If you the know the name Lonnie Smith, this is usually what you remember him for.
However, if you’ve seen Jon Bois’s video on Lonnie Smith, this is what you remember him for…partly taking cocaine in the 80s and also almost killing the General Manager of the Kansas City Royals and future GM of the Atlanta Braves, John Schuerholz.
If you haven’t seen Jon Bois’s video…WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Stop reading this article, watch the video below and come back to finish the rest of this article.
In order to understand the legend of Lonnie Smith, you must understand the Lonnie Smith canon.
No, not that, his 1989 season.
You can watch the “Pretty Good” episode on Smith to understand the ups and downs of his career, and it’s fantastic because everything that Jon Bois does is a masterpiece, but I wanted to specifically focus on Lonnie Smith’s 1989 season.
Fun fact: Smith won three World Series titles, with the Phillies in 1980, the Cardinals in 1982 and the Royals in 1985. The Royals beat the Cardinals in seven games in ‘85, the same team who traded Smith to the Royals that season, so small payback if you will.
Smith finished second in the NL MVP in 1982, hitting .307/.381/.434 in 156 games with 120 runs scored, 68 stolen bases, eight home runs, 69 (nice) RBIs, 182 hits, 35 doubles, eight triples and a 128 OPS+.
He was considered a good player, but not a power hitter. Smith hit for average towards the top of the lineup and was speedy, stealing a lot of bases and covering a lot of outfield. However, his production dropped and he almost decided to give up the game, when the Braves took a waiver on him in 1988.
In 1989, that risk would pay off greatly. In just 134 games, Smith was second in the MLB and first in the NL with a 8.8 WAR.
Up to that point, Smith had never hit more than 10 home runs in a season, never slugged above .500 and never had a full season with an OBP above .400.
He hit .315/.415/.533 with 21 home runs, 79 RBI, 34 doubles, 152 hits, 89 runs scored and a 168 OPS+. He set a new career high with 76 walks and equaled his career high in total bases (257) in 22 less games.
He finished 11th in NL MVP voting, with his lack of games holding him back, but simulated over a 162-game season, he would’ve had a 10.6 WAR if he kept up that pace, the best single-season WAR of any player in the 1980s, 0.1 better than Robin Yount in 1982.
So yeah, Lonnie Smith was a good player, but in 1989, he was insanely good, but all that people will remember him for was that stupid baserunning error.