For much of his 17 years in the majors, Easley was a spare infielder or a platoon player. But he had several productive seasons with the Detroit Tigers as their starting second baseman in the 1990s.
The Tigers paid a very modest price to get Easley in 1996 at the July trade deadline. The Angels too pitcher Greg Gohr in a one-for-one trade. Gohr was in the middle of a terrible season and didn’t get any better in California, in fact it proved to be his last year in the major leagues. But Easley responded to the change of scenery and impressed Detroit officials with his late-season play.
Detroit had a hole at second base due to the retirement of Lou Whitaker after the 1995 season and they were looking for someone to take over at the pivot. In his first full season in a Tiger uniform in 1997, Easley proved he was that man. He hit 22 home runs and stole 28 bases while playing 151 games. It was the first of four seasons in which Easley topped 150 games for the Bengals. In 1998 he was an All-Star and also took home the Silver Slugger Award for second base in the AL. That season he drove in 100 runs, becoming the only Tiger second baseman to reach the century mark other than Hall of Famer Charlie Gehringer.
Easley averaged 23 homers per year when Detroit played their home games in Tiger Stadium, but when the club moved to more spacious Comerica Park that figure plummeted. That also coincided with his overall decline as he aged. In spring training in 2003 the team released him. He played six more years as a utility infielder for Tampa Bay, Florida, Arizona, and the Mets.
He didn’t play on a winning team until his 13th season when he was with the Marlins in 2003. But Easley never played on a playoff team — his 1,706 games played is one the highest in history for a player who never played in the postseason.