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Baseball Hall of Fame Case: Don Mattingly

Don Mattingly played for the New York Yankees for his entire career, which lasted from 1982-1995. Beloved by Yankees fans, his case for the hall has not gained much traction elsewhere. His career stats can be found here.

Pros For Induction

Between 1984 and 1987 (or 1989 if you stretch a bit), Mattingly was one of the best players in the game. During this span, he won an MVP, finished 2nd another time, and finished in the top 10 for 4 consecutive years.

Donnie Baseball was also one of the best defensive first basemen of all time. He won 9 Gold Glove awards and finished his career with a fielding percentage of .996.

He also appeared in the one of the best episodes of The Simpsons of all-time, “Homer at the Bat”. I thought I told you to trim those sideburns! That must count for something, no?

Cons Against Induction

Aside from his great seasons in the mid-1980s, Mattingly suffered a huge drop-off in production due to back injuries. While some will say that this injury should be taken into account when looking at his career numbers, the fact of the matter is that he only had 4 or 5 seasons that could be considered “great”.  Had he managed to have 2 or 3 more great seasons, he would certainly make it in.

Looking at the popular Hall of Fame “tests”, Mattingly falls short in all of them save for the HOF Monitor. Very few players who are similar to Don Mattingly statistically have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Players like Cecil Cooper, Will Clark and Keith Hernandez are his comparables who have not made it in. Only Kirby Puckett has been elected with stats similar to Mattingly’s and he played at the much tougher center field position.

The Verdict
As much as Yankees fans would like to see Donnie Baseball in the Hall, he just doesn’t measure up. He had some great seasons, and was fantastic defensively, but ultimately his short period of greatness isn’t enough.
Will He Get In?
If he ever gets in, it would be through the Veteran’s Committee. His vote totals have been decreasing steadily through the years, falling to just 9.9% last year. With only a few more chances remaining, he probably won’t fall off the ballot, but unless he discovers a cure for cancer and that somehow affects how he is remembered as a player, he won’t be elected.

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