The July 31st trading deadline in Major League Baseball in 2014 featured a couple of blockbuster deals which first saw the Oakland Athletics acquire left-hander Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes from the Boston Red Sox for slugger Yoenis Cespedes, and then the Detroit Tigers stunning the baseball world hours later with the addition of former Cy Young winner David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team trade which also involved the Seattle Mariners.
Outfielder Austin Jackson, who was part of the Price deal and had been traded to the Mariners, was actually patrolling center field for the Tigers when he was pulled in the seventh inning of Detroit’s afternoon contest against the Chicago White Sox.
That reminded me right away of the Jose Canseco trade back in 1992, when the A’s slugger was standing in the on-deck circle in the bottom of the first inning with teammate Jerry Browne at the plate facing Baltimore Orioles right-hander Mike Mussina on the night of August 31 in Oakland. Canseco, who was hitting third in the lineup and playing right field for the A’s that night, was called back to the dugout by skipper Tony La Russa while Browne was still batting.
Lance Blankenship, a utilityman who played all three outfield positions as well as first base and second base for Oakland in 1992, was sent out to replace Canseco .
What happened was A’s general manager Sandy Alderson had just pulled off a trade with Texas, sending Canseco to the Rangers in exchange for outfielder Ruben Sierra and pitchers Bobby Witt and Jeff Russell.
So, the 1988 American League MVP was out of the game, after having played the top of the first inning in right field.
Okay, so not quite the way things unfolded in Detroit in 2014, with Austin Jackson being pulled while he was still on the field, but still… kind of a similar situation, being traded in the middle of the contest.
At least that was the first thing that came to mind when the details of Jackson’s departure from the Tigers-White Sox game was announced.
And getting back to Canseco, the trade of Cespedes to the Red Sox reminds me of that 1992 deal as well. Cespedes, who is of Cuban decent just like Canseco, has just gone from a team that is considered a potential World Series contender to a club that’s not going to make the playoffs. Just like how Canseco went from the first-place A’s in ’92 to the Rangers, who would finish a disappointing fourth with a 77-85 record despite Juan Gonzalez’s 43 home runs and 37 victories posted by the duo of Kevin Brown (21-11) and Jose Guzman (16-11).
Going from a contending team to an also-ran… obviously is very disappointing. That exact same thing, incidentally, also happened later to Sierra, one of the players picked up in the Canseco trade, as the moody outfielder would be dealt from the first-place New York Yankees in 1996 to lowly Detroit in exchange for another slugger, Cecil Fielder. The Yankees went on to win the World Series that year, denying Sierra of a shot at a ring.
One last thing about Canseco. Remember back on July 29 when Cubs catcher John Baker took the mound in the 16th inning of their marathon against the Colorado Rockies? Baker got the pitching victory and even scored the game-ending run in the bottom half of the 16th, but Canseco was not so fortunate in 1993. With Texas getting blown out in Boston, Canseco persuaded Rangers skipper Kevin Kennedy to let him pitch the eighth inning, and he wound up blowing out his arm which eventually required Tommy John surgery. Ironically, DH Chili Davis of the Angels also pitched during that 1993 season, in a blowout loss to Texas. Davis had better luck too, working two hitless innings but hitting Canseco with a pitch.
Ahhh….baseball back in the good old days….
Obviously, these trades in 2014 are very exciting to A’s and Tigers fans, but certainly it brought back some memories from seasons past. And, oh, of course, trades can still happen after the July 31st deadline – but players would have to clear waivers – so we’ll see if any other interesting moves take place down the stretch.
 Blankenship also played third base for the A’s in each of the previous two seasons, and would appear in two games at shortstop for Oakland in his final big-league season in 1993.