Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Smoltz & Cox To Join Mets For Playoffs

Tuesday night in Atlanta, John Smoltz pitched eight impressive innings in the Braves’ 12-0 victory over the New York Mets. Next week, the National League favorites will be much happier to see the veteran right-hander. Thanks to a surprising ruling by Major League Baseball, Smoltz and Atlanta manager Bobby Cox will join the Mets for the postseason.

At 76-81, the Braves have been eliminated from the playoff picture. This will be the first postseason since 1990 in which they will not participate. Smoltz and Cox were present for the entire run of division championships. During that time, October baseball became as much a part of Atlanta as The Varsity’s chili dogs and the thousands of streets named Peachtree. This week, Braves fans are saddened that they will miss out on the annual tradition of staying home from playoff games at Turner Field.

However, the ballclub’s manager and ace will still get to participate in the postseason. After consulting with other MLB officials, commissioner Bud Selig decided that it would be inappropriate to stage the National League playoffs without Smoltz and Cox. Therefore, he invoked his “best interests of the game” authority to put the pair in their customary October position – with the NL East champions. There is no word on whether Selig will also use the best interests clause to remove Tim McCarver from postseason broadcasts.

Smoltz and Cox are merely on loan to New York and will revert back to being Braves after their postseason ends. In the meantime, Mets manager Willie Randolph will welcome Cox as a bench coach, valuing his wealth of experience in the dugout. Randolph is even more excited about adding Smoltz to the rotation, given his accomplished playoff history and the uncertain health of Pedro Martinez. However, the Mets’ new starter will be offset by the removal of Billy Wagner from the pitching staff. Excluding Smoltz’s bullpen stint, Cox is forbidden to have a reliable closer on his team in the postseason.

The development is particularly notable for reuniting Smoltz with longtime teammate Tom Glavine. The pitching duo will enjoy reminiscing about the glory days in Atlanta, highlighted by the Braves’ World Series championship in 1995. Another former Brave on the Mets’ roster, Julio Franco, will add to the nostalgia. He will gleefully recount his own World Series glory with the 1957 Milwaukee Braves.

Expecting to be finished on Sunday, Cox was pleasantly surprised by the commissioner’s decision. He had planned on watching the playoff games on his couch, with former dugout mate Leo Mazzone rocking next to him with a beer in his hand. However, Mets hitters may not be thrilled to see Cox in their dugout. With him on their side in October, they expect their batting averages to take a nosedive.

Game 1 of the National League Division Series will represent a strange situation for Cox and Smoltz. They will be in Shea Stadium, with no one screaming profanities at Chipper Jones. However, Mets fans will do all they can to make the longtime Braves feel at home. Expect to see Mr. Met doing the Tomahawk Chop.