James was the Brewers’ Rookie of the Year in 1984, when he won the centerfield job and batted .295. The following spring he twice dislocated his right shoulder diving for fly balls. After spending 1986 in the minors, James (Milwaukee’s first-round pick in 1980) was traded to Atlanta for Brad Komminsk (the Braves’ top pick in 1979).
With the Braves, the slap-hitter switched from a straight-up stance to an open crouch, giving him new power; he hit .312 with 37 doubles and 10 homers in 1987. (On April 13 against the Mets at Shea Stadium, his routine fly ball hit a dove and fell uncaught.) But James was a major disappointment in Atlanta’s dismal 1988 season and was criticized for erratic fielding. He was traded to the Indians in mid-1989 for Oddibe McDowell, the Rangers’ number-one pick in 1984.
James lasted less than two seasons with the Indians, but found a part-time job with the Yankees in 1992, hitting .332 as the club’s everyday left fielder in 1993. James left for Japan after the season; when he returned to the club in ’95, he found little playing time in the Yankees outfield (by that time well-stocked with burgeoning talent) but did see post-season action for the first time in his career.