 (R)
4
10
50
1988 Fleer Update Glossy #74
8
18
60
1989 Bowman #266 (R)
6
15
65
1989 Bowman Tiffany #266 (R)
18
35
125-
1989 Donruss #642 (R)
5
12
65
1989 Donruss Baseball's Best #85
6
15
55
1989 Fleer #602 (R)
5
10
50
1989 Topps Tiffany #382 (R)
8
20
90
1989 Upper Deck #17 (R)
5
12
75

Greg Maddux
NM MT 8
MT 9
GEMMT 10
1986 Minor League (ProCards, Pittsfield AA) 125 250 1,500
1987 Donruss #36 (R) 16 45- 425
1987 Donruss Rookies #52 (R) 18 40 375
1987 Fleer Update #68 (R) 10 20 300
1987 Fleer Update Glossy #68 (R) 12 25 300
1987 Leaf #36 (R) 20 55 600
1987 Topps Traded #70 (R) 8 18 240
1987 Topps Traded Tiffany #70 20 55 300
1988 Topps Tiffany #361 5 12 55
1989 Bowman Tiffany #284 5 15 75
Tom Glavine
NM MT 8
MT 9
GEMMT 10
1986 Minor League (Djennings, SL All Stars AA) 10 25 100
1986 Minor League (ProCards, Greenville AA) 12 30 100
1987 Minor League #32 (TCMA, IL All Stars) 10 20 70
1987 Minor League #5 (TCMA, Richmond AAA) 10 20 70
1988 Donruss #644 (R) 5 15 65
1988 Fleer #539 (R) 6 15 65
1988 Fleer Glossy #539 (R) 10 20 85
1988 Topps #779 (R) 6 12 60
1988 Topps Tiffany #779 (R) 8 18 100

Chipper Jones

NM MT 8
MT 9
GEMMT 10
1992 Minor League (Durham A) 15 30 80
1992 Minor League (Best, Durham A) #1 15 30 80
1992 Minor League (Fleer/PC, Durham A) #1108 15 30 80
1993 Bowman #347 Foil 4 10 45
1993 Excel Minor League #2 5 12 65
1993 SP #280 Foil 8 50 370+
1993 Minor League (Fleer/PC, Rchmnd AAA)#190 8 20 100
1993 Minor League (Fleer/PC. AAA AS) #1 8 20 100
1993 Minor League (Richmond, AAA) #6 12 30 125
Source: March 2000 Sportscard Market Report

Greg Maddux's consistency and composure keep him in the game
Greg Maddux's consistency and composure keep him in the game