The esteemed Mahatma Gandhi once said “there is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” With all due respect to Gandhi, I don’t think he ever watched Mallex Smith play baseball.
Smith’s speed was on display all day Sunday, most notably in the play shown above. With the Rays already leading 6-2 in the bottom of the third, Smith came to the plate with a man on second and one out. Considering the regularity with which Smith had been laying down bunts in spring training, it should have surprised no one that he would use the opportunity to lay one down.
Even still, the Yankees were flustered by Smith’s ability to get out of the batter’s box in a hurry. Despite a rather pedestrian bunt that only traveled about eight feet down the line, Smith’s speed was still able to force Yankees’ catcher Gary Sanchez into airmailing his throw to first, well wide of Greg Bird. This is the same Sanchez who we were told had the best arm of any catcher in baseball innumerable times during the ESPN broadcast.
Look at that gif again. Smith nearly has the bunt beat out even if Sanchez’s throw was on target. Smith was given a hit by the (slightly-friendly) home scoring crew, but it’s no mistake that he ended up on second - his speed forced the hand of Sanchez and the Yankees.
DRaysBay commenter WilMyers’BatFlip was at the game and noted Smith’s raw speed in person, saying:
Mallex Smith speed is even more impressive up close. He’s been tested like 6 times already in left and is a vacuum cleaner. OF D gonna be a highlight reel.
Yanks playing 3b way up with 1/3 of the lineup. Dickerson, smith, KK. Afraid of our speed and bunt singles. exciting to have that element back.
Both of those points highlight the impact Smith’s speed can have on the game.
Smith looked like he undercut a few of his left field routes on Sunday (darn you, Trop roof), but his speed alleviated any worries since he got in the general vicinity faster than almost any other outfielder would.
And as far as opposing third basemen playing in on him may be concerned, they’re only going to sneak up further the more bunt hits he has, which will give Mallex more and more flexibility when he does actually swing the bat. Do that well, and he’s an everyday player.
We started this article with a quote from Gandhi, so it’s only fitting to end with a quote from Talladega Nights:
“America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed.”
Welcome to the Rays, Mallex.