I always enjoy going over the baseball transactions every day just to follow the career paths of players or coaches, or even managers, I may have dealt with in the past.
The other day, one name in particular caught my eye: Roy Howell signed on to be the manager of the Seattle Mariners Triple-A farm club in Tacoma. Of course, I had to make sure, it was the Roy Howell I was thinking of and it turns out it was.
Roy Lee Howell came to the Blue Jays in their very first season in 1977. He had the fiery red hair and, later, the beard to go along with his gamer personality. Howell, a third baseman by trade, was the fourth-overall pick of the Texas Rangers in the 1972 draft. In the spring of 1977, he lost the Rangers' third base job to longtime Rangers star Toby Harrah. Pat Gillick quickly pounced and pulled off his first significant in-season trade in franchise history on May 7 of that year, getting Howell in return for pitcher Steve Hargan, infielder Steve Mason and $200,000.
Howell never had great numbers, in fact, his batting average peaked at .316 in 1977 and his best production year was 1979, when he 15 homers and knocked in 72 runs. But that first year with the Jays, he had a game for the ages at Yankee Stadium, no less. Howell slugged a pair of home runs, two doubles and a single, driving in nine runs as the Blue Jays came up with, by far, their biggest victory of their inaugural season pummeling the Yankees, 19-3. Those nine runs batted-in in a game is still a franchise record. Remember that 1977 was the year the Yankees won their first of back-to-back World Series.
Howell spent four years with the Jays, then moved on as a free agent to the Milwaukee Brewers and finally to the San Francisco Giants. He came into managing late. Only three years ago in 2011, he became the skipper of the independent Pennsylvania Road Warriors of the Atlantic League. After that, he worked his way up in the Mariners organization as a hitting instructor. He wasn't actually supposed to be the skipper at Tacoma this year, but then fate stepped in. John Stearns, who was coaching on the M's big league staff had to step down for health reasons. Rich Donnelly, a long time Major League coach, who had just been hired at Tacoma was promoted to Seattle to replace Stearns and, just like, that Howell, at age 60, was the new manager of the Rainiers.
I looked back at that 1977 Blue Jays roster and it's interesting, if not amazing, how many got involved in coaching or managing after their playing days were done. The most prominent include Alan Ashby, who went on to become an even better broadcaster, Phil Roof, Ernie Whitt, who's managed the Canadian men's team among others, Canadian Dave McKay, who worked for many years in Oakland and St. Louis with Tony LaRussa. I counted nine in total, including Doug "the Red Rooster" Rader, who had big league managerial stints with Texas, the White Sox and the Angels. Rader was also a coach on LaRussa's staff in 1992, when they lost to the Blue Jays in the ALCS. Who knows? Maybe in the next couple of years Roy Howell will get his Major League shot.
- Drew Hutchison will be starting for the Blue Jays Friday afternoon at Dunedin against Clay Buchholz and the Red Sox. If Hutchison continues to pitch the way he has this spring and holds his own against the BoSox, you can pretty much guarantee he will make the opening day roster as the number-four or five starter. Ricky Romero's big test is Tuesday at Lakeland against Detroit. Though Ricky has pitched well in two extended relief outings this spring, this will be his first start where he should face predominantly Major League hitters. If he gets through the outing unscathed, he will definately be in the conversation for the fourth or fifth starter's slot.
- The other day, a Tampa Bay Rays prospect by the name of Jeremy Moore crashed a monster home run off Marcus Stroman over the "batters' eye" in dead centre field at Dunedin and drew the praise of skipper Joe Maddon. I wanted to learn a little bit more about Moore, so I did a little digging. He was a sixth-round pick of the Angels in 2005, a speedy outfielder who could handle all three positions well. Though he seemed to be progressing well through the minors, he was bothered by a bone spur and other issues in his hip. That seemed unusual for somebody so young, but doctors felt the beatings he took as a four-sport star in growing up in Louisiana, including football, had done the damage.
Moore ultimately had to undergo hip surgery at age 24, though, thankfully, not hip replacement surgery like Bo Jackson. Moore missed the entire 2012 season before signing a minor-league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. After batting .211 with seven homers and 31 runs batted in last season in his comeback year, the Rays saw enough in him to sign Moore in January. Though he may be a long shot to make the Tampa Bay opening day roster, he has hit four homers this spring and has the versatility the Rays covet. Impressing Joe Maddon doesn't hurt either. Jeremy Moore is the kind of player you really pull for.
- Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York pointed out that the Blue Jays could be on hand in New York for "Derek Jeter Day." Sunday, September 21, the Blue Jays are in New York and that is the Yankees' final Sunday home game of the regular season. Nothing is official yet, but the Yanks did hold "Mariano Rivera Day" on the final Sunday of last season. So there is a chance, the Blue Jays will be part of the grand farewell of one of the Yankees' all-time greats.