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So Are the Days of Our Former Tigers...

Yesterday's New York Times profiled former Detroit Tiger Damion Easley, who will be filling the utility infielder role for the New York Mets this season.

The article runs through Easley's major league career, the majority of which (1996-2002) was spent with the Tigers. I apologize if this brings back bad memories for anyone.

In 1997, his first full season as a major league starter, Easley hit 22 home runs and had 72 runs batted in. The next season, he broke out, hitting 27 homers, driving in 100 runs, leading the American League in fielding percentage as a second baseman and making the All-Star team for the first (and only) time.

The Tigers, sensing they had a worthy successor to Lou Whitaker, signed Easley to a four-year, $26.3 million extension before the 1999 season, at the time the second-richest contract given to a second baseman. After the final game at Tiger Stadium, in 1999, Easley was introduced with former Tigers stars like Al Kaline and Kirk Gibson. He thought he was going to retire in Detroit.

And then his power and production dropped precipitously, thanks in no small part to the team's move to Comerica Park. His line drives to left-center field -- sure doubles at Tiger Stadium -- were tracked down at cavernous Comerica, where it was 395 feet in the power alley. He tried adjusting his swing, but it did not work.

Easley probably represents both the best and worst aspects of the Randy Smith era in Detroit. Getting an All-Star second baseman for Greg Gohr was almost certainly the best trade Smith ever made. Yet that enormous contract reflected the poor decision-making and desperation that typified Smith's tenure as General Manager.

I suppose Easley's career in Detroit didn't end too badly, though. At least not for him. He received a $15 million kiss-off from the Tigers - perhaps the most infamous and embarrassing severance package in Detroit sports history.

But at least the guy didn't just sit back and count his money. Easley's bounced around a bit since leaving Detroit - down to Tampa, further down to Miami, out to Arizona, and now up and east to New York. Besides backing up at shortstop and third base, Easley will likely be the right-hand platoon at second base for the Mets.

Maybe you'll get a chance to say hi when the Mets come to Comerica Park in early June.