New York Yankees: It's Time to Put Don Mattingly into the Hall of Fame

Stephen SkinnerContributor IIJanuary 30, 2012

Don Mattingly, New York Yankees
Don Mattingly, New York YankeesScott Halleran/Getty Images

The New York Yankees certainly have their share of plaques in the MLB Hall of Fame and, with the likes of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as shoo-in first ballot inductees they will have more to come.  However, there is one glaring omission from the ranks of Hall of Fame Yankees - Donald Arthur Mattingly.

The "Donnie Baseball" played fourteen seasons for the Bronx Bombers, beginning in 1982 and concluding in 1995 after back issues prevented him from going any further.  During that time he wowed Yankee Stadium crowds with both his bat and his glove.  His style of play on the field and his quiet class off the field forever endeared him to New York Yankee fans, and resulted in his number being retired in 1997. 

Since his retirement there have been a number of his peers elected to the Hall of Fame that have either put up comparable statistics or worse statistics than Don Mattingly.  For the purposes of this argument, I have selected three of them for comparison.

Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Kirby Puckett are all in the MLB Hall of Fame.   All played in roughly the same era as Don Mattingly (with Yount and Molitor beginning their careers before Mattingly and with Puckett beginning after and completing the same year as Mattingly).  All three are deserving in their own right of having a plaque in Cooperstown, but an argument can be made that Don Mattingly is just as deserving or even more so than each of them.

Before looking at numbers, let's examine accolades each of the four players earned in their stellar careers. 

Robin Yount played 20 seasons - all with the Milwaukee Brewers.  During that time he won two MVPs, three Silver Slugger awards, one Gold Glove and was selected an All-Star three times. 

NEW YORK - MAY 02:  The plaque of Don Mattingly is seen in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium prior to the game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox on May 2, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the White Sox 12
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Paul Molitor played 21 seasons, all but the final six with the Milwaukee Brewers.  He never was selected as MVP, won four Silver Sluggers, zero Gold Gloves and was selected an All-Star seven times.

Kirby Puckett played 12 seasons, all with the Minnesota Twins.   He too was never selected as MVP, won six Silver Sluggers, six Gold Gloves and was selected an All-Star 10 times.

Don Mattingly played 14 seasons, all with the New York Yankees.  He was selected as MVP once, won three Silver Sluggers, nine Gold Gloves and was selected an All-Star six times.

Based on accolades alone, one can see why putting Don Mattingly in the Hall of Fame would make sense.  In addition to having more Gold Gloves than the other three, two of the others (Puckett and Molitor) never won an MVP - an award Mattingly has. 

Besides awards won, the argument for Don Mattingly being in the MLB Hall of Fame would not be complete without a statistical comparison of the four players I have mentioned:

Mattingly .307 222 1099 1007 .996 .417 6
Molitor .306 234 1307 1782 .970 .368 22
Puckett .318 207 1085 1071 .989 .309 15
Yount .285 251 1406 1632 .972 .344 7

As I stated earlier, in each of the statistical categories above, Don Mattingly is either comparable or better than each of the other three.  It should be noted that unlike the other three, Mattingly only played in one postseason, but hitting .417 is still HITTING .417!

The statistics certainly show that Don Mattingly belongs among this group and is at the very least, the equal to each of them. 

Don Mattingly offered a lot more than just statistics and awards to New York Yankee fans.   He was the quiet leader on the field and in the clubhouse.  His achievements during the 1987 season alone should have virtually ensured his induction into Cooperstown.  During that year Don Mattingly broke a record that had stood since 1955 for Grand Slams in one season - slugging 6.  In addition, he tied a record set by Dale Long in 1956 for most consecutive games hitting a home run with 8.  He brought excitement to an otherwise below-standard season for the Yankees.

During his prime, Don Mattingly was considered the premier first baseman in baseball.  His cat-like reflexes and on-field leadership combined with his imposing presence at the plate set him apart from his peers. 

There is an argument that the reason Don Mattingly isn't in the Hall of Fame is that he does not have a World Series ring.  The other three players I have compared him to in this article all have at least one.  My response is that a World Series ring is the culmination of superior effort by a TEAM, not one specific individual.  It takes a roster of 25 players to win a World Series, not one player.  The fact that Mattingly had the misfortune of playing on teams that either lacked pitching or depth is no fault of his and should not be used as the reason he is kept out of baseball's hallowed territory.  

I think I have made my argument that New York Yankee Don Mattingly belongs in the baseball Hall of Fame.  What do you think?