Cubs Legend Lee Smith Sees a Lot of Himself in Dodgers Kenley Jansen


Lee Smith heads into the Hall of Fame this weekend as a man who pitched for all four teams involved in the two biggest rivalries in all of baseball: Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals (his grandfather’s favorite team), Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

He also pitched for four more teams on top of that quartet, during a Major League career that saw him strike out 1,251 batters in 1,022 innings and make seven All-Star appearances. For what Lee Smith means to the history of baseball, it’s less about what team he played for and more about what position he held. The group that he’s a member of, which matters more right now, is the fraternity of closers.

It was once thought that relief pitchers would never get the hall call, if you’re doing any kind of kiwi sports betting, then it would be what we call a long shot. However, here we are, as Smith will enter this weekend alongside New York Yankees legend Mariano Rivera. They join Trevor Hoffman in Cooperstown, meaning that the top three all-time in saves (a statistic created by sports writer Jerome Holtzman not too long ago from a baseball history stand point) are now all hall of famers.

Who will be next to join them? It’s very difficult to say, given the way relievers are utilized these days. If you’re  someone who is into betting websites, then you know the next relief pitcher HOF inductee is a crap shoot. Rivera is all-time leader with 652 saves, Hoffman is next at 601 and Smith is third at 478. The highest save man among active pitchers is current Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel, who may just be on his final stop in the show.

Kimbrel does have three saves for the Cubs, but he also sports an unsightly 9.64 ERA. He is however a member of the 300 save club already, as currently sits 14th all-time with 336. With 32 more saves, he’ll pass Jeff Reardon and reach the top ten.

“It’s going to be tough, because of the opportunities you get for the team you play with,” said Smith during a media conference call on July 12th, which didn’t get transcribed and posted until today.

“If anyone I would hope would be someone that I think reminds me so much of myself is the young man from the Dodgers, Kenley Jansen,” the three time relief pitcher of the year award winner continued.

“Hopefully, he can stay healthy and do things like that. With the Dodgers winning all these games, it could happen for him. Just staying healthy, having longevity, is the main thing.”

Jansen, currently in his 1oth MLB season, all with the Dodgers, is 30th all time with 291 saves. Lee Smith is spot on with this point- Jansen is young and healthy enough to really last a long time in the majors and rack up the save numbers.

And, like Smith said, the Dodgers are one of the most dominant teams in the National League, so the opportunities will definitely be there.

And for Jansen, it’s a tremendous compliment, given all that Lee Smith accomplished. He led the league in saves four times and in 1991, achieved the largest point spread ever for a relief man of the year award winner. He also finshed second in Cy Young voting that season.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC and Chicago on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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