From 1984 through 1989, few were as great as Don Mattingly. The same can be said for his trademark mustache.
Alas, that six-season stretch won’t be enough for Donnie Baseball to earn enough votes to become a Hall of Famer this year, his 15th and final time on the ballot.
Injuries saw to it that the 1985 AL MVP’s level of play dropped off in the 1990s, and his career longevity can’t compare with his contemporaries, Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Wade Boggs. Also riding against him: His finest years came when the Yankees continually fell just short of a much smaller postseason field than that of today.
The former Yankee star’s votes were never as high as 2001, his first year of eligibility in which he garnered 28.2% support. When the results are revealed today, it is expected his percentage will be in the single digits for the second year in a row, putting him far short of the 75% threshold for election.
The fact that this could be the largest Hall of Fame class since 1936 won’t do Mattingly any favors. Baseball Think Factory tallied 154 of the publicized ballots (27% of the vote) as of yesterday afternoon and revealed that Randy Johnson (98.7%), Pedro Martinez (97.4%), John Smoltz (87%), Craig Biggio (82.5%) and Mike Piazza (76.6%) all were above the cutoff. Mattingly sat at 4.5%.
While Donnie Baseball won’t have a plaque in Cooperstown, today is worth refreshing the memory of baseball fans — especially Yankees faithful — about what made Mattingly so special during his playing career. Here are a few facts about the former Yankee captain.
During his peak stretch (1984-89), no man accumulated more total bases than Mattingly’s 1,978. His next-closest competition, George Bell of the Blue Jays, trailed by 120. Thanks to a baseball-best 257 doubles over the period, as well as 160 home runs (sixth-most during that time), Mattingly also drove in 684 runs over those six years, the most in the majors.
Glove of gold
Even as his output at the plate waned, Mattingly’s defense remained impeccable. From 1985 through 1994, he took home nine AL Gold Glove awards, cementing his place as baseball’s best fielding first baseman of his era. He led all major league first baseman in fielding percentage seven times during a 14-year career, and ranks ninth all-time in that stat for his position.
Nowadays, power hitters don’t like to wait for the right pitch and are content with high strikeout totals if it leads to more homers. But even 25 years ago when strikeout rates weren’t through the roof, Mattingly was among the most discerning hitters. He led the majors in at-bats per strikeout in 1988 and ranked in the top 10 on 11 occasions.