With MLB's 2013 Hall of Fame voting discussions dominated by whether Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds are deserving candidates, another candidate with little hope of garnering the required 75 percent vote enters his 13th year of eligibility. His name is Don Mattingly, aka "Donnie Baseball", who played first base for the New York Yankees.
By the tender age of 26, Don Mattingly had won a batting title and an MVP award. During his first four full seasons, Mattingly amassed an astounding 842 hits, blasted 119 homers and had 483 runs batted in. His batting average stood at a sparkling .331. Mattingly was one of the toughest batters in all of baseball to strike out (a rarity for a power hitter). For his career, Don struck out once every 15.7 at-bats.
In the field, Mattingly was equally brilliant. With cat-like reflexes, and sure hands, Don won nine Golden Glove awards. Entering the 1990 season, Don Mattingly was recognized as one of the best players in the game—a near-certain future Hall of Fame member. The sky was the limit for Donnie Baseball.
Unfortunately, from there, Don's story heads south. A back injury, suffered when his spike got caught in a seam of artificial surface, robbed him of the lightning bat speed that once had balls rocketing off of his bat with regularity.
The hours Mattingly usually spent in the batting cage were suddenly shared with those spent on the trainer's table for his injured back. Don Mattingly's back would trouble him for the remainder of his career—a career cut short by the injury, playing his final game at the age of only 34.
Despite his career hampered and shortened due to his back, Don Mattingly still produced exceptional numbers. His lifetime batting average stands at .307, with 2,153 hits, 222 homers and 1,099 runs batted in. Mattingly was also bestowed the honor of being named the captain of the New York Yankees.
Some questions are: Will the voters eventually reward Don Mattingly for the dominant player he was during most of the 1980's? If he were to be voted into Baseball's Hall of Fame, would there be any complaints by those already enshrined?
Was Don Mattingly a baseball Superstar, or was he just a nice player who does not belong with the best? Lastly, would it be good for the game of baseball if Don Mattingly gets voted in?
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