Smoltz Discusses Another Postseason Loss

John Smoltz just finished his 16th complete season with the Atlanta Braves. The last 14 seasons have seen the Braves in the playoffs, but only once has the team won the World Series. After the Houston Astros knocked out the Braves Monday night, Smoltz talked with the media. BravesCenter's Bill Shanks was in the locker room and spoke with Smoltz about the disappointing loss.

MEDIA: Can you express your emotions right now?
SMOLTZ: Well this team will make you cry, this team will give you heart palpitations, but one thing this team won't do is quit. We did it all year. We did the improbable. We really felt, I can't tell you how much for the first time in a while, we really felt like we were going to win this game. There was a lot of doubt and a lot of uncertainty of how we were going to win the few games that we did. This was such a great feeling, and for one night it's a very terrible feeling.

MEDIA: John for 13 straight times you get to where you were in terms of winning the division. Tell me how different it was for this team to get there.
SMOLTZ: I have blocked out the other twelve. I don't remember anything about the other twelve. All I know is that this was not supposed to happen. We were not supposed to get here. We were not supposed to beat the Houston Astros and we almost did. I know almosts and could bes and what ifs don't go a long way in this city, but I think when you really break down this team and you really look at what happened, it's a remarkable year. No one can take that away from these guys. It's a terrible, terrible way to end. But there's no way the same frustration from a team that should have won so many others to a team that was fighting for their lives to keep playing.

MEDIA: Which teams were better than the Braves?
SMOLTZ: Florida and Phily definitely had much better teams than we did, and no one can tell me otherwise. We did the things in a crucial part of the season that you had to do, and then let everybody else believe that we were the old Braves of the past. You can't talk about it during the season and you can't say it during the season because it's going to come out like you don't believe in your team. But to a man, they're just giving you fake optimism if they really believe that we were that much better, ten games better, than those two teams. I know it doesn't mean anything. I know it's just going to be talk, but for us it put it into perspective of what we did from spring training until now, which leads a lot of room for hope, whether the roster gets trimmed down even more or if we add a few more young players. It's taught me a lot because in the beginning of the year and a good part of the year I lost confidence in us. I didn't think we had a chance. I would have been lying to you if I thought we did. When you ask me questions I'm straight up and honest with you, and this team has surpassed anything that I thought was possible.

SHANKS: What were your honest thoughts about this team coming out of spring training?
SMOLTZ: I didn't think there was any way we could fight for a division title. I thought we would fight for maybe the last two and a half weeks for an outside chance at a playoff spot. But as far as I was concerned with all the changes, the injuries, and of course the way we played, it was going to be tough. It's just a tribute to Bobby and the rest of the coaching staff if nothing else not letting it be known because they were as positive as I've ever seen. You can use a lot of different ways to motivate guys, and he's the master. Even going into today and into yesterday. If you look at the points in our season, there were enough reasons for players to give up and they didn't. Yesterday was a prime example. Yesterday and today were prime examples of how this team played when it had an opportunity to do something great or when it had some opportunity to fall flat on its face. And I think we're somewhere in between. I really do. I certainly didn't think we were capable of eight, nine, or ten in a row, but obviously when you get into the playoffs you've got to be able to win two in a row and we didn't in this series.

SHANKS: It was an unusual feeling for you when the team was out of first by six games on June 26th.
SMOLTZ: It is, but no different that seeing a team like them (Houston) getting hot at the right time and riding it. They're going to find a way to try to piece something together to play St. Louis, just like we were going to have to do. If I was St. Louis I was loving every bit of what I was seeing. It doesn't guarantee anything, but it just gives you a slight edge when two teams are battling. I wouldn't call it a heavyweight, but we kept keeping ourselves from getting knocked out and we had a glimmer of hope but that was it. I really, really believed today. Today was the first game of all the games that I really thought we were going to win. The score was obviously the furthest from the truth.

SHANKS: You know the fans are going to share your frustration. They've been through this as much as you have – at least many of them have.
SMOLTZ: Absolutely. Yea. There's no doubt. Stories are going to be written, and whatever they say, they say. But you know this is the toughest part of any professional athlete's career. You're not going to react when you lose in the regular season. It's just frustrating. It's the most incredible, emotional high and letdown. I was geared up for so many more games.

SHANKS: Especially when you had the feeling you did today (before the game)?
SMOLTZ: Yea.

SHANKS: That makes it even worse now?
SMOLTZ: That's the hardest part. Tomorrow I'll be carpool line, and tomorrow I should be on a plane going to St. Louis. But that's the nature of what we've done.

SHANKS: It sounds hokey, but it's almost like it was magical to come back as many times as this team has come back that today was supposed to end on a better note.
SMOLTZ: Well there's no doubt. Again, the words don't describe what this year was all about. No one will be able to understand what we've had to overcome, and it doesn't mean anything. These are just words that are not going to solve anybody's issues of whether or not we choked or whatever the scenario is. The facts are the facts. We're not moving. We're not going anywhere. As long as I'm here, I can guarantee you we're going to fight. I'm already preparing right now for this offseason and what I'm going to do.

MEDIA: Does this feel more like 1991 than 2003?
SMOLTZ: A little bit closer. When you don't get out of the first round, nothing can feel like anything you've accomplished. But as far as the guys in this room and the young guys who stepped up and matured, this has got to be a taste of what they can hopefully accomplish in the future. It's a tough way to lose, whether it's 4-3 or 12-3, it's a tough way to lose.

SHANKS: The young nucleus that we have in place should allow this team to stay competitive, right?
SMOLTZ: The one thing we cannot do is go to spring training with all this junk. We've got to find a way to not carry that junk into next season. That's what we've got to do.

Bill Shanks can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com

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