Don Mattingly's back problems hurt his potential Hall of Fame career. Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Don Mattingly Makes Hall of Fame Ballot for 13th Year


Let me preface this post by saying that Don Mattingly‘s managerial career is still young, and while we have all been frustrated by his constant usage of the sacrificial bunt and his infamous double take mound visit, his career as a player was worthy of Hall of Fame induction.

 

Don Mattingly is a candidate on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the 13th year. Will number 13 turn out to be lucky for Donnie Baseball? You will be able to watch the announcement of the inductees for 2013 live at 11 a.m. PST on the MLB Network on MLB.com. Mike Piazza also makes his debut on the ballot this year, and of course I feel that he deserves to eventually be honored in Cooperstown as well.

Don Mattingly wore his pinstripes for 14 years with the New York Yankees, and he continues to be one of the all-time favorite players from the Bronx. The Yankees have retired his number 23, but his best showing on the prestigious ballot was in 2001, his first year, when he garnered recognition on (145 votes) 28.2% of the ballots. Last year he appeared on 17. 8% which was up from 13.6% in 2010.

In order to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, a candidate must receive 75% of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Last year Barry Larkin was elected to the Hall of Fame after a 86.4% showing. Jack Morris and Jeff Bagwell are the two top returning candidates from last year’s ballot, and they received 66.7% and 56% respectively last year.

Mattingly isn’t too optimistic about his chances.

 

“I don’t think I’m a Hall of Famer,” Mattingly has said. “I don’t think I have the numbers. Part of it is longevity, and I wasn’t able to do that and do the things that I did early in my career.”

 

I disagree, Donnie. Mattingly is a nine-time Gold Glove winner at first base over a 10 year period,  and he won the M.V.P.  for the American League in 1985 after batting .324 with 35 homeruns and 145 RBIs. Over his entire career, Mattingly collected 2,153 hits, 222 homeruns, and 1,099 RBIs with a career batting average of .307. He hit over 100 RBIs 5 times, and he had over 200 hits three times.

His back injuries are what harbored him from continuing his career at the level in which he played during an epic six-year run beginning in 1984. During that successful span, Mattingly averaged 26 homeruns, 114 RBIs, and a .327 average. He was also an All-Star in each of those six consecutive seasons for the Yankees.

In 1987, Don Mattingly set or tied 5 MLB records.

1. He hit 6 grand slams in a single-season (later tied by Travis Hafner in 2006).

 2. From July 8-18, 1987, he homered in 8 straight games which tied Dale Long from 1956 and later matched by Ken Griffey Jr. in 1993.

3. During that eight-game streak, he hit a record 10 homeruns total.

4. He broke Babe Ruth‘s 1921 record by hitting extra-base hits in 10 consecutive games.

5. On the night Donnie’s magical extra-base hit streak ended, July 20, 1987, he tied a Major League record by making 22 putouts at first base.

Many say Don Mattingly’s numbers don’t place him amongst Hall of Famers. Photo: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

 

Unfortunately his rusty back plagued him over the subsequent six years. From 1990-1995, he averaged less than 10 homeruns and never hit more than 17 which was in 1993. His batting average dipped to below .300 for the remainder of his career except for the shortened 1994 season when he played in only 97 games and hit .304. In 1989 he had collected 113 RBIs, but that number plummeted to just 42 by the next year.

Mattingly only appeared in one postseason series, the 1995 ALDS versus Seattle. The Yankees lost in 5 games. Mattingly hit .417 in the series and hit one homerun in game 2 and had 10 hits in 24 at bats.  

Don Mattingly’s plaque in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium reads, “A humble man of grace and dignity, a captain who led by example, proud of the pinstripe tradition and dedicated to the pursuit of excellence, a Yankee forever.”

Growing up, Don Mattingly was one of the top players during my childhood. Like Kirby Puckett, who was my favorite non-Dodger, Mattingly’s success albeit with the Yankees was impressive to watch. I doubt he will ever enter the Hall as a manager, but as a player Donnie is up to par in my opinion. I think many Yankee fans and baseball fans would tend to agree with me. Although there are other players not on the ballot who have better numbers than Donnie and who should be inducted in the future, I’d like to think that Donnie stands tall amongst those on this year’s ballot who were part of the steroid era. Good luck, Donnie!

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