Whicker: The helium hasn’t run out on Will Smith’s high ride

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error The Dodgers got a compensatory first-round pick because they lost Greinke. That player turned out to be Smith, the 32nd player and third Cardinal in that draft.Who would you rather have now? Greinke has pitched admirably and is now with Houston, but he turns 36 in October.This is why you don’t trade players reflexively before their contracts expire. The Dodgers invested a lot in Greinke and used every drop, just as Cleveland is getting every kilowatt from shortstop Francisco Lindor.Now you hear desk-bound experts say the Indians should trade Lindor because his deal runs out in two years. Repeat, two years. Two years of All-Star play and leadership and maybe two playoff years as well.You heard the same unfathomable logic before the Angels gave Mike Trout his contract for life. When a star gets to the end and signs elsewhere, you also hear people say, “What a shame. They got nothing for him.” It was Dec. 4, 2015, and a short, chilly sunset. As darkness fell, the Arizona Diamondbacks triumphantly signed Zack Greinke to a six-year, $206 million contract and threw the Dodgers into reverse.Meanwhile, Will Smith was hitting caged baseballs and blocking bad pitches at the University of Louisville facility.He was a great-field, mediocre-hit catcher, heading into his junior draft year, hoping to pick up the slipstream from all the future pros in his clubhouse.It’s amazing how we long-jump to conclusions, and miss the pit.center_img That’s not true. When Mark Teixeira left the Angels, they got a draft pick that became Trout, plus they picked up budget room. Early returns indicate that Smith will be throwing out runners and getting conclusive hits long after Greinke has joined someone’s front office.Smith has 26 RBIs and nine home runs in his first 23 major-league games, both franchise records, and has been an errorless catcher in 19 starts. He was not drafted in high school, even though he had an 0.78 ERA pitching for Kentucky Country Day in Louisville, and hit 11 home runs his senior year. He was an infielder then, and the story is that KCD coach Joe Maione wanted to save Smith from the catching wear-and-tear until college.“I liked throwing guys out,” Smith said. “At Louisville they had a couple of veteran catchers, but I still played 10-15 games my freshman year because they were trying to get me ready. The biggest adjustment was learning to block balls, and we had a catching instructor, and we had a 20 minute period every day where we worked on stuff like that.”Marty Lamb, the Dodgers area scout, did not see Smith in high school but visited Louisville often to see the likes of Corey Ray, Zack Burdi, Brandon McKay and Kyle Funkhouser. He noticed  that a .242-hitting sophomore had become a .382-hitting junior. He saw Smith’s long home run against Wake Forest in the ACC tournament.“It’s the old scouting saying,” Lamb said. “If you see a guy do it once, you know it’s in there. He could always catch. I remember him picking a pitch off the ground and throwing out a guy at second, from his knees. A lot of scouts went in there to see other players, but Will was making himself noticed.”“I just had to break some bad habits,” Smith said. “I had to learn how to time the fastball better, not miss it when I got a chance. I’d had some highs and lows, and the lows were lasting too long. But I still felt like I was a good hitter, with a good feel for the strike zone.”Smith said he heard he might go in the “10th to the 20th round” when the year started, then the fifth to 10th, then second to third, and finally better than that. They call it “draft helium.” Sometimes it’s not to be trusted. Sometimes it finds a new horizon.The parents, Mark and Julie, are on the same high ride. They were at Dodger Stadium when Smith’s homer caused a win over Philadelphia.As Rick Bozich of WDRB.com told it, Julie spent part of her visit in an L.A. laundromat, washing Will’s clothes. The Smiths also recalled Will’s diligence, and the day when he caught 299 consecutive balls off a pitch-back device. But he dropped No. 300. Which meant he went back to No. 1.“He’s just a mature guy,” Lamb said. “He was up briefly in 2018, just so he could see what the major leagues were like, and after a while Justin Turner went up to (manager) Dave Roberts and said, ‘This guy gets it.’’’Another thing about jumpy conclusions: They’re not always wrong.RELATED:Will Smith leads Dodgers’ home run barrage in MiamiHow Dodgers catcher Will Smith emerged as two-way player after offseason workWhy Dodgers rookie Will Smith walked up to the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ theme songlast_img read more

Knicks trade rumors: Some within organization ‘uncomfortable’ with dealing major assets for Anthony Davis

first_img NBA Draft 2019: RJ Barrett wants Knicks to pick him at No. 3, won’t work out for any other team The six-time All-Star told the Pelicans in late January he did not plan to re-sign when he could opt out of his contract after 2019-20 and asked the team to move him.New Orleans executive vice president David Griffin has begun listening to offers for Davis and is asking for an “All-Star player, a young player with All-Star potential and two first-round picks” in exchange for him, according to an earlier report from ESPN. The team also could be open to a three-team deal. Related News Kawhi Leonard free agency rumors: Knicks expected to ‘push hard’ to sign star Davis averaged 25.9 points and 12 rebounds in 56 games last season.The Knicks, meanwhile, are hoping to have a busy offseason as they’re expected to pursue multiple stars. They also hold the No. 3 pick in the upcoming draft. Anthony Davis trade rumors: Pelicans want All-Star, young player, 2 picks in exchange for star The Knicks may not want to part with their top talent in a deal for Anthony Davis.Some within the New York organization are “uncomfortable with the idea of trading away significant assets for” the 26-year-old Pelicans star, according to a report from SNY, which cites unidentified league sources. The Knicks and Lakers are Davis’ “two desired long-term destinations,” according to The Athletic, while the Clippers and Nets have also inquired about a potential deal.The Pelicans finished 2018-19 with a 33-49 record and missed the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. But, they surprisingly jumped up in the lottery and will have the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, which is widely expected to be former Duke star Zion Williamson.Griffin, who was hired in mid-April, believes the team may be able to convince Davis to re-evaluate his decision not to ink an extension.”There are a lot reasons for him to believe that this will be different,” Griffin told NBA TV in May. “What it starts with is just us doing what we say we’re going to do, one step at a time. Over time, I think he’s going to see there is a trust level that he should have in us.”I believe strongly he has always wanted to be part of the market, but, understandably, the kid wants to win.”last_img read more