When we heard, over the summer, that the Yankees heavily pursued John Smoltz in the winter of 2001-2002, it wasn’t much of a surprise. After dropping the World Series to the Diamondbacks the team surely wanted to make a splash in 2002, and adding Smoltz to a pitching staff that already included Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, and Andy Pettitte would have done just that. But Smoltz took $23 million less, apparently, to re-sign with the Braves. The next chance the Yankees would get, the winter of 2004-2005, Smoltz again signed with the Braves for a discount. It seemed his ship had sailed.
What did come as a surprise was hearing that the Yankees showed interest in Smoltz this off-season. They were the team, after all, that ended his brief AL stint, inflating his ERA to 8.32 before the Red Sox designated him for assignment. True, he did improve once sent to St. Louis, striking out more than a batter per inning while keeping his walks low. The competition, however, just wasn’t the same. It seemed like the only chance Smoltz had to pitch in 2010 was in the NL. Still does.
In the past, the desire for Smoltz was understandable. He ranked among the best pitchers in the league for many years, at times when the Yankees sought starters. This recent interest, however, seems odd, like they wanted to make up for a past mistake. Or maybe they never really were interested, but the noise just seeped into the media. That makes the most sense to me. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense at all.