There is no denying that John Smoltz is one of the best pitchers to ever play in an Atlanta Braves uniform. He had five top 7 finishes in Cy Young voting including winning it in 1996, made eight All-Star teams, and finished his career with a staggering 69 rWAR, 3,084 strikeouts, and a career 3.33 ERA. As a result, it was hardly a surprise that Smoltz made it into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility back in 2015.
After his playing days were over, Smoltz took up golf more seriously as well as entered the broadcast booth where he has been on Braves broadcasts as well as national broadcasts. His expertise especially when it comes to pitching has played well in the booth, but he has also come across as though he hates the modern game of baseball at times. That said, his broadcasts alongside other Braves legends Tom Glavine and Chipper Jones got rave reviews and featured none of that "old man yelling at clouds" stuff.
Recently, Smoltz gave an interview with ClutchPoints where he was asked some pretty boilerplate stuff including his thoughts on Ohtani's contract and how he views MLB free agency these days. However, it was his responses to who is favorite position player and pitcher are in MLB that raised some eyebrows. Smoltz wisely eventually named Ronald Acuna Jr. as his favorite offensive player with Aaron Judge, Jose Altuve, and Shohei Ohtani getting some love. When he turned his attention to the pitchers, however, his answer may surprise some Braves fans.
Did John Smoltz snub Max Fried and Spencer Strider?
Credit to Smoltzy for being honest, but Braves fans are going to be nonplussed when he named Justin Verlander as his favorite pitcher in MLB right now with Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole and Clayton Kershaw also getting mentioned. Those are all great pitchers especially when they are healthy and at the height of their powers. However, it does feel a little weird that he failed to mention either Spencer Strider or Max Fried at all.
Strider is one of the best young pitchers in all of baseball at the moment who puts up video game-esque strikeout numbers and looks like a perennial Cy Young contender in the making. Fried is arguably the bigger snub as he was a big part of the Braves winning the World Series back in 2021, has three Gold Gloves, and a pair of top 5 Cy Young finishes on his resume.
Perhaps it was just an innocent mistake or he just likes those other guys better. He did mention that he likes pitchers that stay healthy and aren't max effort guys, although that begs the question of why he would prefer Verlander, Kershaw, or deGrom given their injuries and profiles. The more sinister possibilities are that Smoltz is hesitant to show much bias towards the Braves or that he doesn't want to acknowledge other Braves pitchers who could threaten his own standing in the franchise's pantheon.
In any event, Smoltz's approval isn't required for Strider or Fried to be good pitchers and at the very least, he gave Ronald some much deserved love.