A case for Mattingly and the Hall of FamePosted: November 16, 2013
The SportsLifer and Don Mattingly, a couple of former players and current managers.
Don Mattingly was on track for the Hall of Fame before back injuries took their toll and he was forced to retire prematurely at age 34 in 1995. Some argue he should have a plaque in Cooperstown.
For four seasons, from 1984 to 1987, Don Mattingly was the best player in baseball. He won a batting title in 1984, an MVP in 1985, and led the American League in hits, doubles, slugging, OPS and total bases in 1986 when he batted a career high .352. In 1987, he set or equalled major league records by hitting six grand slams in a season and homering in eight consecutive games. All this from an excellent fielding first baseman who won nine Gold Gloves.
As his back woes intensified, Mattingly’s numbers began to decline in 1988. In 1989 hit 23 homers and knocked in 113 runs — his last big offensive season.
Mattingly’s career numbers are eerily similar to those of Kirby Puckett, the late Twins outfielder, who is in the Hall of Fame. For example:
AT BATS 7003 7244
RUNS 1007 1071
HITS 2153 2304
HRs 222 207
RBI 1099 1085
Like Mattingly, Puckett was forced to retire after the 1995 season due to eye problems. He had a higher batting average than Mattingly (.318 to .307), primarily attributable to his speed (Puckett stole 134 bases, Mattingly 14). Puckett also won a batting title and six Gold Gloves.
Some more stats: Mattingly struck out 444 times; compared to 965 for Puckett, won an RBI title with 145 in 1985, and led the league in doubles three times. Puckett led the AL in hits four times, Mattingly twice.
Puckett gained lots of visibility in the playoffs, especially in 1987 and 1991 when Minnesota won the World Series. Mattingly’s Yankees finally made the playoffs in his last year.
Both were outstanding in post-season play. Mattingly hit .417 in his only appearance, while Puckett had a .309 average in four playoff series.
Mattingly is now managing the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won the NL West and advanced to the NLCS before losing to the Cardinals. Perhaps success in the dugout could eventually earn Mattingly a Hall of Fame plaque — a Joe Torre story.
Torre also won an MVP and batting title in his career — but he will get his Hall of Fame ticket punched on the four World Series he won for the Yankees starting in 1996. Ironically, that was the year after Mattingly retired.
If you like this blog, read: