Longtime Braves pitcher John Smoltz, who had a cup of coffee with the Red Sox in 2009, had a few minutes to talk baseball with Boston.com today. He made his midseason awards predictions and declared no team is as balanced as the Red Sox.
You can hear Smoltz and Matt Vasgersian on the call for Thursday's Rays-Yankees game on MLB Network at 7 p.m.
Boston.com: We're a little past the halfway point now, but no team is running away with its division. What race is the most intriguing to you?
John Smoltz: The most intriguing would certainly be what's happening in the NL Central, but when it comes down to Boston and New York every year that's always what most people want to see or like to see and the animosity that exists between the two of them. It certainly looks like it's going to go down to the wire. Both teams have jockeyed, both teams have had injuries -- significant injuries -- both teams have stayed right where they're at for the most part. It's going to be a battle.
B: As you mentioned, is there any bigger surprise team in baseball than the first-place Pirates right now?
S: No. They've won the last two games with just dominant pitching. Their closer [Joel] Hanrahan is having an unbelievable year. Kudos to what's going on there because this time of year they are about ready to ship players other places, now they may actually be in the market looking for players.
B: All right, awards time. Who are your AL/NL Cy Youngs and MVPs?
S: That AL Cy Young is going to go absolutely down to the last start because you've got three horses right now in the race: CC [Sabathia], [Jered] Weaver and [Justin] Verlander. I never got caught up in one start, so that's why I'm still going to give Verlander the edge, but if CC continues at the rate he's continuing he's going to win it. Verlander had one bad start in his last nine or 10 games.
As far as MVP, at this current rate [Adrian] Gonzalez.
For National League Cy Young, it's going to be interesting to see how the team of -- whatever team, the Braves or Phillies, that wins the division is going to have the Cy Young.
As far as MVP, that one's more wide open. [Jose] Reyes has got a chance on a team that may not going anywhere. He might get traded; he might end up being the losers MVP because he gets traded. You got Prince Fielder in the last year of his contract, maybe trying to put his team on his back to win the MVP. I think the National League is wide open; there isn't an obvious choice.
B: The Red Sox have a small lead over the Yankees, but with the trade deadline looming many expect those two to make some upgrades. What is a bigger need for the Red Sox: pitching or a right fielder?
S: Well, you know what's interesting is I never would have said pitching, but they seem to find ways to sustain injuries every year and can overcome some of them, but not when you get a rash like they've got, a 1-2-3-4-5 situation. Every starter has been hurt.
B: [Josh] Beckett has been fairly healthy.
S: Yeah, but he missed a start or two and tweaked his knee. You're right, he hasn't gone on the DL. As far as needs, I think they are the most balanced team. If they all of a sudden made a rule that nobody could trade, Boston would be in the best position. There's no team without a weakness, but I think it's kind of hard to even imagine that Boston could upgrade, depending on what they'd be willing to give up, in a scenario that if they get healthy they're as good as anyone.
B: You spent a little time in a Red Sox uniform at the very end of your career. When you were on the mound in Fenway, how would you compare it to the experience in Atlanta?
S: Well there's really no comparison. Fenway is unique in itself, the whole idea of pitching in Fenway is unlike any other ballpark, period. The atmosphere, as well as the tradition of the guys that played there and the fans, games being sold out all the time, there really isn't a comparison I can make with Atlanta that I can make. Atlanta is a bigger ballpark, nicer, bigger room for the pitcher to give up mistakes, certainly not sold out all the time. Two totally different kind of venues.
The main contributors to The Buzz are:
- Matt Pepin, Boston.com sports editor
- Steve Silva, Boston.com senior sports producer
- Gary Dzen, Boston.com senior sports producer
- Zuri Berry, Boston.com sports producer