The Modern Era Baseball Committee has been given the Veterans Committee process and a task of electing members to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The committee is made up of 16 members and each member can vote for up to five players. Those 16 have the task of wading through the nine players on this ballot. Normal rules apply with 75 percent required for induction. So that means a player’s name must be on 12 ballots of a possible 16. The question today revolves around Don Mattingly. Will Modern Era Committee Induct Don Mattingly Into Hall Of Fame?
Will Modern Era Committee Induct Don Mattingly Into Hall Of Fame – The Beginning
RICH’S TAKE – I loved Don Mattingly – he was my favorite player on the 1980s/early 1990s Yankees and during his playing days I thought for sure he was going to be a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer. Sadly, the back injury happened, his career slowed, and because of that he remained on the BBWAA ballot for 15 years, never coming close to sniffing the necessary 75% of the vote for induction.
I do not think it was a mistake that he didn’t garner induction to the Hall of Fame via the Writer’s Ballot, nor was it wrong that he remained on the ballot for the maximum amount of time. Donnie Baseball is the epitome of Hall of Very Good. He won one MVP, multiple Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers, and was one of the game’s best players for a four year span (1984-1987) and that is the problem. His peak was only four years – Hall of Fame voters want a peak significantly longer than that (closer to seven) and a peak of five years is really necessary to truly be considered. Keith Hernandez, a first basemen at roughly the same time as Mattingly, has a WAR of 60.0 compared to 42.2 for Mattingly, and honestly Keith has a stronger HOF case than Mattingly does and he’s nowhere close to induction either.
Don Mattingly is a Yankees icon and legend, and, for now, the second best Yankees first basemen in history. His place is secured in the Yankees Monument Park, but the Hall of Fame should and will remain just a dream.
ADAM’S TAKE – Well aren’t you here to put a cloud over the proceedings. So there was a time many moons ago when I was a young boy. Mattingly put me on the field for a photo at the House That Ruth Built and ever since then he can do no wrong for me. While clearly I am demonstrating my bias for the man, I will also give you some things to consider in the grand scheme of things.
As you mentioned, he had a heck of a four year run. During that time, he batted and averaged 30 home runs and 46 doubles per 162 games played. To get to the six or seven years you elude to we will go ahead and factor in 1988 and 1989, then you get a six-year run of .327/.372/.530 with a 147 OPS+.
Mattingly was also the best defensive first baseman of his generation, he committed a minuscule 64 errors in 14,132 defensive innings at first base. As far as hardware and honors go, Mattingly has to his credit six All-Star appearances, nine Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, one AL MVP (1985) and four top-10 finishes in the MVP balloting. And even though it should not matter, he did it all playing in the bright lights of New York for the most storied franchise in baseball history. Here we are above the level of Hall of Very Good for the New York Yankees icon. Will Modern Era Committee Induct Don Mattingly Into Hall Of Fame? I believe there is a chance.
Will Modern Era Committee Induct Don Mattingly Into Hall Of Fame – Closing Bell
RICH’S TAKE (2) – While he was on the ballot, he never received more than 28.2 percent of the vote. Yes, the writers who voted/didn’t vote for him initially are different than the ones that make up the different “Veterans Committees” that he will now face. However, these are the same committees that routinely fail to induct players (causing many different changes to the process resulting in the Era-based committees we now see).
While I do not believe they have announced who makes up the committee, the standards for players to be voted through are through the roof and I do believe this committee will maintain the same standards (though I wouldn’t be shocked to see Alan Trammel and Jack Morris both make it through along with Marvin Miller – but Trammel should already be in and for some reason everyone loves Morris).
According to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS ratings, Mattingly sits at 38th all-time – behind such players as John Olerud, Will Clark, Keith Hernandez, and Todd Helton. Those players were all great in some aspect but I don’t think we consider any of them HOF material (with the possible exception of Helton and even then, he’s borderline still). As a First Baseman, the standards are pretty high in regards to certain numbers such as HRs etc. and Mattingly falls just short (only 2153 hits and 222 HRs, and his OPS+ of 127 is far short – all top-10 members of Jaffe’s JAWS rating at first base have OPS+ of 142 or higher). Like I said earlier, I absolutely love Mattingly but I just can’t see how he gets voted in (and depending on who is on the committee he might not even receive one vote this time around).
ADAM’S TAKE (2) – First, it is not disputable that the Yankees are the greatest franchise in the history of baseball. With that, Mattingly is the second best First Baseman in the history of such a storied franchise. While the sample is very small, a dilapidated Mattingly finally played in a playoff game in 1995 (his final season). In that five game series, he hit .417 with a home run, four doubles, six RBI, and 17 total bases.
By most consensus Don Mattingly was a power hitter. With that in mind, he never struck out more than 43 times in a year and there was only one season in his entire career when he walked less than he struck out. Think about that for a minute, in 7,722 plate appearances he struck out 444 times. To put it another way, he had almost as many doubles (442) as career strikeouts. He only struck out on average 10 times more per year than Tony Gwynn.
As previously mentioned, he was a nine-time Gold Glove Award winner and was so good that he has played defense at every possible position at least once. He still sits atop the record books (tied) with eight consecutive games with a home run. Speaking of home runs, he also holds the single season Grand Slam record with six. These are unique records that add to the lore of the great Donny Baseball. When you watched him play live or even look back now, you are hard pressed to find a better defensive First Baseman period. While that is not always aligned with a statistic, it is an intangible that cannot be under stated or undersold.
I concede that if you are a Sabermetrics guy or a numbers geek then it is a tough sell but that is why the voters are just not computers processing various quantities of data sets. Instead of just data there are intangibles that must be considered. He was a named Captain of the Yankees and there is a short list of players bestowed with the honor. Many great players, some in the Hall of Fame, were never given that title. His greatness resides in Monument Park which is rarified air.
The “Hitman” might not ever get into the Hall of Fame but his plaque in Monument Park says it all. It reads: “A humble man of grace and dignity, a captain who led by example, proud of the pinstripe tradition and dedicated to the pursuit of excellence, a Yankee forever.”
Will Modern Era Committee Induct Don Mattingly Into Hall Of Fame – WRAP-UP
The debate will not be resolved here. Do you agree with Adam or Rich when it comes to Don Mattingly and the Baseball Hall of Fame? Do you have a different take? Here at NY Yankees Digest we are all for readers commenting but can we make a suggestion? Why don’t you write your own piece? It can be 3000 words or even 300. Here we encourage different opinions and want to give you a chance to build your brand. Join us and let your voice be heard. Just check out the Write With Us link to get started. Don’t worry its easy and remember you can build you brand by writing with us and not for us. That is the big difference. It is all about you in your words.