Top 100 Mets # 84: Dave Magadan

Dave Magadan played the first 7 years of his 16 year career with the Mets. Although he was a fine hitter right from the beginning of his career, he was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was never able to establish himself as an everyday player despite putting up fine batting averages almost every year. With few exceptions, his talents were simply overlooked by the managers for which he played. But hit he most definitely could, and for that reason he is our Greatest Met #84.

At 6 feet 3 and 190 pounds, Dave had the look of a power hitter. However, despite a batting average that hovered around the .300 mark, Dave was simply not a long ball hitter. Also complicating matters, was the fact that he was a slow runner and below average defensively. He was on the field when the Mets clinched the NL East title behind Dwight Gooden in 1986, but that was only because Keith Hernandez was ailing.

Magadan would play in Keith's shadow for the greater part of the next three seasons. Manager Davey Johnson realized Dave's potential and tried to get him into the line-up whenever possible. With Hernandez an obvious fixture at first base, Johnson tried Mags at third, moving slugging Howard Johnson to short. That experiment often went awry however, as it essentially weakened two positions defensively at the same time.

Still Dave managed to perform when he had the chance, although some, such as Darryl Strawberry, constantly questioned Magadan's heart. It was felt that at times he took too many strikes, and simply wasn't aggressive enough at the plate. "Dave has sugar water in his veins," Straw was heard to say. Magadan put up solid averages as a role player, batting .318, .277 and .286 from 1987-1989.

Year

Team

AVG.

AB

Hits

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

1986

Mets

.444

18

8

0

3

3

0

3

1

.524

.444

1987

Mets

.318

192

61

3

24

21

0

22

22

.386

.443

1988

Mets

.277

314

87

1

35

39

0

60

39

.393

.334

1989

Mets

.286

374

107

4

41

47

1

49

37

.367

.393

1990

Mets

.328

451

148

6

72

74

2

74

55

.417

.457

1991

Mets

.258

418

108

4

51

58

1

83

50

.378

.342

1992

Mets

.283

321

91

3

28

33

1

56

44

.390

.346



But what it really came down to was that Dave was simply a one-dimensional player. Keith Hernandez faded badly after the 1989 season, and the Mets didn't resign him. He wound up in Cleveland as a free agent, and Dave had a real shot at the first base job for the 1990 season.

Mets management decided to go in another direction however, and acquired Mike Marshall from the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to the season. Marshall started well, but soon faded. The team also played poorly overall, and Davey Johnson's job all of a sudden was in jeopardy. Marshall finally couldn't handle New York anymore and was shipped to Boston with an anemic .239 average. He called it a career following his stint with the Red Sox, and a cup of coffee with the California Angels in 1991.

Finally, it was reported that Davey Johnson had lost interest in the team, the Mets dipped below the .500 mark, and he was dismissed as manager. His replacement was third base coach and Mets favorite Bud Harrelson, and Bud put Magadan to work.

With Marshall slumping badly and soon to be traded, Magadan was given the first base job and thrived.
Dave Magadan
Dave Magadan: Challenged for the 1990 NL Batting Title.
He got hot from the get go, and challenged for the NL batting crown the remainder of the 1990 season. He also threatened Cleon Jones' then team record for highest season batting average (.340). The Mets remained hot throughout the summer, only to fade at the end of the season. They lost the NL East title to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Mags came up short in the 1990 batting race as well. Willie Magee won the batting crown even though he had moved to the AL at the end of the season. Eddie Murray of the Dodgers finished second, with Dave's .328 good enough for third. He also hit six homeruns and drove in 72 runs.

It seemed that Magadan was now settled in at first base, but there were changes brewing at Shea once again. In the winter of 1990, Darryl Strawberry left via free agency for the left coast. There was a need to replace Straw's power in the line-up, and Magadan simply wasn't the answer. He remained the starting first baseman throughout the 1991 season, but his numbers fell drastically. His final .258 batting average was a 70 point drop from the 1990 campaign. More importantly for Dave, Harrelson, a staunch Magadan supporter was fired in the waning days of the 1991 season, which meant that the changes would most definitely be drastic in 1992, especially following a dismal 5th place finish.

Enter an incompetent Jeff Torborg for the 1992 season. This unfortunately signaled the beginning of the end of Magadan as a Met. Torborg had an AL background, and Eddie Murray was acquired to play first base, leaving Magadan to start at third. However, Bill Pecota, an extra in the deal that brought star pitcher Bret Saberhagen to the Mets, was named by Torborg to start at third.

Pecota was terrible, but Torborg would not be proven wrong, so Magadan rotted on the bench. His season and Mets career ended with a .283 average for 99 games. His final Mets average was .292, second only to Keith Hernandez's .297 in Mets history at the time.

In the winter of 1992, Dave became a member of the expansion Florida Marlins. For the next eight seasons, his moves came fast and furious. In addition to the fledgling Marlins, Dave could glue on Astros, Cubs, A's and Padres stickers on his suitcases. He even briefly played for his cousin, Lou Piniella in Seattle, following his stint with the Marlins.

Dave did well as journeyman role player, finally calling it a career with the Padres following the 2001 season. His final batting mark was .288, but he could have done so much more, if just given the proper chance, and if lady luck had been on his side.

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