Monday December 5, 2011
Doug Booth- Guest Baseball Writer: Okay, it is time for me to make my argument for my favorite player of all time to be inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. There will be several people that will say that Don Mattingly’s career stats of: H-2154, HR-222, RBI-1099, AVG-.307 and 9 Gold Gloves are not enough in just 14 seasons. I am not counting his 7 game-stint in 1982 with this. As a rookie in 1983, Don only .hit .283 with 4 HR’S and 32 RBI’s. In Donnie’s first year as a full time first baseman, he led the AL with a .343 AVG-with 23 HR’S and 110 RBI’s, also leading the league in hits with 207 and 2B’s with 48.
They say that if you have a shortened career-(and Mattingly’s back injury in the late eighties certainly robbed him of a definite Hall of Fame Career,) then you better have an incredible stretch as the best player in baseball. It is my belief that Don Mattingly was the best all-around player from 1984-1989, with apologies to Rickey Henderson, Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn and Dale Murphy, Don’s incredible consistency during this 6 year stretch included these numbers. A .327 AVG with 160 HR’s and a staggering 682 RBI’s with 257 doubles and 1219 hits. Nobody had more RBI’s and extra base hits in that time frame. Only Wade Boggs had more hits. The 6 year AVG breaks down to an AVG of .327 with H-204, 2B-43, HR-27 and RBI-114. What is most impressive is that Mattingly only averaged 33 strikeouts a season/or about 1/23 Plate appearances in this stretch.
During this stretch-Mattingly was also an All-star for 6 straight seasons-and was a Gold Glover for 5 years straight from 85-89. Donnie led the league in doubles three times, (84-86), hits twice, (84-86), total bases twice, (85-86), AVG in ’86, slugging and OBP in 1986. Don’s 145 RBI’s in 1985 were the most RBI’s by a left hander since the 1960’s. The same could be said for his 388 total bases in 1986. Other dominant stretches included his 1987 power streaks, in which he hit a record-6 grand slams(since equaled by Travis Hafner,) and also is still tied for homering in a record-tying 8 straight games (and should be the official leader because only Don hit 10 HR’S in that stretch of 8 games.) Mattingly is a silver slugger three times over (84-86), and The Sporting News Player of the Year for the seasons of (84-86). Don was the AL MVP in 1985, and finished 2nd in 1986 to Roger Clemens, but for hitting he was listed as #1. His 1984 and 1987 seasons also garnered serious MVP considerations. All impressive for a man who was not considered a power hitting prospect.
Back injuries slowed Mattingly down from 1990-1995, where he lost most of his power, but he was a .290 contact hitter who would still drive in about 80-85 RBI’S per year. If he could have kept playing healthy, instead of retiring at the age of 34, he would have had nearly 3000 hits, and probably would have hit 600-700 2B, and 300 HR’s-with about 1600 RBI’S. He probably would have finished up career with an AVG. that was near .300. You could probably add 3-5 more Gold Gloves as well. Instead, he finished with 2154 hits. His .307 career average will be one of the higher averages never to be in the Hall of Fame if he is not voted in. Don’s average season is still .307 with 20 HR’S, 97 RBI’S, with close to 200 hits and 40 doubles.
Another fact that gets overlooked was Don’s strikeout ratio to plate appearances. Mattingly only struck out 444 times in 7721 PA’s, or once every 19 times. This stat is unbelievable for a modern age hitter-and 444 Strikeouts is only 2 less doubles than the man hit in his career with 442. Only Tony Gwynn has had a better ratio for striking out in the last 50 years. You add the 9 Gold Gloves-(2nd all-time for a 1B), and this man should be gaining more consideration for the hall.
Other comparisons in numbers for players already in the Hall, would be Jim Rice and Kirby Puckett, Puckett for average and power, while Rice has similar offensive numbers for his 162 game AVG. Rice had a few more HR’s and RBI’s while Mattingly had a better AVG. and had more hits/doubles for an average season. Both played 14 seasons.
For all of those kids watching Donnie Baseball play live, or on TV, we saw a guy that exemplified a professional hitter. Amongst fielding 1st baseman that I have seen, no one has ever been better. His swing was pure poetry in motion, even when he older, it must have drove pitchers crazy that they could not strike him out. I am only sad that Don Mattingly has missed out on all of the Yankees championship seasons.
At least his fans can always recall his last at bat in the 1995 playoffs where he crushed a homer in a 5th game loss to the Mariners in the ALDS. It was a great career shortened by back injuries. If defensive prowess is deemed a lot more lucrative for a Hall of Fame bid, once again they have to consider ‘Donnie Baseball.’
*** Thank you to Doug Booth for joining us today on MLB reports. To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Doug Booth, you can follow Doug on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and click here for Doug’s website, fastestthirtyballgames.com***
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