Could John Smoltz Have Extended The Yankees Dynasty?


After dropping Game 7 of the 2001 World Series in heartbreaking fashion, the Yankees looked to sign 2015 Hall of Fame inductee John Smoltz.  Smoltz, who had Tommy John surgery in 2000, only started 5 games and was limited in 2001.  This, combined with the fact he was entering his age-35 season, did not stop the Yankees from pursuing Smoltz, as they knew what he was capable of, due to years of dominating National League hitters, and watching him up close in the World Series.  There was no denying his abilities to strive in the clutch, as well as his experience, and big name appeal.

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Smoltz stated that the offer was tempting and exciting, yet he did not want the perception that he was going to New York simply to win rings, something in which many players do.  With his Atlanta Braves dominating the National League East for years, Smoltz felt that he had that opportunity in Atlanta, and returned to the Braves for 3 years and $30 million, leaving $23 million on the table.  Looking back, it is difficult to not ponder what could have been, had Smoltz taken the Yankees dollars.

With the Yankees bowing out after 4 games the following postseason, Smoltz could have been the difference, as they lost Games 2 and 3 in close fashion late in the game.  The real years we are left to look back at, however, are 2003 and 2004.  Could Smoltz have been a difference maker versus the Marlins in the 2003 World Series?

While he could not have helped the bats pick up the pace, it is very likely he would have fared better than Jose Contreras‘ 6.1 IP, 4 ER, 10 K, Game 5 performance.  (An interesting question is, would the ALCS have even lasted 7 games, setting the stage for Aaron Boone’s iconic home run?)  The following year, one has to assume that Smoltz pitch better than Jon Lieber‘s Game 6 performance, and far better than Kevin Brown‘s very forgettable Game 7, where he was rocked for 5 runs, only lasting an inning and a third, effectively ending the game, and thus the series, early.  Smoltz, unfortunately, did not take the Yankees money, and the title count stayed at 26 until 8 years later, in 2009.