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July 15, 2012

April 19, 1984 - Quintessential Lee Smith?

Game #157 - St. Louis Cardinals, 4 @ Chicago Cubs, 6

I've always had mixed emotions when it comes to Lee Smith.  I generally liked him as a player when I was a kid.  He looked big and imposing, he had those big saves totals every year...  When the Orioles picked him up in the 90's I was pumped - with reservations.  As the boyhood geek who poured over the backs of baseball cards I knew Smith racked up the saves, but that he also did so with some higher ERA's than the average closer.  I remember an All Star game in the 90's when he represented the O's and got pounded for at least one homer (I'm too lazy to look that up).  Anyway, I've wanted to support his Hall of Fame case, but deep down I know he shouldn't be there.

This game, to me, encapsulated my own personal Lee Smith impressions and memories.  The Cubs were leading 6-3 heading into the top of the ninth.  I haven't used Lee Smith to "close" a game yet for a couple of reasons.  First, in this season of Statis Pro, he's only rated a "2-6", which is about as average as you can be for a pitcher.  Warren Brusstar is also in the bullpen for Chicago but has a "2-7" rating, making him the more effective pitcher.  For me, part of replaying a season knowing retroactively who was good and who was less good gives me the opportunity to do things differently than Jim Frey would have.  But Lee Smith also pitched a ton of games for the Cubs that year, so I need to use him fairly frequently or I risk blowing out the bullpen. 

So Smith started off the ninth inning by walking Ozzie Smith.  The Wizard stole second base and, while doing so, catcher Steve Lake overthrew second base allowing Ozzie to score (Lake was in the game because Jody Davis got ejected arguing a "fair or foul" call).  One batter faced and the Cardinals were already a run closer!  Darrell Porter was up next, and stroked a double.  Now the tying run was at the plate!  Pinch hitter Tito Landrum grounded out to second which moved Porter to third.  But Smith got George Hendrick to line out to third and Willie McGee to line out to second to end the game.  Lee got the save, but it wasn't a pretty inning. 

Winning Pitcher - Scott Sanderson
Losing Pitcher - Danny Cox
Save - Lee Smith
Player of the Game - Ryne Sandberg, 2-4, 2B, 3B, 2R's, 3RBI's
Hall of Famers in the Game - Ozzie Smith, Ryne Sandberg

What do you all think - is Lee Smith a Hall of Famer?

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