Last week, I reported on the brave, lonely, and likely doomed struggle of Daniel Watts, who is attempting to become the first man of his tribe to reach the major leagues. Today I write to shed a light upon a matter of EVEN GREATER URGENCY, as well as acute personal interest. I write of the Fall of the House of Smith.
Remember the halcyon days of the late eighties? (Unsettlingly, some of you may not.) Remember when Lonnie Smith was a multitalented WAR machine, when Zane Smith was one of the best pitchers in the National League, when Ozzie Smith ruled the infield and Lee Smith ruled the ninth inning? In 1989, nine different Smiths logged an MLB plate appearance, nine different Smiths logged an inning pitched, and these men combined to post 27.5 WAR. In effect, there was a pretty respectable 27th major league team composed entirely of Smiths.
Last year, there were four Smiths in the majors, and they combined for 1.6 WAR. Now that Burch Smith is back in El Paso, where he has given up 11 runs in five innings, that leaves three: two middle relievers and a Padre. (As for Ryan Rowland-Smith, I have no time for a man who dilutes the family honor.) What is happening is nothing less than a dynastic collapse not seen since the Hapsburgs. Phenomenal Smith, patron saint of baseballing Smiths, would be rolling in his grave had he not been lifted from it immediately and enshrined in the celestial firmament.
The tragic ebb of this noblest of lines is not, I fear, confined to the sporting realm. When Mr. Smith went to Washington, in 1939, there were already nine of his clansmen there in Congress to greet him. By 1989, Year of Lonnie, there were eleven. Now there are five. Are we fated to lose our voice in this nation entirely?
With the Smiths in danger of complete extinguishment from the diamond, is there any relief on the horizon? The top Smith prospect is Dominic, last year’s first-round pick by the Mets, who is off to a .163/.180/.163 start in low-A. I have higher hopes for Mallex Smith, of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, and Slade Smith, of the Lakeland Flying Tigers, whose parents had the good sense to pair their proud surname with a fittingly virile cognomen. But it is difficult, I confess, to maintain optimism in the face of such a relentless tide of failure. Are there any Smiths among you? Say something, I beseech you, to lift my spirits — for I can see the darkness closing in.
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