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Seth Smith: Dadliest Catch

The definitive rankings of the Mariners’ erstwhile outfielder’s greatest catches.

#7 on the field, #1 in our hearts, and #8 in our analysis of how many arms he has.
José Rivera

Sometimes the players we connect with most take the most surprising paths to our hearts. Seth Smith could have remained in Oakland and become a poor man’s Kole Calhoun. Instead of becoming a northern, brunette counterpart to the Angels’ irritable outfielder, the A’s needed a reliever, and so Smith’s story changed tracks. This offseason, after two serviceable years with Seattle, Smith was flipped to Baltimore for SP Yovani Gallardo, in a move that evoked as many emotional responses as it did logistical ones. Jerry Dipoto’s focus on speed and defense in the outfield, combined with Smith’s drastic platoon splits, left him the odd man out.

In honor of our dearly departed Dad, and as a way of preparing ourselves for the newly designed outfield, I decided to go through the MLB highlights of 2016, to remember the defensive heroism we will no longer see in teal this year. Each appropriate response to “Seth Smith catch” from the 2016 season is listed below, and tiered based on an intricate ranking system to track Dadliness.

In order from least Dadly to Dadliest:

9/24/16 - Mariners at Twins

Athleticism: 5/10
Professionalism: 3/10
Dadliness: 2/10

Seth Smith, in this compilation, repeatedly attracts foreign objects in his vicinity which attempt, peripherally, to disrupt his laser focus. He is unfazed, however, and makes the easy catch as the ball hangs up in the air for eons. Unfortunately, the normally stoic Smith erupts in a fit of rage, glancing at the fallen hat near his feet before furiously hurling the ball in to the infield. For shame.

9/30/16 - Athletics at Mariners

Athleticism: 2/10
Professionalism: 8/10
Dadliness: 6/10

This is a tough one. As by far the most routine catch of the bunch, Seth has little need to show off his legs, but uses his quick-thinking to recognize the baserunner has no chance of getting back to the base. He proceeds to record the most ineffectual outfield assist in recent memory, 35-hopping a ball to Adam Lind at first base. Lind appears to take ire with the minimal power Seth put into the throw, but Smith is unperturbed. He used the energy necessary for the task at hand. Dads should be sensible and economical. Not bad.

6/30/16 - Orioles at Mariners

Athleticism: 9/10
Professionalism: 6/10
Dadliness: 5/10

Arguably the most purely athletic play of the bunch, Seth’s route efficiency is superb. The sharp line drive off the bat of Jonathan Schoop is met perfectly by Smith’s outstretched arm as he reaches his top foot speed (which, incidentally, is also the top speed of the minivan he drives). The announcers marvel at the play, and Smith looks a bit pleased with himself, unprompted. This is a grievous faux pas, and is correspondingly deducted from his final two scores...

...or it would be if his postgame interview wasn’t the most awkward, well-intentioned display of humility in recent memory.

Revised Dadliness: 7/10.

9/17/16 - Astros at Mariners

Athleticism: 6/10
Professionalism: 9/10
Dadliness: 8/10

This is a video of a fly out. Seth Smith ranges to his left and catches a ball that hangs in the air for quite a while, with nobody on and two outs in the 2nd inning. Whoever decides what will be recorded as highlights has to take into account the importance of the moment, the difficulty of the play, and the unlikelihood of the occurrence. Since the first variable is almost nonexistent, we must assume the second and third options are being invoked. Seth Smith is graded on a curve. He would never ask for it, but as you age, sometimes folks celebrate achievements you might find menial. “You tweeted without deleting your entire C: Drive; congratulations, dad!”

Good work, Seth.

6/25/16 - Cardinals at Mariners

Athleticism: 4/10.
Professionalism: 9/10.
Dadliness: 8/10.

As Smith ranges to his left for this lazy fly ball, he is faced with an uncommon situation: a fan has entered his field of vision, and appears distressed. Despite his paternal instincts imploring him to deviate from the path and calm the distressed youth in his midst, Seth remains focused on his job. No emotions cross his face as others handle the situation, but his eyes are full of sadness, and regrets of how he could have done more.

9/21/16 - Blue Jays at Mariners

Athleticism: 9/10
Professionalism: 5/10
Dadliness: 8/10

When this play originally occurred, it was surmised that Smith had used two weeks worth of defensive energy and skill up on this one play. It’s a legitimately remarkable play, as Smith chases down a slicing line drive while running directly away from home plate, reaching over his head and behind his body to make an inning-ending play. This game would go on to be tied 1-1, and eventually be an extra-inning victory for the Mariners. The athletic display may have been out of character for Seth, but being the last line of defense for his teammates and family is not. The smile at the end, undoubtedly from Leonys giving him grief, as well as the the relieved appreciation of Félix, serve only to enhance the aura.

7/6/16 - Mariners at Astros

Athleticism: 3/10
Professionalism: 6/10
Dadliness: 10/10

The dadnum opus. Luis Valbuena, leader of a band of raucous youth who live to pester the Mariners, drives a ball 340 feet into straightaway left field. At most ballparks this is a routine play, yet Houston’s fun dimensions add the minor extra challenge of ensuring the wall doesn’t suddenly exist in your path. With roughly 15-20 feet of space, Seth ranges back, and, with little incident, makes the catch.

Everyone is amazed.

Aaron Goldsmith chuckles, as does Smith himself as the bullpen ribs him for his “highlight reel” play.

Mariners bullpen coach Mike Hampton does his best George Knox impression.

Jose Rivera

I am so excited for the Marine Layer and seeing Jarrod Dyson, Leonys Martín, Mitch Haniger, and the rest of the deep, speedy Mariners outfield make impossible plays reality, and difficult catches look easy. Seth Smith had a gift for making the mundane an adventure, however, and that can be wonderful too. Finding joy in simplicity is virtuous, and nobody reminded us of that better than Dad.

Good luck in Baltimore, Seth. Remember to pick up some milk on the way home the next time you’re in town.