November 26 – Happy Birthday Jay Howell
After the Yankees acquired Jay Howell in a nondescript player-to-be-named-later transaction with the Cubs in 1982, they converted him into a full-time reliever and over the next three seasons, he evolved into the primary set-up guy for closer Dave Righetti. By 1984, he had mastered that role, going 9-4 with a 2.69 ERA that year and even getting 7 saves in situations when “Rags” needed a break. He also loved the intensity of pitching in Yankee Stadium and living in New York. I expected him to be a Yankee for quite awhile and remember even wondering if the organization might consider turning him back into a starter down the road.
That option became moot during the 1984 offseason, when New York traded Howell along with Jose Rijo, Tim Birtsas, Stan Javier, and Eric Plunk to the A’s for superstar Ricky Henderson. I absolutely loved the deal when it was made because at the time, the Yankees had failed to make postseason play for three consecutive years and putting Henderson in front of Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield in the Yankee lineup seemed like a certain recipe for success offensively and it was. But even though Henderson had some great years in pinstripes, he couldn’t put the team over the top. Meanwhile, the loss of Howell and Rijo would come back to bite New York in the rear end by the late 1980′s, when the Yankees pitching quality had plummeted and both these guys became All Stars and won rings with new teams.
Howell was the closer for the 1988 Dodger team that won the World Series over the A’s. In that same year’s NLCS versus the Mets, the Miami, FL native was forced to serve an embarrassing two-game suspension after the umps found pine tar inside his glove during a Game 3 inspection. Howell pitched in the big leagues until 1994, finishing his fifteen-year career with a 58-53 record and 155 saves. He then coached at the college level for the next ten years.