Don Mattingly: The Best Of A Generation Belongs In The Hall
Would you put a .307 career hitter in the Baseball Hall of Fame? How about if he averaged 16 homers a year? Over 14 years? Was an MVP? Had three of the greatest offensive seasons of the 1980’s? Was so well-rounded he led the majors in both defensive range and fielding percentage at his position in two different years during the 1990’s?
How about, changed his swing to reduce strain on his back, saw his home run totals plummet by 80 percent and still finished in the top 20 in MVP voting in two consecutive years?
Still no? How about, rocked a killer mustache and mullet and went toe-to-toe with George Steinbrenner over both?
No? Really? That’s it. Put the pipe down and turn in your imaginary ballot.
Hopefully, the hall’s Modern Baseball Era committee isn’t as stoned as you are and votes Don Mattingly (Yankees 1982-95) into the hall.
Was No. 23’s career typical? No. But in his prime, he was the best player on the field offensively and defensively and the nation knew it. From 1984-1987, he averaged .337 per season with 46 doubles, 30 home runs and 121 RBI.
Two injured disks in his lower back slowly changed his career beginning in 1987, but not his incredible eye at the plate, a 5-to-4 walk-to-strikeout ratio, nor his incredible defense. Six of the nine Gold Gloves he was awarded were after the injury.
For a decade and change, he was basically the only reason to pay attention to the Yankees, who were so badly mismanaged by Steinbrenner that “The Boss” was “banned for life” in 1990 and whose team appeared in only one postseason.
And what did “Donny Baseball” do in his final series, a five game American League Division Series against Seattle in 1995? How about 10-for-24 with a homer and 6 RBI’s?
Sure, he could have hung on for four more years and added enough hits to get himself to 2,600 and boosted his numbers. But, he didn’t.
He gave enough. He was good enough. He was great enough. He should be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.