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October 15, 2001

John Smoltz


THE MODERATOR: First question, please.

Q. I remember when you first started closing, you kind of were unsure about it. You thought it was kind of weird being out there. You said that. Have you kind of fit into the position, the mental part of it?

JOHN SMOLTZ: Yeah, I have. The biggest question I had was technique and warming up, how quick could I warm up. I wasn't worried about preparation, but I was worried about -- there were games this year that I got warmed up in ten pitches. There were games where the inning took 35 minutes and I warmed up too much. So that was kind of what I was trying to feel out in my short stint there for -- actually before I was closing, setting up was difficult. I could have been in any situation, and really once I started closing, it narrowed it down. I had a better feel for when I was going to pitch. But earlier on I had no feel for when I could be used, what situation, and that was a little difficult.

Q. Bobby just said this is the best pitching staff he's ever had. Do you agree with that?

JOHN SMOLTZ: I would agree. I think we've overachieved in areas. I think we've gotten stronger in areas. When I say overachieved, I don't mean -- I think we exceeded secret goals that we may have had when we left spring training. Burkett could have easily won 20 games, without even -- it was amazing, he could have won 20 games. Jason Marquis grew up as a pitcher. He could have won 12 games. So when you look at some of the surprises and some of the guys who matured as pitchers in our young bullpen, and got very experienced at the end of the year, I would say one through eleven definitely was our best pitching staff. That's not speaking statistically, that's just speaking from a -- I'm sure from Bobby's end, he had a lot of choices this year and really didn't have to, fortunately, with my exception, really didn't have to deal with too many injuries. And that's nice.

Q. How do you see yourself? Are you a starting pitcher or a closer in your head?

JOHN SMOLTZ: You know, I see myself as a pitcher that can pretty much pitch any role. But what I really see myself as is I love this time of the year. Whatever capacity that I'm doing in the post-season, that's fine. Because I just enjoy pitching at this time of the year. I mean, this is what you go through in rehab and it makes the surgery all worthwhile. But it also makes all those innings and all that preparation for this time of the year. I mean, there's no way I could ever guess that I would have been in 30 games, 30 post-season games when you start out your career. So having said that, it's still fun and still a great challenge. I still want the ball in the most crucial situations. So as long as that desire stays there and I'm competent, I would like to keep pitching.

Q. Of all the times you've been here, why do you think this team has fallen short so many times in the post-season? What is it about this team that you think might be a little different from other post-season teams?

JOHN SMOLTZ: Well, as you're seeing, with the exception really of the Yankees, I think it's talked about a lot, the emphasis is there when you go many times, and obviously your success rate is not going to be 100 percent. It's kind of like what everybody talks about with Houston and what they have to deal with when they haven't been able to win, fortunately, against us. I think the more you talk about it, the more you talk about negative things, the more it weighs on you. Nobody really talks about how many great things we've done aside from not winning championships. So it's no different than what the Yankees are going to deal with at some point. They keep being resilient. But sports in general, "What have you done for me lately?" When you lose early, you're forgotten early. Nobody talks about second to last place teams or last-place teams or even second-place teams. But when you're winning and extend your years and go to more of the magnifying glass, then it's going to be magnified that much more. Say what you will, but it will be talked about when we're done, when the run's over. I guarantee it won't happen again. Unless the whole structure changes and they let more playoff teams in. But I think that's the main reason, the farther you go, the more chances you have for failure.

Q. Your club has sort of gone against the norm. How has your team maintained -- been able to maintain, I guess is the best way to put it -- keeping the edge to be a competitive team for ten years now?

JOHN SMOLTZ: There's a bunch of reasons. But starting from the top, the top of the organization down is the reason. We've been given talent. There's no doubt we've had talent over the last ten years but we've had a consistent leadership in Bobby Cox. I don't think he gets enough credit. I think that when you go to spring training and you hear the manager's speech, three-quarters of the team can believe it as optimism. That optimism quickly goes to pessimistic attitude. But it never changes with us. We believe what we set out to do every spring training, and our manager has been as consistent as you can be, as patient as you can be. This has been his most -- truly can be his most rewarding year. Again, he won't win manager of the year. We won't have those situations that we used to have because once you're expected to win, nobody thinks of you other than unless you win it all. So I think Bobby Cox is the single most reason why we've won, especially this year, but over the last ten years.

Q. Don't let anyone influence you. But who intrigues you more to watch: Greg Maddux or Randy Johnson?

JOHN SMOLTZ: I would say I'm biased because I've gotten a chance to watch him pitch, because there's obviously a different way of pitching. Outs are outs. But Randy, when it comes to stuff, I've heard that too much with my career, so I know that stuff is fun to watch, but how you get it done is -- they're both great pitchers. I think it's like the only way it would be different is Charlie Hough facing Randy Johnson. That would be an umpire's nightmare. I've enjoyed watching our staff over the years because we really have different ways of getting guys out. It's more of a preparation and technique and game plan. Randy has that, too, but he doesn't get credit for that because he just blows people away. I know Randy probably gets tired of hearing that, too, as far as, "If I had that stuff, it would be easy, too." Pitching is pitching, whether you throw 100 or you throw 50. It's a nice matchup whenever you're facing somebody that you know you got to be on your best to beat them. I'm sure Randy feels the same way.

Q. How amazing is this team, to be where it's at with all the adversity, all the player changes and the roles?

JOHN SMOLTZ: Well, the book's not finished but we've had a ton of different chapters. I tell you what, it's been one of those years where to a man, if they all had to take a lie detector, there are times where I guarantee we didn't think we could be here, you lose confidence in players, confidence in yourself. We struggled all year. It was never we turned it on. I don't know what our longest winning streak is. Typically, you know what it is. Typically, almost every team wins five to seven games in a row over the course of 162 games. So that has been one of those years where we never caught fire for any stretch of period of time. We always felt like just when we were cooked or finished we did something to surprise everybody, to reinstate confidence. The last two weeks of the season was evidence of that, two miracle games -- more than two, but two that stick out. Again, because of the patience of Bobby. I can honestly say that if I was managing this team this year, if I had to, there was no way I could have the patience that he had and just be able to deal with what he dealt with all year. Because there were a lot of frustrating moments. With each win and the way we played lately and if we can keep playing this way, it has that much more ability to be that much more enjoyable than years past where we were picked to win or had a much better team.

End of FastScripts....

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