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Happy Birthday Dennis Lamp and Willie Greene

Chicago White Sox v Milwaukee Brewers
We don’t have a picture of Lamp as a Blue Jay.
Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

Former Blue Jays reliever Dennis Lamp turns 69 today.

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

His career started in 1977, with the Cubs, pitching four 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 three 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 three-year deal at $550,000 a year, with a vesting option for two 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 were just 1 short of the team leaders Jimmy Key and Roy Lee Jackson. 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 of the Yankees.

We made the playoffs for the first time that year. Unfortunately, we lost out to the Royals, in 7 games, in the ALCS. Dennis had a great series, pitching in 3 games, with 9.1 innings, allowing just 2 hits and 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 an 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 vested 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 beginning of September, he had 94 points, and if he appeared in just 6 games, the Jays would pick up his option. So the Jays sat Lamp from September 2 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 thought that vesting options were a bad idea, at least for the players, although if you have a team that doesn’t use one of their best pitchers for most of the last month while in the playoff race, I think it is a bad idea for the team as well.

Lamp would play six 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’s first MLB hit and Lou Brock’s 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 be from the way his time with the Jays ended.

He threw from a low 3⁄4 arm slot and sometimes would go lower to where it was a straight sidearm. I looked for a video of him, you can see him throw one pitch at the end of this, but that’s about the best I could find. There is video of him imitating Dave Winfield’s batting.

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

I don’t have any pictures we can use of Lamp in a Jays uniform


It is also Willie Greene’s birthday. Willie turns 50 today.

Willie had a nine-year MLB career and his second last season was with the Blue Jays.

We signed him as a free agent before the 1999 season. I remember being reasonably happy about the signing. He was just 27. The season before he had hit .270/.370/.424, with 15 home runs. Coming into his prime, I thought, ‘this could be good’.

I was wrong. Willie hit .204/.266/.394 with 12 home runs in 81 games with the Blue Jays, mainly at DH, with a few games at third base and right field. He played for the Cubs the following season and hit much the same as he had with the Jays, which was the end of his career.

He played nine seasons (or at least parts of nine seasons, he only played 100 games three times). In 655 MLB games, he hit .23/.326/.423 with 86 home runs.

Happy Birthday, Willie. I hope it is a good one.