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Don Mattingly Wanted the New York Yankees to Trade Him to a Winner

NEW YORK - JULY 7:  Former New York Yankee Don Mattingly salutes the crowd during Old Timers Day ceremonies as Ron Guidry looks on before the Yankees play the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Yankee Stadium July 7, 2007 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Harold FriendChief Writer IMarch 11, 2012

On Aug. 15, 1991, the New York Yankees were in fifth place in the seven-team American League East Division.  Their 51-62 record put them 10.5 games behind the first place Toronto Blue Jays.

The last time the Yankees won anything had been 1981.  The last time the Yankees won the World Series was in 1978. 

Although their chances of winning the division in 1991 were slim to none, Yankees management was concerned more with discipline and image than with winning.

The Yankees wanted Don Mattingly to get a haircut.. They were serious.

Mattingly told the Yankees to trade him.

How ridiculous could the Yankees get?

Mattingly told the media that he had requested that general manager Gene Michael speak to other teams about a trade.

"Maybe I don't belong in the organization anymore.  I talked to him about moving me earlier in the year. He said we'll talk at the end of the year. Maybe this is their way of saying we don't need you anymore."

When Mattingly told manager Stump Merrill, who had always been a company man, that he would not cut his hair, he was benched and fined.  To say Mattingly was upset would be an understatement.

"If someone from management tells you you need a haircut,"  Merrill said, "you get a haircut."

Three other Yankees (Steve Farr, Pascual Perez and Matt Nokes) were admonished for having hair that violated the team's dress and grooming code.

Before the start of the season, players signed a statement indicating they know the team's rules.

Since he was powerless to do anything, Mattingly had his hair trimmed so that he could play. But he was adamant in his position that the Yankees were overstepping their bounds.

Before the game against the Chicago White Sox,  Mattingly called a team meeting, during which he told the players to not be concerned about fighting his war. He laced into Michael for the Yankees' petty actions.

"It's kind of silly to me, but we're not winning and this is Stick's club," said Mattingly. "He wants an organization that will be puppets for him and do what he wants."

Merrill claimed that he acted on his own, but Mattngly wouldn't buy it.  He was convinced that Merrill was following Michael's orders.

"It's pretty clear where everything comes from," Mattingly told reporters.

When asked about the trade, a prescient Mattingly explained, "The Yankees said they had a five-year plan. I didn't have five years."

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