Cooperstown Chronicles – Lee Smith
Closers have finally started to get their due from Hall of Fame voters. In recent years, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Hoyt Wilhelm have got the call. Shortly after he’s eligible, I expect Mariano Rivera to be inducted as well. What does Lee Smith have than all of those guys? Saves. Lee Smith trails only Trevor Hoffman (another likely HOFer) in career saves. I’m not saying that Lee Smith is better than any of the aforementioned closers, but I am saying he’s worthy company in Cooperstown.
478 Saves (2nd All-time)
1022 Games (8th All-time)
802 Games Finished (1st All-time)
7 All-Star Appearances
3 Rolaid Relief Awards
Received MVP votes in 4 seasons
Recieved Cy Young votes in 4 seasons (2nd in ’91)
Top Ten Finishes
Games – Six times
Saves – Fourteen times (1st in ’83, ’91, ’92, ’94)
Hall of Fame voters have looked down on closers. The tradition of the position doesn’t have deep roots. However, the position isn’t going anywhere. When you think of the Yankee’s most recent dynasty, Mariano Rivera is the second person to come to mind (after Derek Jeter) when you think of the most important pieces. Lee Smith was given a job…to close out ball games. He did that more often than anyone else. He shouldn’t be punished for the changes that have been made to baseball. The closer is a legitimate position. Lee Smith is one of the very best to play that position. To me that qualifies as a Hall of Famer.