Mattingly's place on ballot deserved

Mattingly among era's best

NEW YORK -- For 14 seasons, Don Mattingly was the face of the New York Yankees. Unfortunately for the first baseman, those years didn't result in any World Series championships, leaving the captain with a big hole on his resume.

There is no denying that Mattingly was among the game's premier offensive players from 1984-89, posting six of the most impressive seasons imaginable.

The trouble for Mattingly, when it comes to his case for Cooperstown, is that his career spanned from 1982-95, leaving voters to consider more than his amazing six-year stretch.

"The Hall of Fame would be a great honor, but I don't live my life based on whether or not that will ever happen," Mattingly once said. "So in the grand scheme of things, it's not that important."

Heading into his first year on the bench with the Los Angeles Dodgers, following manager Joe Torre to the West Coast, Mattingly is in his eighth year on the Baseball Writers' Association of America Hall of Fame ballot, having received 54 votes -- 9.9 percent -- in 2007.

Mattingly's highest vote total percentage was 28 percent in 2001, his first year on the ballot. A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote to gain election.

Results of the 2008 BBWAA Hall of Fame election will be announced on Jan. 8 on MLB.com. During his six-year run, Mattingly averaged 26 home runs, 114 RBIs and a .327 average, representing the Yankees on the American League All-Star team in each of those seasons.

No player during that stretch had more RBIs than Mattingly's 684, while only Wade Boggs (1,269) had more hits than Mattingly's 1,219.

"Donnie Baseball" also accomplished an incredible feat in 1987, setting or tying five Major League records:

• He hit six grand slams to set a new single-season mark, despite having never hit one prior to that season.
• From July 8-18, Mattingly went deep in eight consecutive games, tying Dale Long's 1956 record (later tied by Ken Griffey Jr. in 1993).
• Mattingly's 10 homers during that streak were a big league record for most in an eight-game stretch.
• Mattingly recorded extra-base hits in 10 consecutive games, breaking Babe Ruth's 1921 record.
• On July 20, the night Mattingly's extra-base-hit streak ended, he tied the Major League record by recording 22 putouts at first base.

Although Mattingly appeared to be on the fast track to the Hall of Fame, he was slowed by back injuries over the next six years, tarnishing his sparkling resume in the process.

2008 Hall of Fame Inductions
2008 Results
PlayerTotal VotesPercentage
Rich Gossage46685.8%
Jim Rice39272.2%
Andre Dawson35865.9%
Bert Blyleven33661.9%
Lee Smith23543.3%
Jack Morris23342.9%
Tommy John15829.1%
Tim Raines13224.3%
Mark McGwire12823.6%
Alan Trammell9918.2%
Dave Concepcion8816.2%
Don Mattingly8615.8%
Dave Parker8215.1%
Dale Murphy7513.8%
Harold Baines285.2%
Rod Beck20.4%
Travis Fryman20.4%
Robb Nen20.4%
Shawon Dunston10.2%
Chuck Finley10.2%
David Justice10.2%
Chuck Knoblauch10.2%
Todd Stottlemyre10.2%
Jose Rijo00%
Brady Anderson00%

"Mattingly was a great player, there is no question about that," said one Hall of Fame voter. "But when you stack his career up against those guys in the Hall, he just doesn't make the grade."

Mattingly won the AL Most Valuable Player Award in 1985, batting .324 with 35 homers and 145 RBIs, also finishing in the top five in MVP voting in 1984 and '86. Mattingly, who won the AL batting title in 1984 (.343) also won nine Gold Glove Awards at first base in 10 years.

But from 1990-95, Mattingly averaged fewer than 10 home runs and 64 RBIs per season, topping the .300 mark just once, in the strike-shortened 1994 season.

"After the first half of Mattingly's career, I would have said he was a lock for Cooperstown," said another voter. "It's too bad he had as many physical problems as he did, because he could have been one of the all-time greats."

While voters may not feel that Mattingly's career matches up against those who have been inducted into the Hall, Donnie Baseball's supporters raise the comparison to Twins legend Kirby Puckett, who was a first-ballot inductee in 2001.

Mattingly's career totals are eerily similar to those of Puckett, whose career was cut short after the 1995 season due to irreversible retina damage in his right eye. Mattingly retired with 2,153 hits to Puckett's 2,304, 442 doubles to Puckett's 414, 222 homers to Puckett's 207 and 1,099 RBIs to Puckett's 1,085.

Mattingly posted three more 100-RBI seasons than Puckett, two more 30-homer seasons, won one more MVP Award and the same number of batting titles.

Puckett's advantage comes in team hardware, as he played an integral part in the Twins' two World Series titles in 1987 and '91. Mattingly, on the other hand, appeared in the postseason just once, losing in the AL Division Series in his final season, 1995.

Mattingly's No. 23 was retired by the Yankees in 1997, while a plaque was posted in Monument Park to honor his career.

"A humble man of grace and dignity," says the plaque. "A captain who led by example. Proud of the pinstripes tradition and dedicated to the pursuit of excellence. A Yankee forever."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.