Injuries Shouldn’t Keep David Wright, Don Mattingly Or Nomar Garciaparra Out Of The Hall
David Wright’s career as the third baseman for the New York Mets is over and it’s over too soon.
He should be in the tail end of the prime of his career. But, neck, back and shoulder injuries have limited him to 75 games since the start of the 2015 season. Turns out the prime of his career was the entire thing.
He will play again the last weekend of the season but it may only be for an inning or two.
It should be the final game of a hall-of-fame career.
Why? Two reasons.
One, David Wright scared the crap out of opposing pitchers for a full decade. He was one of the best players in the game during that time and was at time the best player, carrying the Mets to respectability, which was tough enough considering the team had to compete with the juggernaut Atlanta Braves. The Mets made it to the NLCS in 2006 and the World Series in 2015.
Two, the hall is not just for players who were lucky enough/skilled enough to be on the field for 20 years. It’s also for players like Joe DiMaggio who played 13 years, Kirby Puckett who played 12 and Jackie Robinson who played 10, though Robinson’s career was shortened at the beginning, not the end, by failure of baseball to integrate.
Wright has a career Wins Above Replacement of 50 and ranks smack dab in the middle of the men who have already been voted in. Actually he’s above the average hall member, according to three statistical measurements cited by Baseball-Reference, which says he also ranks first among Mets all time in 21 offensive categories.
Media reports say he played 13 seasons, but in reality he has played in only about 11 full, including his rookie year of 2004.
So forget about the terror he caused in opponents, lets look at numbers, if numbers are the thing holding you back. But, let’s be fair and consider his career over 11 full seasons and not the 15 years since his debut.
Seven All-Star games.
Two Silver Sluggers.
Two Gold Gloves
Five top-20 MVP seasons.
And when you take his career averages over 11 years, you’re talking about a guy who hit over .300 seven times and averaged 166 hits, 86 runs and 88 RBIs as well as 18 stolen bases.
The numbers are even better if you take his 162-game averages as compiled by Baseball Reference. But I think you have to account for his lack of durability at the end of his career in some small regard.
The numbers are actually very similar to Nomar Garciaparra’s career, which really should be considered as a nine-year career with a WAR of 44.2. And his 162-game averages are even better than Wright’s, though Nomar appeared in 120+games in eight seasons with the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. In six of those, he had more than 190 hits and when he made the post-season, he delivered: .321 average with seven home runs and 24 RBIs in 32 games. Simply put, from 1997-2003, he was one of the best players in the game .
And even more deserving is Don Mattingly. Hall of Fame voters look only at his career totals and forget the New York Yankee first baseman literally reinvented his swing because of a back issue that robbed him of his power. They also overlook him because the Yankees teams he played on stunk.
And even though he lost his ability to hit for power, he still retained his ability to hit for average –.288 or better his last five years– for a group of Yankees clubs that made the post-season just once. And when he did make it, in 1995, he hit .417.
Consider this: Mattingly had nine Gold Gloves in his 14 years (he had three seasons which were cut short by injury). He also won an MVP and finished in the top-20 in voting six other times. He hit .307 for a career that also included more walks than strikeouts, nearly 1100 RBI and more than a thousand runs scored.
And, from 1984-86, he was arguably the best player in the game.
Three of the best players of their generations had their careers shortened or altered because of injury. But in their primes for six-to-10 years, they were among the very best.
They should be recognized as such.