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
|1994||(not awarded due to strike)|
|1997||J. T. Snow|
|2004||J. T. Snow|
|2016||Javier Lopez, Brandon Crawford (tie)|
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.