Well it’s a week into the season and the Mets are in first place! Where have we heard that before? Hopefully this season the success can continue, but we will see with the competitive division. This early jump on NL East teams certainly helps.
There have been many story lines to follow already in the young season from Pete Alonso’s heroics, to Jacob deGrom’s historic night, to Mickey Callaway’s obsession with J.D. Davis and his “creative” use of the bullpen. The story that strikes me the most is that of Dominic Smith, because while you root for everyone to succeed, some guys you root for more. Smith is someone who is certainly paying dividends to those fans right now.
Drafted out of high school back in 2013, Mets fans longed for him to become their slugger of the future. Unfortunately, through the ranks of the minor leagues his power never seemed to develop, yet he still got called up in late 2017 as their number two prospect. Together with Amed Rosario they seemed primed to bring to Mets back to the playoffs after a disappointing injury-riddled season.
However, from day one of 2018 it seemed the Mets had already passed on Smith, and we all know I actually mean day one. Oversleeping a meeting on the first day of Spring Training (possibly due to his sleep apnea) was all Mets management needed to give the 36-year-old Adrian Gonzalez the first base job. Then, poor production in both Las Vegas and up in the majors combined with Alonso hitting 36 home runs in the minors to make Smith drift even further into obscurity.
But here we are in 2019 with Smith continuing a red-hot Spring in a reserve role for the major league club. Everyone this offseason seemed to forget that there is still no DH in the Senior Circuit and bench players actually have a role. Injuries to Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie certainly have helped as well. Smith has appeared in every game for the blue and orange, going 5/10 with a walk and four runs and RBI. He has proven to be more than just a defensive replacement.
The timing of those five hits has been even better, convincing doubters that he is able to perform in a part-time role. There was an interesting article in Newsday detailing his changed approach to pinch-hitting, with Brandon Nimmo giving him advice.
Despite all these concrete ways Smith has helped the Mets to their first-place start, perhaps the most important way he has helped the team is with his attitude. A player once shamed by the organization is now holding his head up high. A player replaced by a rookie younger than him is the first to celebrate after that rookie’s home run. And a player once passed over by a fanbase is now celebrated. While not everything will go the Mets way in 2019, if they can continue to have a clubhouse fcused on team winning like Smith is, then we might see some October baseball.