Tartabull’s power made him one of the most feared sluggers in the late 1980s and early ’90s, but a rash of injuries, poor defense, and high strikeout numbers created glaring holes in his game. Fine seasonal statistics that included a career-high 34 home runs in 1987 and a league-leading .593 slugging percentage in 1991, were often tempered by negative stats, like his 156 strikeouts in 1993.
Tartabull got his first taste of the major leagues as a young kid, when he followed his father, Jose Tartabull, around the locker rooms during his own nine-year tenure. Playing shortstop in the minor leagues, Danny quickly proved that he had more talent than his father. He made it to the majors riding a potent bat that annihilated Pacific Coast League pitching in 1985 to the tune of 43 home runs and 109 RBIs. Switched to the outfield in the Kingdome, Tartabull hit 25 homers in his first full term with the Seattle Mariners in 1986. Used as trade bait to get two pitchers and an outfielder in return, he was traded to Kansas City, where his father had spent his best seasons with the Athletics.
Placed in the clean-up spot, Tartabull responded with 34 home runs in 1987, the second-highest total in Royals history. He averaged 100 RBIs in his first three full seasons, but slumped to just 62 and 60 in 1989 and ’90. He bounced back with 31 home runs and 100 RBIs in 1991, and it came at the right time — he was an unrestricted free agent after the season. Tartabull promptly became one of the five richest players in the game when he signed a five-year deal worth $25.5 million with the New York Yankees in January 1992.
Despite putting up good numbers with the Yanks, Tartabull was plagued by injuries. After spraining his wrist in spring training, the outfielder pulled a hamstring in April 1992. Back spasms forced him to the disabled list yet again later that year, this time clearing the way for a young outfielder named Bernie Williams to be promoted to the bigs. Despite bashing 31 homers in 1993, Tartabull hit the DL once again, this time with a bruised kidney.
As he struggled on the bench in 1995 with just six homers, the Yankees traded Tartabull to the Oakland Athletics for a faltering Ruben Sierra in July. A recurring rib injury not only forced him to the bench for much of the remaining season, but also led to his trade in the offseason. Dealt to the Chicago White Sox in January 1996 for prospect Andrew Lorraine, Tartabull bounced back, notching 27 home runs and 101 RBIs in just 472 at-bats. But despite his successful return, the White Sox opted not to gamble on the oft-injured outfielder, and he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies at the beginning of 1997. Unfortunately, Tartabull broke his foot on Opening Day, and was limited to just seven at-bats in the City of Brotherly Love; he retired following his disappointing campaign.
After two years of independent ventures including owning an Internet site, Tartabull showed interest in playing ball again in January 2000. The outfielder was offered a tentative one-year deal with the San Diego Padres, who were looking to beef up their power-hungry outfield. However, amidst contract negotiation conflicts, Tartabull’s brief comeback bid died before he even got a chance to play.