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Quirky, possibly accurate ways of looking at Dave Kingman, Jonathan Papelbon, Billy Smith

Sunday 6/25/23

Yesterday I encountered someone stating what they believed to be a fact that Dave Kingman--the mighty Kong--was second in all of baseball in home runs from 1972 to 1986.

Is this true? Not that I, of course, as the ultimate Kong booster/believer would doubt that Kingman could have realized this feat. Mike Schmidt would be first. But this would mean Kingman was ahead of Reggie Jackson over that period. I could add it up.

Jonathan Papelbon has a real Hall of Fame case. I'm being serious. As mentioned here before, Mariano Rivera never had a year like Papelbon had in 2006. Papelbon pitched 27 innings in the postseason in his career. He didn't give up a single run--earned or otherwise--in the first 25 of those innings. His WHIP was always low--sometimes extremely so. His problem: he didn't do it for long enough. But he was one of the best closers ever, period.

Now, how much stock you put in that position is up to you. I can understand not valuing it all that highly. But closer-wise, Papelbon was truly the man. I love Lee Smith, for instance, who is one of my favorite pitchers, but he wasn't as good as Papelbon, who is also one of the best postseason pitchers in baseball history. Smith was a save compiler, whereas Papelbon was money and money when it mattered most.

Another would-be fact whose veracity I have not verified, but it could be true: Islanders Hall of Fame goalie Billy Smith may be second all-time in NHL history in games served as a back-up. A Hall of Fame goalie.

How does that happen? Smith usually played half the regular season, no matter who the other goalie on the Islanders was, until he became the more or less official back-up. Sometimes he played less games than the guy who was supposed to be better than. Then the playoffs began, and Smith went in goal and the Islanders won Cups. It's very strange. The 1980s were an era when teams tended to split goaltending duties and you could win the Vezina playing 45 games. The Islanders had Chico Resch and Roland Melanson during Smith's best years, and those were two really good goalies, Resch especially. No one so far as I know has ever questioned Smith being in the Hall of Fame. He did backstop a dynasty, and that will make you a no-brainer Hall of Famer. And money goalie-wise, Smith pretty much embodied the idea.

Was Smith cool with this set-up? I assume he was. He kind of looked like your neighbor you'd see out there fixing his lawn mower on a Saturday morning so he could get at it and tend to that lawn but before it got too hot. Regular guy. Maybe he liked to kick back and not train that hard and have some beers and then take over the crease when the games really mattered then go home and kick back and drink more beers before reporting to camp for that annoying regular season.


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