#69 - JACK HOWELL, 3B
This trip down memory lane that is compiling the Top 100 Angels of all time is a pleasant nostalgia journey lots of the time, a fascinating series of discoveries in the troves of historical record and often can be a chance to revise actual memories. Our memories are vague, squishy, malleable and ultimately unreliable.
There was a time I would scoff at the mention of Jack Howell, considering him to be a big bust. But looking back at all he accomplished in two tours of duty as an Angel makes a critic scratch his head. How did he look so bad, or at least, become seared into my mind that way.
Part of Howell's legacy-limitations are that he arrived as a full time player at the precipice of disaster - his first year as a starter was 1987 and he played a majority of the games that the mediocre 87 and 88 team played. The also-ran great '89 team would have been a Wild Card team had that slot existed - In those seasons Jack Howell had over 500 Plate Appearances as an everyday 3B and put up an OPS+ of 110, 110 and 103 respectively. Now, those are not superstar numbers, but they are not ... well they are not Doug DeCinces numbers either and that was the man Howell replaced. Add the underwhelming teams fielded fresh off the sad finish to the franchise's first golden era and the animosity, blame and contempt get focused on the promising golden boy who was supposed to carry the franchise forward.
He was Dallas McPherson before Dallas McPherson except he was much better than D-Mac at the major league level. But he wasn't Doug DeCinces and it cost Jack Howell the love that Anaheim wanted to give him.
When Jack hit 23 home runs and had a .790 OPS in 1987 did they rename Anaheim "Jackie World"? Nope. Everyone loves a winner and Jack's best years were stuck with an also-ran team when it wasn't just a flat out losermobile cruising through season seat holders whose corporate bosses hadn't yet realized Carew and Reggie were long gone.
With 9.8 Offensive Wins Above Replacement, Jack Howell did his fair share in his 2,720 Plate Appearances as an Angel. His .747 OPS ranks 27th in club history and his .428 Slugging is 22nd highest. He is one of 23 Angels with over 1,000 total bases accumulated and one of sixteen with at least 100 home runs wearing a Halo.
Jack was traded during the 1991 season to the Padres for Shawn Abner. He ended up playing in Japan and was as superstar. The Angels re-signed him for the 1996 season as a free agent and he played thru 1997 for them, becoming one of the few players to have been a California and Anaheim Angel. In all, he played a total of nine seasons as an Angel.
Here is a detailed interview from 2009 with Jack (LINK) from the late, great 3 Days of Cryin' Angels blog.