Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Eric Davis

All the stories in the sports pages that November day in 1991 talked of his tremendous ability, his special skills as a ballplayer.

"I believe this brings to our ballclub one of the outstanding talents in the game today," Los Angeles Dodgers' general manager Fred Claire said at the time.

Needless to say, optimism was high in Dodgerland when the club acquired outfielder Eric Keith Davis and a minor leaguer from the Cincinnati Reds for pitchers Tim Belcher and John Wetteland.

In his prime, Davis could do anything and everything on a baseball field. He was a five-tool player, who could hit for average, hit for power, run, field, and throw. He was a natural.

A southern California native, Davis was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the eighth round of the 1980 amateur draft. He made his big league debut in 1984 and was a regular by 1986, batting .277 with 27 home runs and 80 stolen bases. He had his finest season in 1987, batting .293 with 37 home runs, 100 runs batted in, 120 runs scored, and 50 stolen bases in just 129 games.

He was a two-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove award winner.

He won a world championship with the Reds in 1990.

At the time of the trade, the only blot on Davis' otherwise impeccable resume was that he couldn't stay healthy. His body always seemed to be breaking down. He had never come close to playing a full season.

In trading for Davis, the Dodgers were gambling that the 30-year old outfielder would bounce back from a 1991 season in which he hit .235 with 11 homers and 33 RBI in just 89 games.

The gamble did not pay off.

Hampered by injuries, "Eric the Red" did not play well wearing Dodger blue. In nearly two full seasons in Los Angeles, Davis played in just 184 games and batted a combined .232 with 19 home runs and 84 RBI.

The Dodgers finally cut off ties with Davis on August 31, 1993, shipping the injury-prone slugger to the Detroit Tigers for a player to be named later.

As expected, the press weighed in on this trade just as it had done so when the Dodgers acquired Davis from the Reds some 21 months earlier. This time, however, the stories spoke of his unrealized potential, his failed expectations as a Dodger.

Davis went on to play for the Reds again, the Baltimore Orioles, the St. Louis Cardinals, before wrapping up his career with the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

[1] Plaschke, Bill. "Dodgers Bring Davis Home." LAT, November 28, 1991, C1.
[2] Downey, Mike. "Potential Never Was Realized." LAT, September 1, 1993, C1.


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