Will Smith of the Los Angeles Dodgers is, in one way, the best catcher in postseason history. That seems important.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, especially in 2020, do not lack for star power.
There’s Mookie Betts this time around, who was supposed to be the missing piece to the championship puzzle. He was procured to play alongside the 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger, in back of an emergent ace in Walker Buehler and the game’s current “best pitcher alive,” Clayton Kershaw.
Buried amid the flashy rubble, the Dodgers’ catching tandem of Will Smith and Austin Barnes was largely overlooked. Sure, they’d be bedrock, but they’d never take center stage in LA’s travels towards the Fall Classic. Even top prospect Keibert Ruiz, with the team for the Wild Card Series and a portion of 2020, seemed destined to steal more headlines.
That was until Smith set an MLB playoff record on Thursday night in Game 3 against the Padres, becoming the first catcher in the history of the game to record five hits in a single postseason contest.
Of course, it’s been impossible to ignore the team’s big names, too. Bellinger’s robbery of Fernando Tatis Jr. ignited the on-field scuffle that defined Game 2. Down in the dumps early in Game 1, Buehler battled back without his best stuff to stymie the clutch-gene-lacking Padres. Kershaw, through a pair of playoff starts, has been Regular Season Kershaw.
Betts? Well, he does everything. You can’t turn him off.
But when Smith became the ninth player in the history of the game to notch five hits in a single postseason contest, that should’ve set alarm bells off for how potent this offense can be. Not Johnny Bench, nor Yogi Berra, nor Carlton Fisk, nor Roy Campanella had ever done such a thing.
A spot that had previously been viewed as a competent wash now featured history-making lumber. That changes the equation.
When the Dodgers go to battle with the Atlanta Braves in the forthcoming NLCS, they’ll be featuring (more often than not) an offensive catcher who just bested every catcher before him in the game’s illustrious history. Thank scouting, drafting and development for that one.
In a role that’s often overlooked, the Dodgers have a budding superstar sporting the tools of ignorance. Add that to the preseason projections they already had in place, and LA is sitting even prettier.