Monday, March 26, 2012

#144 Mark Wagner - Texas Rangers

This is Mark Wagner's sixth Topps card and is the third card in a row to feature a non-game-action shot.  Topps gets it right with the blue and red borders matching the Rangers road uniforms perfectly.
Player:  Mark Wagner was a 19th round pick of the Tigers in 1972 and made his debut with Detroit in 1976.  The 22 year-old shortstop hit .261/.298/.330 in 115 at bats.  He started the '77 season with the Tigers but hit just .146 in 22 games and was shipped to AAA Evansville for the rest of the year. Wagner hit .306 on the farm and had to be hoping for a September promotion but he was passed over in favor of the younger Alan Trammell.

Wagner backed up Trammell and second baseman Lou Whitaker over the next three seasons.  Wagner batted .239 in '78 and improved to .274 in '79.  By 1980, Tram and Lou were established starters and Wagner was not playing much, batting just 72 times at a .236 clip. 

Before the '81 season, Detroit sent Wagner to Texas in exchange for relief pitcher Kevin Saucier.  Although he changed teams, Wagner was still a part-time player for the Rangers.  In '81 he posted an OPS+ over 100 (104) for the only time batting .259/.323/.365 in 95 plate appearances.  The next season he batted a career high 179 times with a .240 average.  In 1983 he played just two games with the Rangers, spending most of the year at AAA. 

Wagner was a free agent and made the Oakland A's squad in the spring of '84.  He batted .230 in 87 at bats while playing shortstop and third base.  Wagner pitched 1.2 shutout innings to end a 14-1 blowout loss on August 20.

He played one more year in the minors before retiring.  In nine seasons, he hit three home runs with a .243/.295/.299 line.

Flipside:  I dislike the shadow figure used on the back of some of these cards.  This one looks like a drunken pitcher.  Not sure how that correlates to a back-up infielder. 

Oddball:  In tracking Wagner's career, I'm not sure what happened in 1983.  He played the previous two years with Texas and played two games for them in June of '83.  As I mentioned earlier he spent the rest of the year in AAA, but he spent 36 games playing with the Tigers organization in Evansville.  Then he is listed as being granted free agency by Texas in November.  Maybe Texas loaned him to Detroit, I'm not sure. 

When Wagner was working as a first base coach at AA Chattanooga in '97, he was pressed into service when the team suffered a player shortage due to injuries and player promotions.  The 43 year-old got into two games and had one hit in four at bats. 

History:   Wagner was at one time thought to be the shortstop of the future in Detroit but was supplanted by Alan Trammell.  He never really got a chance as a full time player.  His defense was adequate and he didn't hit enough to warrant more playing time.  According to Baseball Reference, two of his closest comparable players are Onix Concepcion and Mike Ramsey, both players that have been featured on this blog. 

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