November 29 – Happy Birthday Mike Easler

I faintly remember being confused about the trade. Just before Opening Day of the 1986 baseball season, the Yankees and Red Sox exchanged DH’s. New York sent Don Baylor to Boston for Mike Easler. Later on, I learned that Baylor had demanded to be traded because Lou Piniella, the Yankee Skipper at the time had announced he intended to platoon him with Ken Griffey during the ’86 season. As is the case still today, trades between the arch-rival franchises were not frequent occurrences. In fact the Easler for Baylor deal was the first trade between the two teams since New York got Sparky Lyle from Boston in exchange for Danny Cater fourteen seasons earlier. Red Sox fans could only hope that this deal would not end up being as one-sided in favor of the Yankees as that one was. It didn’t.

The Red Sox had actually acquired Easler a first time in October of 1998 when they purchased him from the Pirates. Then two weeks before 1999 season was about to begin, they traded the native of Cleveland back to Pittsburgh for two prospects and cash. He became an All Star for the Pirates and in 1984, Boston reacquired Easler for pitcher John Tudor.

In his first season in Beantown in 1984, Easler belted 27 home runs for Boston, drove in 91 and averaged .313. Those numbers all decreased the following year and when the Yankees made Baylor available, the Red Sox front office saw the opportunity to replace Easler with a right handed pull hitter who could take good advantage of Fenway’s Green Monster. There was also a lot to like about Easler in pinstripes. He was a bonafide three-hundred hitter who’s nickname was “Hit Man.” He was a left-handed hitter with good pop in his bat giving him the potential of perhaps 25-to-30 home runs per season in New York aided by Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch. Easler would be joining a Yankee lineup that included superstars Don Mattingly, Ricky Henderson and Dave Winfield. There would be lots of protection surrounding him in the batting order which also meant less pressure to produce in every at bat. I fully expected that Yankee team to win their Division.

They came close, winning 90 games but Boston, with plenty of help from Baylor (31 HRs and 94 RBIs) won 95 and ended up in the World Series. Easler hit .302 for New York but he managed just 14 home runs and 78 RBIs. The Yankees traded Easler to the Phillies for pitcher Charles Hudson, that December and then got him back in another trade the following June. He played his final 65 big league games in Pinstripes during that 1987 season and then gave Japanese ball a try. During his 14 season career in the Majors, Easler hit .293.

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