Jay Howell 1989 Fleer – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for March 29, 2017

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From a distance, Jay Howell had a surprisingly successful career. He played for 14 plus seasons in the majors, was part of a World Series champion and was named to 3 All Star Games.

He also was featured in two of the biggest trades of the 1980s.

But man he had a strange career, one where bad things kept popping up in glorious moments and his injury led directly to another player becoming a Hall of Famer.

Howell was born in Miami but went to high school in Colorado, foreshadowing the expansion of 1993. The Reds picked him out of high school in the 12th round, but he didn’t sign.

Howell went to college at University of Colorado and was drafted again by the Reds, this time in the 31st round. Most 31st rounders do not become 3 time All Stars, so the scout who signed him deserved a bonus.

In 1976, his pro career began in Eugene. After stops in Tampa, Nashville and Indianapolis, he made his big league debut with the Reds in 1980. He hit the first batter he faced, Steve Garvey. He would then retire Ron Cey, Pedro Guerrero and Rudy Law. It would not be the last time he was associated with the Dodgers.

A week later, he allowed 4 runs while retiring none of the 6 batters he faced, ruining his ERA for his short stint with the Reds.

In 1981, he had another unimpressive big league cameo, this time with the Cubs. By 1982, he found himself on the Yankees, again struggling at age 26. He had a bad season in 1983 as well, posting a 5.38 ERA. If anyone had told you then that he would make 3 All Star games, they would have been committed.

In 1984, Yankee manager Yogi Berra used Howell as a set up man for Dave Righetti and he was effective. Whenever a relatively young player was effective under George Steinbrenner in the 1980’s, there was only one fate for them: They would be packaged in a deal.

Howell was sent packing to Oakland with Jose Rijo, Eric Plunk and Stan Javier for Rickey Henderson. The Yankees got a Hall of Famer and the A’s got some depth.

In his first year with the A’s, Howell saved 29 games, won 9 and posted a 2.85 ERA over 98 innings of relief. He made the All Star Game and gave the A’s a little bit of hope for the future.

In 1986, he saved 16 games and played for new manager Tony LaRussa.

In 1987, Howell got off to a poor start, allowing 10 runs in his first 13 1/3 innings. His May wasn’t much better, posting a 5.14 ERA. In June, however, he struck out 13 batters and did not let up a run for the entire month. That lowered his ERA to 4.20, but still it was too high for a closer.

So naturally he was named to the All Star Game. In front of his hometown fans in Oakland, Howell let up 2 runs in the 13th to take the loss. His July was pretty grotesque along with the national spotlight on his loss.

Including the All Star Game, he lost or blew a save in 6 of his first 7 appearances in July and his first game in August. He pitched to a horrific 12.96 ERA for the month and by mid August, was shut down for injuries.

Needing a closer for the team’s slim playoff hopes, Tony LaRussa turned to washed up starter Dennis Eckersley. If Howell was effective in July and not hurt in August, Eckersley might not have received the chance to revive his career and put himself on the path to Cooperstown.

With Howell no longer needed, he was shipped off again in a 3 team super complicated deal that sent Bob Welch and Matt Young to the A’s, Howell, Alfredo Griffin and Jesse Orosco to the Dodgers and several young pitchers to the Mets.

Expectations for the 1988 Dodgers were not exactly sky high. The Giants and the Reds were consensus picks for the Division. But they jumped out to a 13-7 start and never posted a losing record for the season.

On May 26th, the Dodgers won and Howell got the decision over Philadelphia. They went into first place themselves and never fell back to second for the rest of the year.

Although Orosco began the season compiling saves, Howell would wind up leading the team with 21. Tommy Lasorda spread the wealth around in terms of saves as Orosco notched 9 and Alejandro Pena picked up 12. Even Tim Belcher, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser picked up saves along the way.

When the NLCS began, the Mets were heavy favorites over L.A. In Game 1, with Hershiser pitching and his scoreless inning streak pouring over to the post season, the Mets rallied in the 9th. Howell blew the save and the Dodgers took the loss.

Rain postponed Game 3 and gave Lasorda a chance to start Hershiser again. Howell came in relief and again was ineffective. This time, the umpires found pinetar in his glove. He was suspended for the rest of the series and the Dodgers lost.

LA lost both Hershiser starts and no longer had their closer. The Mets winning the pennant was a foregone conclusion. Instead LA rallied and got saves from Alejandro Pena, Brian Holton and even Orel Herhiser before seeing Hershiser throw a complete game shutout for Game 7.

With Howell back on the roster, he did not help his cause when he let up a walk off homer to Mark McGwire to end Game 3 of the World Series.

In Game 4, the Dodgers trying to curb the A’s momentum, LA sent Tim Belcher out to face A’s Ace Dave Stewart.

Sloppy Oakland defense gave LA an unlikely 4-2 lead in the 7th. The A’s rallied in the 7th and Dave Henderson doubled home Walt Weiss to make it a 4-3 game.

With 2 outs and the tying run on second, Lasorda decided to go to his closer early. Howell did not inspire confidence when he walked Canseco. Then an error put Parker on and the bases were loaded. Mark McGwire, whose homer sunk Howell the night before, was at the plate.

Howell got McGwire to pop up on the first pitch. The Dodgers went to the 8th, up 4-3. In the 8th, he worked around a single to keep the lead.

With Pena and Orosco warming in the pen, Lasorda stuck with his embattled closer. With one on and one out in the bottom of the 9th, Howell faced Canseco, knowing that a homer would win the game and tie the series.

He got Canseco swinging on a full count. Then Howell got Dave Parker to pop up to third base to end the game. Howell earned every bit of his 7 out save. After the game, Lasorda gleefully admonished the writers who trashed Howell in their columns the day before.

Howell was not needed in Game 5 as Hershiser went the distance with another clinching shutout.

1988 was a strange season for Howell where he became obsolete from his previous employer and a disgraced cheat and a walk off loser in the playoffs… and yet ended the season with a high wire act save and a World Championship.

He would make the 1989 All Star team and play until the 1994 strike.

A strange career and yet one with lots of memorable moments, good and bad, and worth honoring.

 

 

Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – March 28, 2017

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A few years ago, Jurickson Profar was the consensus best prospect in baseball.

Now he is a man without a position with the Rangers.

Jurickson Profar could still be a star shortstop… maybe not in Texas but in San Diego

Proposing moves on this episode of The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.

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Pete Broberg 1979 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for March 28, 2016

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Prospects are strange things in baseball. Sometimes there are players that are simply coveted and drooled over because of their promise. And many times they never become that stars they were projected to be and it makes you wonder what all the fuss was about.

Case in point is Pete Broberg.

The West Palm Beach native was a huge prospect in high school. He caught the eye of the Oakland A’s who wanted him to be their number one pick (second overall) in the 1968 draft. He would join the likes of Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers and Reggie Jackson on a team that would develop into one of the great World Series winners of all time.

But he turned them down, heading off to Dartmouth instead.

In 1971, the Washington Senators had the number one all all pick. Expos star Steve Rogers and future Dodgers post season hero Burt Hooton were available, but Washington picked Broberg.

He signed with the Senators but his contract called for him to go straight to the majors, do not stop in the minor leagues.

The 21 year old Broberg pitched to a 3.47 ERA, which is respectable to be sure. The next year, the Senators moved to Texas and became the Rangers. In the second game of the 1972 season, he threw 8 strong innings, allowing only 1 run and earned the 5-1 decision over the Angels. It was the first win in Texas Rangers history.

His next game, he threw a complete game 4 hit shutout. Two games after that, he let up no earned runs in 7 innings. The next game, he tossed a hard luck 1-0 complete game loss to the Orioles.

Some nights he looked like the great pitcher everyone was expecting. Then other nights he would get torched. But at age 22, it could be attributed to butterflies.

By age 23, he was stinking up the place. Broberg went 5 and 9 and his ERA soared to 5.61. By 1974, injuries and ineffectiveness caught up with him.

Broberg did not win a decision in 1974 as he tossed a 8.07 ERA in his 12 games. With his welcome in Texas worn out, Broberg was swapped to the Brewers for Clyde Wright.

With the 1975 Brewers, he played with Hank Aaron, passed 200 innings for the first time and won a career high 14 games. But he still frustrated his pitching coaches with his inconsistencies as yet another group tried to unlock his promised greatness.

The Mariners drafted him in the expansion draft, resulting in an awful airbrushing on his cap for his 1977 Topps Card. They should have kept their brushes in the drawer because he never pitched an inning for Seattle.

The Cubs picked him up for 1977 from Seattle but he was a non factor. The Cubs flipped him to Oakland, the team that  first wanted him.

One uninspired season in Oakland and an attempt to make the cut with the Dodgers wrapped up his big league career at age 29.

He used his Dodger contact to pay his way through law school.

Perhaps that in the end was the problem: scouts saw him as a great star and Broberg saw baseball as a way of avoiding student loans.

Pete Broberg may not have become a star, but he was no dummy.