On May 25, 1984, the Chicago Cubs acquired a future Hall of Famer. Unfortunately, most of his legendary production would happen for another team.
The 1984 Cubs were competitive early, and the front office rewarded them for it. In late May, the Northsiders sent backup 1B Bill Buckner to the Boston Red Sox for starter Dennis Eckersley, who had fallen on tough times in the American League. A former All-Star, the Eck was struggling through an ugly spring. After the trade, he quickly turned his season around and resurrected his career in the process.
Eckersley made 24 starts for the surprising Cubs. In 160.1 innings, the 29-year-old righty went 10-8 with a solid 3.03 ERA. He became an essential part of a dynamic rotation that would lead the team to a division title. Of course, Steve Garvey and some poor defense would deny the Cubs a trip to the World Series.
1985 was another productive year for Eckersley, at least when he was able to take the ball. Injuries plagued him and his fellow starters, but the Eck was still solid: 169.1 innings, 11-7, 3.08 ERA. The Cubs failed to repeat that season, but the future still looked bright.
The other shoe dropped in 1986. Eckersley fell apart that year, giving up 226 hits in 201 innings. Crooked numbers seemed to follow him every outing, and the team collapsed. In 1987, the Eck was shipped to the A’s for a collection of no-name players who never amounted to anything (not a “good call”). It was in Oakland that the real Dennis Eckersley was born. The rest, as they say, is history.
It’s too bad that somebody in Chicago didn’t come up with the idea to try him as a reliever. Looking back, it seems like an obvious move. Even though a HUGE opportunity was missed, Eckersley had two strong seasons for the Cubs, who only gave up a reserve player to get him. Bringing him to Chicago was a great move, even knowing what we know today.