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Easley Does It

So we've established that Omar Minaya has a thing for middle-infield types who once hit 3 home runs in a game and that he's essentially decided to work backwards here, trading for a 25th man and signing a 24th.

I don't really have any strong feelings of positivity or negativity regarding the signing of Jacinto Easley (I've seen "Damion" and "Damian," so I figured I'd refer to him by his real first name rather than run the risk of spelling error). He's basically an older, more versatile, equally average version of Chris Woodward, a player I liked but whose usefulness wore off after two seasons.

The question is whether the flaws in Easley's game (that he's a TERRIBLE pinch-hitter stands out the most among them) can be outweighed by this:

Easley is a player who has accomplished just about everything.

He made it to the majors as a 30th-round pick, weighing just 155 pounds when his career began, and that's tough to do.

He hit for the cycle on June 8, 2001. He hit 3 home runs in a game...last season against the Braves. He had a 6-hit game on August 8, 2001. He had 4 stolen bases in a game on June 28, 1997 against the Red Sox. Twice, he was hit by a pitch in a game- 3 times. (plunkmaster Craig Biggio has never done that). He's been an All-Star (1998) and a Silver Slugger (2001). He was once released...with $13 million left on his contract (2003). And now, he gets to play in his hometown, for the manager who he proclaims was his favorite player. That's a pretty full baseball life.

Damion Easley has even been around long enough and had the good fortune to have played an integral role in one of the great walk-off comebacks of all-time. I'm referring to the oft-forgotten, except maybe by him, clash between the Blue Jays and Angels in Anaheim on April 15, 1994.

This had to be a rather taxing (pardon the pun) game for all involved, though it didn't appear it was going to be that way. A two-run home run by Easley teammate Tim Salmon off Blue Jays starter Dave Stewart capped a four-run third inning and gave the hosts a 4-1 cushion.

The lead stood at 6-3 Angels in the top of the eighth inning at which point all heck broke loose. The Angels pulled starting pitcher Brian Anderson and the Blue Jays bats subsequently went ballistic against the Halo bullpen. An error by Easley, starting at third base, extended an inning and subsequent damage by John Olerud, among others, led to five Toronto runs. The Blue Jays added five more in the top of the ninth, three coming on a Carlos Delgado home run to take a 13-6 lead into the bottom of the last frame.

The Blue Jays were the two-time defending World Series champions but what happened next was perhaps an indication that this was a team not meant to three-peat. Toronto brought in Mike Timlin to close the game out but the man who was entrustedto get the last out of the 1992 World Series could not finish off a game with a seven-run bulge.

The Angels scored three runs, two on a Jim Edmonds single and one on Salmon's bases-loaded walk, before Timlin was pulled with one out in favor of Todd Stottlemyre. That didn't help matters. Chili Davis and Easley each singled in a run and Eduardo Perez brought in another with a sacrifice fly to make it a 13-11 game. Bo Jackson, sent up as a pinch-hitter, walked, putting runners on first and second with two outs.

You would figure that the Blue Jays had an edge here with normally-light hitting second baseman Harold Reynolds at bat, but Reynolds came through, with a game-tying two-run double, knotting the score at 13 and after a subsequent out, sending it to extra innings.

Southpaw Craig Lefferts, in the twilight of his career, somehow escaped trouble in the top of the 10th, getting World Series walk-off hero Joe Carter on a liner to left with two on. That gave the Angels a chance to win in the bottom of the frame. and the opportunity for Lefferts (incidentally the last pitcher to hit a walk-off home run) to earn his last career win.

The Blue Jays replaced Stottlemyre with Scott Brow and the move initially paid off, as he struck out the first two batters in the home 10th. But with two outs, Salmon reached on an infield hit and Davis walked. This brought Easley to the plate, with the chance to end the mess of a game for which he shared some responsibility. Easley came through with a single to left, plating Salmon (can I say he swam home?) with the winning run.

I imagine that my newspaper archives, unavailable to me at this hour, would tell me that the Angels celebrated this improbable triumph as if it were a World Series clinching. That's the one thing that Jacinto Easley has never experienced in his big league career and whether he partakes in one next October will likely determine whether his signing was a success.

True Metleys know...Damion Easley has five walk-off hits in his career. His two walk-off home runs, which came in a three-day span (September 17 and 19, 1998) both came against ex-Mets- Rick Aguilera and Robert Person.


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