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Happy Birthday Dennis Lamp

Oakland Athletics
This is the only picture we have of Dennis Lamp, which is too bad, he a a very thick mustache.
Photo by: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Former Blue Jays reliever Dennis Lamp turns 66 today.

Lamp pitched three season for the Jays, in the middle of a 16 year MLB career.

His career started in 1977, with the Cubs, pitching 4 seasons there. In 126 games, 108 starts, he had a 28-41 record and a 4.08 ERA. In 1981 he crossed over to the south side to play for the White Sox for the next 3 years, going 25-21 with a 3.45 ERA in 120 games, 42 starts.

Before the 1984 season the Blue Jays signed him as a free agent. He signed a 3-year deal at $550,000 a year, with a vesting option for 2 more years at $600,000 a year. In 1983 Lamp had 15 saves and a 3.71 and the Jays thought they were getting a closer type.

In 1984, Lamp went 8-8, 9 saves, with a 4.55 ERA in 56 games, 4 starts. In 85 innings, he allowed 97 hits 38 hits and 45 strikeouts. The 9 saves was just 1 short of the team high of 10. He pitched ok, but not really what you would like from a closer.

In 1985 he went 11-0, with a 3.32 ERA in 53 games, 1 start. In 105.2 innings he allowed 96 hits, 27 walks and 68 strikeouts. The 11-0 record impressed the BBWAA, he finished 21st in MVP voting. We would finish 99-62, first in the AL East, 2 games up from the Yankees.

That was our first year to make the post-season. We lost out to the Royals, in 7 games, in the ALCS. Dennis had a great series, pitching in 3 games, 9.1 innings, allowing just 2 hits, 1 walk with 10 strikeouts. He and Dave Stieb were our best pitchers. Stieb made 3 starts, had a 3.10 ERA in 20.1 innings. Our other starters had a rough time. Doyle Alexander had a 8.71 ERA in 2 starts and Jimmy Key a 5.19 ERA in 2 starts.

Dennis had 11 wins, but also 5 ‘blown saves’. He had 2 saves and 8 holds. Relief work was different in those days, in 28 of Lamp’s relief appearances he would pitch 2 or more innings and in 11 games he would go 3 or more innings of relief. FanGraphs has him at a 2.0 WAR for the season.

1986 didn’t go as well for Lamp, he had a 5.05 ERA, 2-6 record in 40 games, 2 starts.

And, not surprisingly, he came up just short of his vesting option. It was a bit of a complicated option. The option would be picked up if he got ‘100 points’ over 1985 and 1986. He got 1 point for a relief appearance and 2 points for a start. By the start of September he had 94 points, and if he appeared in just 6 games his option would be picked up. The Jays sat Lamp from September 2nd to the 28th, getting him into two games in the last week of the season.

It seemed like a short sighted decision at the time. As the Jays entered September they were just 3.5 games back of first place and from the All-Star break until the start of September 2, he had a 2.95 ERA in 9 games. The Jays would finish 9.5 games back of first.

Lamp wasn’t happy and filed a grievance against the team, but wasn’t successful. He said:

No matter what I did they were going to release me, even if I pitched well and even if I won a pennant. It’s frustrating as heck. They should have just released me so I could have been picked up by another team.

I’ve always though vesting options were a bad idea.

Lamp would play 6 more seasons, one with the A’s, four with the Red Sox and the last with the Pirates.

In a 16 year career he had a 96-96 record, 35 saves, and a 3.93 ERA in 639 games, 163 starts.

He gave up Cal Ripken first MLB hit and Lou Brock 3000th. He also came within 3 outs of a no-hitter in 1981.

I don’t remember much about him, other than his mustache. I thought he wasn’t the happiest guy, but that might just be from the way his time with the Jays ended.

I couldn’t find a picture of Lamp that I could use in the headline of this post (we are limited to using stuff that SB Nation has the legal rights to use) but I found this old baseball card (man I have a lot of stuff in my house).

Happy birthday Dennis. I hope it is a good one.