Mattingly gets another crack at Hall of Fame
Donnie Baseball's long-term success limited by back injuries
Don Mattingly is a candidate on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the 12th year. The Class of 2012 will be announced on Jan. 9. You can watch the announcement live at 2 p.m. ET on an MLB Network simulcast on MLB.com.
Don Mattingly may spend his days wearing Dodger blue now, but for 14 seasons, he was the face of the New York Yankees.
Even as Mattingly enters his second year as manager in Los Angeles, his pinstriped history is never far from the discussion. One of the most popular players in franchise history, his ovations have ranked among the loudest during appearances in the Bronx.
Mattingly's best showing was 28 percent in 2001, his first year on the ballot, and the nine-time American League Gold Glove Award winner isn't holding out hope for a miraculous turnaround.
Last year, Mattingly got just 13.6 percent.
"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."
A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote from Baseball Writers' Association of America members to gain election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Second baseman Roberto Alomar (90 percent) and pitcher Bert Blyleven (79.7 percent) earned their tickets to Cooperstown on the 2011 ballot. Former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin (62.1 percent) and starting pitcher Jack Morris (53.5 percent) are the top returning vote-getters from last year's ballot.
During a six-year run beginning in 1984, Mattingly averaged 26 home runs, 114 RBIs and a .327 average, and he represented the Yankees on the American League All-Star team in each of those seasons.
No player during that stretch had more RBIs than Mattingly's 684, while only Hall of Famer Wade Boggs (1,269) had more hits than Mattingly's 1,219.
"Donnie Baseball" also accomplished an incredible feat in 1987, setting or tying five Major League records:
He hit six grand slams to set a new single-season mark (one that was tied by Travis Hafner in 2006), despite having never hit one prior to that season.
From July 8-18, Mattingly went deep in eight consecutive games, tying Dale Long's 1956 record (an achievement later matched by Ken Griffey Jr. in 1993).
Mattingly's 10 homers during that streak are a big league record for most in an eight-game stretch.
Mattingly recorded extra-base hits in 10 consecutive games, breaking Babe Ruth's 1921 record.
On July 20, the night Mattingly's extra-base-hit streak ended, he tied the Major League record by recording 22 putouts at first base.
Though Mattingly appeared to be on the fast track to the Hall of Fame, he was slowed by back injuries over the next six years.
"Mattingly was a great player, there is no question about that," said one Hall of Fame voter. "But when you stack his career up against those guys in the Hall, he just doesn't make the grade."
Mattingly won the AL MVP Award in 1985, batting .324 with 35 homers and 145 RBIs, and he also finished in the top five in the MVP Award voting in '84 and '86. Mattingly, who won the AL batting title in 1984 (.343), also won nine Gold Glove Awards at first base in 10 years.
But from 1990-95, Mattingly averaged fewer than 10 home runs and 64 RBIs per season, topping the .300 mark just once, in the strike-shortened 1994 season.
"After the first half of Mattingly's career, I would have said he was a lock for Cooperstown," said another voter. "It's too bad he had as many physical problems as he did, because he could have been one of the all-time greats."
While voters may not feel that Mattingly's career matches up against those who have been inducted into the Hall, Donnie Baseball's supporters raise the comparison to the Twins' Kirby Puckett, a first-ballot inductee in 2001.
Mattingly's career totals are similar to those of Puckett, whose career was cut short after the 1995 season due to irreversible retina damage in his right eye. Mattingly retired with 2,153 hits to Puckett's 2,304, 442 doubles to Puckett's 414, 222 homers to Puckett's 207 and 1,099 RBIs to Puckett's 1,085.
Mattingly posted three more 100-RBI seasons than Puckett and two more 30-homer seasons, while winning one more MVP Award and the same number of batting titles.
Puckett's advantage comes in team hardware, as he played an integral part in the Twins' two World Series titles in 1987 and '91. Mattingly, on the other hand, appeared in the postseason just once, losing in the AL Division Series in his final season, 1995.
Mattingly's No. 23 was retired by the Yankees in 1997, and a plaque was posted in Monument Park to honor his career.
"A humble man of grace and dignity," reads the plaque. "A captain who led by example. Proud of the pinstripes tradition and dedicated to the pursuit of excellence. A Yankee forever."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.