I think that when you compare his numbers to his contemporaries, he definitely had the numbers. He won his first and only batting title in 1984 with a .343 batting average, leading the American League in hits and doubles the same year. Next year in 1985, he wins the A.L. MVP and starts a streak of five consecutive Gold Gloves at first base. In 1986, he followed it up by leading the league in hits, total bases, doubles, slugging percentage, and OPS. He would come in second in the MVP voting to the 24-4 Roger Clemens. Yeah, he had less stellar years towards the end of his career, but he was still hitting about .290 or better and putting up OPS at about .800. That’s not to mention that four of his Gold Gloves came in the last 5 seasons of his career.
Let’s compare him to Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett. A lot of us like the Puckett comparison because they essentially played in the same years, facing the same pitching and defenses in the American League and the number are very, very close. Puckett’s total games of 1783 and Mattingly’s 1785 make the comparisons on par. Check it out:
Yeah, Mattingly had a few lean years towards the end of his career. Hall of Fame induction is supposed to be about the whole body of work of a player’s career, not just one or a few great seasons. That is the rationale behind why some players do not get in, players who are flashes in the pan and do not have strong credentials over the course of a career. If you are going to apply the same litmus test for Don Mattingly, then compare his numbers to others who got in (see above). If the logic applies to keep people out, it should apply to let people in.
In 2001, Kirby Puckett got 82% of the votes in his first year of eligibility with his numbers. In that same year, Don Mattingly got 28.2% of the votes, essentially with the same numbers. His vote counts went into decline until 2008, when he left with Joe Torre to join the Dodgers, probably raising his visibility. Then the numbers went back into decline. This year was the last year of eligibility for Don Mattingly, and he garnered only 9.1% of the votes.
Clearly, as a Yankee fan, I am biased on this. Many of us who are in my age bracket grew up with him, idolized him, and recognized him as the core of the Yankees for a generation. When you look at the statistics, it just adds frustration. I hope that this is something that the Veteran’s Committee can correct soon.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
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