Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Where have you gone, John Smiley?

In which I discuss a Pirate of the past and why I loved or hated them so much. I'm not actually trying to find them.

What a curious career. The big lefty essentially had one big year as a Pirate, but it was a big year. In 1991 he went 20-8 and finished 3rd in Cy Young voting with a 3.08 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. The reason he never really duplicated that year was because he only struck out 129 batters in 207 and 2/3 innings, or less than 6 per 9 innings. He was pretty consistent the whole year, but after August 1st the Pirates cranked up the offense in his presence and he went 8-1.

Of course you all remember what happened next. He crapped all over himself in the playoffs. He only made it two innings in his game 3 start, then only two-thirds of an inning in game 7. We lost both games and accordingly, the series. Smiley, likely unable to ever show his face in Pittsburgh ever again, was shipped off to the Twins that off-season for Denny Neagle and one of the first failed uber-prospects of this losing streak, the forgettable Midre Cummings. He went on to pitch with the Reds for about five years after that and retired 126 wins, a 3.80 ERA (good for a 102 ERA+) and a 1.22 WHIP, all of which were way better than I expected. Stunningly, this mediocre pitcher that ruined our 1991 post-season made $31,590,000 on his career according to BBREF. I should've been born a lefty.

Perhaps this all sounds harsh, but please know that this entire entry was written with the clip of the 1991 highlight tape playing in my head where Smiley has his head down with a towel over it in the Three Rivers Dugout while the narrator gravely intones, "But John Smiley would not make it out of the first inning, allowing the Braves three runs before his early exit. That was all Atlanta would need as the Pirates were held scoreless and came up short yet again," or something along those lines.

Next week's Where have you gone will feature someone that is directly linked with many fewers bad memories, I promise.