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A 22-YEAR baseball marriage is uncommon, which is why the end to John Smoltz's Braves career was so surprising. Smoltz had shoulder surgery last June, making his status for 2009 uncertain. He filed for free agency, and Atlanta offered an incentive-laden deal with a base salary around $2 million; the Red Sox gave him a contract worth $5.5 million plus incentives. Smoltz told me he's not happy with the way his situation was handled by the Braves. "If they don't want me, that's no big deal," he said. "But don't make it seem like I left for more money or that the [offers] are the same." Smoltz feels Atlanta didn't think he was serious about leaving. "They thought I would wait until the last second [then sign]," he said. "They said they were going to pencil me in. What does that mean? I know a pencil has an eraser too."
Fun in The Sun
LAST WEEK we did five shows from Arizona, which was a nice reminder of how great spring training baseball is. Tickets are a bargain (a prime seat will run you about $25 or about 1/100 of the cost of the most expensive seat at the new Yankee Stadium); it's always sunny and it's hassle-free. I've always been a Cactus League guy because the teams are so much closer together in Arizona than in Florida. And there's more action in the desert. Last week I chatted with a scout who pointed out that the ball jumps off the bat a lot better in Arizona, which makes it tough to judge talent. Bad news for scouts, good news for fans.
TEXAS TECH coach Pat Knight has two ways to express displeasure with officials: by ranting and raving on the sideline, or by calmly talking to the press. He did the former against Nebraska on Jan. 31, when he was ejected for a tantrum that brought to mind his father, Bob. He tried the latter after a loss to Texas A&M last month and was suspended for one game by the Big 12. One thing you won't see him do is toss a chair onto the court. "My dad ruined that for everybody," Pat told me last week. "Everywhere you go, the chairs have a chain around them or they're connected to each other or bolted to the floor."
THE FINE PRINT: Alex Rodriguez rented an apartment in Manhattan for $30,000 a month. Exclusive building. They have a strict no-pet/no-cousin policy.
Go to DANPATRICK.COM for more from Dennis Eckersley and other recent interviews, and hear live audio of Dan's radio show, 9 a.m.-noon ET, Mon.-Fri.