Dwight Smith – 1994 Topps
February 5, 2012
Oh, What Could Have Been…
Most Cubs fans of my vintage know the story of Dwight Smith and Jerome Walton. They were rookies that excited the Wrigley faithful in 1989 with good performances and promise. Walton was ROY and Smith the runner-up.
Walton was more of a mystery since he was 23 in 1989. But really he didn’t have that great of a year (1.7 WAR). Smith was 25, and had a 2.5 WAR. But Smith was a pure platoon player – he didn’t get a chance to hit lefties (only six starts in his CAREER) and when he faced lefties he was fairly mediocre.
You wonder if he was bad at hitting lefties because he was bad at hitting lefties or if he was bad at hitting lefties because he never got a chance (147 PAs out of 1987 career PAs).
By the time this card came out, Walton was gone, and Smith was a 4th outfielder / PH who saw a lot of time in CF (even though he was pretty average at best as a LF, but these are the Cubs, you know).
When I pulled this card, I thought it was apt for his career – you know – the baseball Gods throwing dirt in his face after a success. But looking at his stats for 1993, he was pretty darn good for a 4th outfielder.
He hit .300 with some moderate power and patience, putting up an OPS+ of 127 and an offensive WAR of 2.2 Of course, being a LF forced into CF when Willie Wilson couldn’t go (and the other options were Derrick May, Kevin Roberson or Sammy Sosa) he had an overall WAR of 1.6.
Still, a lot better than the bust that people thought he was. Not a star that Cubs fans hoped he would become, but a pretty good major league player.
Of course, this being baseball, things didn’t work out for Smith, again.
He signed with the Angels, and did not impress. The Orioles traded for him and he did OK there before the strike occurred. After play resumed the Braves snagged him for a bench role for two seasons (appearing in the 1995 World Series but not at all in the 1996 postseason), and he just faded out of the league after that.
So maybe the face of dirt metaphor is apt for Smith. Well, he did get a hit in the World Series in 1995, so it couldn’t have been ALL bad. Plus he got to sing the National Anthem before many games in his career. Plus his son, Dwight Smith, Jr. was a first round draft choice this past year.
Even with the dirt in his face, it seemed he brushed himself off nicely.