In 1991, a young Atlanta Braves pitching sensation by the name of John Smoltz was 2-11 nearing the All Star break, and like with the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg, the baseball world was wondering what was wrong.
Smoltz made the choice to see a sports psychologist and he finished the 1991 season on 12-2 run, including two wins in the NLCS, leading Atlanta to the World Series.
Tuesday I spoke with Smoltz, who, along with MLB Network broadcast partners Bob Costas and Tom Verducci, were at Camden Yards doing the national telecast of the Orioles and the Yankees.
Would Strasburg benefit from seeing a sports psychologist?
Smoltz » "Let me start out by saying that Stephen is doing fine and his major problems would be solved if the Nationals could score runs. As to seeing a sports psychologist, I do think that there are a number of athletes from all sports that could benefit from seeking professional help. I would not be surprised if there were some players seeing sports psychologists right now. What it did for me back in 1991 was to help me get some clarity about myself. Sadly, even in 2013, there remains a stigma about seeing a psychologist. But why wouldn't a player do everything both physically and mentally to make themselves better?"
What are your thoughts on the Nationals?
Smoltz » "I had Washington and Detroit as my preseason picks for the World Series and I still think they will be there. Things are a bit rough at the moment, but fans should not panic yet. The Nats will be fine because of Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and Dan Haren. They remain one of the toughest rotations in baseball. The bullpen is solid, and once Jayson Werth gets back, the offense will get going."
What teams have surprised you this season thus far?
Smoltz » "Next week on the MLB Network, we have the Yankees and the Mets on the 30th and the Yankees and Red Sox on the 31st. I am looking forward to seeing Boston and the Yankees without the usual star power, but both playing good baseball. Other surprise teams would be Cleveland, Texas, Kansas City and Arizona for what they are doing right. Meanwhile, the Angels and Dodgers are on my most-disappointing list."
Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @wordmandc.