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Will Smith wins the 2018 Willie Mac Award

The Giants’ surprise closer won the hearts and minds of his teammates and coaches.

Colorado Rockies v San Francisco Giants Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Will Smith won the 2018 Willie Mac Award on account of how he best exemplifies the spirit and leadership shown by (Willie) McCovey throughout his long career”. If you had handicapped the race beforehand, you might have gone with Hunter Pence as a sentimental favorite, but that’s the wonder and mystique of the award: you just can’t predict what teammates and coaches might do with their votes.

Back in May, after his first appearance following Tommy John surgery, I wrote this:

I don’t know Will Smith. I like his movies and he throws 94 mph, but I have no idea if he’s a “good dude”, if he’s got a zen mindset, if he’s type-A, an asshole, etc. What I know is that in this moment, I could relate to him. He was my brother. And yours. We’ve all had our Tommy John comeback trail. We’ve all had our fork in the road where we’ve wondered if we’re going to make it all the way back. And we’ve all had that moment where it clicked and all made sense. Where we could feel the weight of the struggle fall off us, yet unburdened we understood and could appreciate why we needed it to make it this far.

The award doesn’t necessarily tell me more about that personality — he could still be a Type-A jerk — but it does tell me that whatever type of person he is, the Giants’ clubhouse embraced him and his struggle. He must’ve handled it with some degree of grace. There’s also the simple math of following Buster Posey’s instructions to the letter:

Smith’s attitude and performance elevated him to the closer role because the team trusted him. He joins a wonderful list of winners.

Willie Mac Award winners, 1980-2018

Year Player
Year Player
1980 Jack Clark
1981 Larry Herndon
1982 Joe Morgan
1983 Darrell Evans
1984 Bob Brenly
1985 Mike Krukow
1986 Mike Krukow
1987 Chris Speier
1988 José Uribe
1989 Dave Dravecky
1990 Steve Bedrosian
1991 Robby Thompson
1992 Mike Felder
1993 Kirt Manwaring
1994 (not awarded due to strike)
1995 Mark Leiter
1995 Mark Carreon
1996 Shawon Dunston
1997 J. T. Snow
1998 Jeff Kent
1999 Marvin Benard
2000 Ellis Burks
2001 Mark Gardner
2001 Benito Santiago
2002 David Bell
2003 Marquis Grissom
2004 J. T. Snow
2005 Mike Matheny
2006 Omar Vizquel
2007 Bengie Molina
2008 Bengie Molina
2009 Matt Cain
2010 Andres Torres
2011 Ryan Vogelsong
2012 Buster Posey
2013 Hunter Pence
2014 Madison Bumgarner
2015 Matt Duffy
2016 Javier Lopez, Brandon Crawford (tie)
2017 Nick Hundley
2018 Will Smith

Smith becomes the third reliever to win the award (Steve Bedrosian and Javier Lopez were the others).

He really came on strong once he moved into the closer role and has consistently dazzled with a 94 mph fastball and “wipeout” slider. He’s been virtually split-free against lefties and righties, an invaluable result that’s always been a part of his makeup and would’ve served the Giants well in 2016 against the Cubs — but no, no, let’s stay on message here:

After Hunter Strickland broke his hand, the back end of the bullpen got shaky and Will Smith provided it with some much needed stability. He rose to the occasion and his comeback surely inspired his teammates and should be an inspiration to all of us.

Congratulations to Will Smith for winning this prestigious award which now grants him access to the AT&T Park garden to pick his own avocados whenever he wants and take them home, free of charge. Don’t quote me on that, just assume it’s true.