The 16-member Committee on the Contemporary Era of Baseball will meet Sunday in San Diego to consider nominations for the Hall of Fame, which includes several legendary players who were not elected while on the Baseball Writers’ Association ballot. North America (BBWAA).
This year’s candidates, in alphabetical order, are: Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro and Curt Schilling. All of his cases have been tried in the past, though those of Bonds and Clemens have been the most passionate. But they will come under scrutiny again over the weekend by former players, managers, historians and members of the press, who make up the committee.
But we will not talk about all of them here. This is about Hall of Famer Donald Arthur Mattingly from Evansville, Indiana.
The other day I asked him if he dreamed of the possibility of receiving the minimum of 12 votes to enter Cooperstown.
And this is what his last manager in baseball, Buck Showalter, had to say about Mattingly’s candidacy.
“Donnie is everything the Hall of Fame stands for. Everyone who saw him play knows that he would be there if his back hadn’t let him down.”
That’s part of the history of Mattingly and the rest of baseball, from the 1980s to the 1990s. He finally retired after his first postseason appearance in 1995, a memorable American League Division Series by the Yankees against the Mariners. . Mattingly faced off against three future Hall of Famers – Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez – and lived up to them all.
Mattingly had 10 hits in the series, hitting .417, homered, drove in six runs and had a 1.148 OPS. Later, he told Showalter on the trip back to New York that he would retire, at 34. By then, he had already won an Most Valuable Player Award (1985), a batting title (1984) and, in 1986, he was selected as the best player in the game, in a poll conducted in every major league dugout by the New York Times.
There are plenty of players in Cooperstown who don’t come close to what Mattingly has accomplished.
No one is suggesting that Mattingly was an offensive powerhouse and one of the best first basemen ever (“He made all the plays, he had imagination and he had one of the best arms in baseball from that position,” Showalter said) as Sandy Koufax was as pitcher. But Koufax is in the Hall of Fame for the six great seasons he had with the Dodgers. In his last four extraordinary seasons, he’s won 97 games and lost 27, throwing three of his four no-hitters and one perfect game. In addition, he completed 89 games between 1963 and 1966, in addition to striking out almost 400 opponents in 1965.
All of that was before the injury, arthritis in his pitching elbow, that shortened his career and led to his retirement at age 30. Koufax finished with 165 wins and was still inducted into the Hall of Fame, which means he wasn’t penalized for his physical problems.
Mattingly shouldn’t be either.
Even with his back problems, he retired with a .307 batting average. Since 1984, he has hit over .300 in six consecutive seasons, driving in more than 100 runs in five of those years and adding 238 hits in 1986. He played all 162 games for the Yankees in 1986, with 677 official at-bats. In a fight with teammate Dave Winfield for the batting title in 1984, Mattingly fell within 2 percentage points on the final day of the season after going 4-for-5.
In 1986, then-manager Lou Piniella was forced to move left-handed defenseman Mattingly to third base in a series against the Mariners in Seattle.
“You know the one thing he asked Lou?” Showalter recalled. “’To the left or to the right?’ On top of everything, Donnie could shoot right-handed almost as well as left-handed.”
I asked ‘Donnie Baseball’ if he really said that to Piniella.
“Yes,” he said. “When Lou asked me before the game if he could play there.”
Of course I could. Mattingly was willing to do whatever it took when he was healthy, in what was the career of the only Yankee great never to play in a World Series. When he wore the striped uniform, he made him proud of the club’s history, always carrying himself tall and never complaining about his bad back.
Mattingly returns to the plate this weekend. It belongs to Cooperstown. Definitely. Only not quietly, at least not here.
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Is Don Mattingly a Hall of Famer? In this opinion, yes.