John Smoltz raised some eyebrows recently when he did what no old ballplayer — especially no old Hall of Famer — ever does: he said the kids today are better than he and his teammates were!
Smoltz, talking to the Daily News about the Mets’ young arms Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler and how they compare to the Braves’ core of 1990s aces:
“They’re way better,” Smoltz said of the Mets in comparison to his Braves rotation, which featured five elite pitchers all under the age of 30, including Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. “They’ve got more talent than we could ever have.”
Smoltz noted, of course, that talent isn’t everything and that health is a huge factor which determines whether a talented pitcher becomes a great pitcher. And of course how you adjust matters too. If Greg Maddux tried to pitch when he was 33 like he did when he was 23 he would’t have had the same sort of success. And no one, of course, is suggesting that the Mets pitchers are as good, overall, as three Hall of Fame pitchers eventually were. This is a talent assessment.
Still, pretty notable and admirable to see an old guy give props to young guys like this. It’s so rare to hear baseball players do that, even though in every single athletic pursuit, the raw talent and physical ability generally improves with time. It’s a fact that no one on that Braves staff — and hardly anyone in baseball history — had the kind of stuff that Jacob deGrom has, for example. Whether that turns into a great career, it’s too soon to say. But you gotta recognize talent.