Should Donnie Baseball Be in the Hall of Fame? - Cooperstown Cred (2023)

Should Donnie Baseball Be in the Hall of Fame? - Cooperstown Cred (1)

He was known as “The Hit Man” and “Donnie Baseball.” New York Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly, one of the very best players in baseball in the mid-1980s, is once again a candidate on the Eras Committee Hall of Fame ballot. This ballot (the “Contemporary Baseball Ballot”), which features eight men whose primary contributions occurred after 1980, is the latest incarnation of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s “Veterans Committee.” Essentially, it’s a second chance ballot for players who were overlooked by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).

On December 4th, a panel of 16 Hall of Famers, executives, and media members will consider the Hall of Fame credentials of Mattingly and seven other players who were never elected by the BBWAA: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Rafael Palmeiro, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, and Albert Belle. The committee members can vote for three out of those eight players, with 75% of the vote (12 out of 16) required for a plaque in Cooperstown.

Mattingly has been on the Eras Committee ballots twice before in the last several years (on what was known as the “Modern Baseball” ballots in December 2017 and December 2019) and did not get enough votes for the Hall of Fame to announce his total.

In this piece, I’ll take a look at Mattingly’s career and evaluate the pros and cons of his Cooperstown candidacy.

Cooperstown Cred: Don Mattingly (1B)

15 Years on the BBWAA Ballot (9.1% in 2015)

  • New York Yankees (1982-95)
  • Career: .307 BA, 222 HR, 1099 RBI
  • Career: 127 OPS+, 42.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement)
  • 1985 A.L. MVP (.324 BA, 35 HR, 145 RBI, 211 hits, 156 OPS+)
  • 2nd to Roger Clemens for 1986 MVP (.352 BA, 31 HR, 113 RBI, 238 hits, 161 OPS+)
  • Led MLB in doubles for three consecutive years (1984-1986)
  • Tied MLB record with home runs in 8 consecutive games (1987)
  • 6-time All-Star
  • 9-time Gold Glove Winner

(Cover photo:

This article was originally posted in the fall of 2017. It has been updated in anticipation of the 2022 Contemporary Baseball Players ballot.

Career Highlights (played for New York Yankees from 1982-1995)

Don Mattingly is one of many players in baseball’s long history who looked like an absolute sure-fire Hall of Famer early in his career. He’s also on the list of players who lost their Cooperstown credentials by struggling in the later phase of his career. The 2022 Contemporary Baseball ballot contains two other such players, Belle and Murphy. Mattingly and Murphy are former MVPs who had “best players in baseball” tags in their 20s but faded in their 30s.

Donald Arthur Mattingly was born on April 20, 1961, in Evansville, Indiana, the youngest of five children. From James Lincoln Ray’s SABR Bio, the left-handed hitting Mattingly learned how to hit the ball to the opposite field playing Wiffle ball in the backyard; a fly ball onto the garage in “left field” was counted as a home run. Donnie “Wiffle Ball” was a three-sport star at Reitz Memorial High School. With most MLB teams expecting him to attend college, he dropped to the 19th round in the 1979 amateur draft before being selected by the Yankees.

Mattingly debuted with the Bronx Bombers in September 1982, just missing the team’s run of five post-season appearances in six years. He was a part-time player in 1983 before winning the first base job in spring training of 1984. The Hit Man legend started that year; Donnie Baseball edged teammate Dave Winfield for the American League batting title by going 4 for 5 on the last day of the season to raise his average from .339 to .343. Mattingly also led the league with 207 hits to go along with 23 home runs and 110 RBI.

Embed from Getty Images

1984-89: One of Baseball’s Best

In 1985 and 1986, Don Mattingly was unquestionably the best first baseman in baseball:

  • 1985: Mattingly solidified his spot as one of the top stars in the game, winning the A.L. MVP by hitting .324 with 35 HR and an MLB-best 145 RBI.
  • 1986: Mattingly led the majors with 238 hits, 53 doubles, a .573 slugging percentage, and a .967 OPS. Those numbers, along with 31 long balls and 113 RBI, put him second in the MVP balloting behind Roger Clemens.

In 1987, Mattingly finished 7th in the A.L. MVP voting but still had a terrific season. He hit .327 with 30 HR and 115 RBI. This was the year in which he tied an all-time MLB record by homering in 8 consecutive games. He also set a new MLB record that season by hitting six grand slams, interestingly the only six of his career. (The record-setting sixth slam occurred in the 5th to last game of the season, against the Boston Red Sox).

He had somewhat of an off year in 1988 (18 HR, 88 RBI) but rebounded to post 23 taters with 113 RBI in 1989, which turned out to be the last of his six All-Star seasons.

From 1984 to 1989, Mattingly established himself as one of the best (if not the very best) players in the game. He was a perennial All-Star and 5-time Gold Glove Award winner. For those six seasons, he hit .327 while leading the majors with 684 RBI.

Embed from Getty Images


Two days before the 1990 season, Don Mattingly was rewarded with a five-year, $19.3 million contract, making him the highest-paid player in baseball at the time. As it turned out, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was paying for past performance. A congenital disk deformity in his back limited him to 102 games in 1990. He hit just .256 with 5 home runs and 42 RBI.

Despite the lost ’90 campaign, he was named the Yankees team captain in the spring of 1991. Although he never again had a season quite as miserable as 1990, Donnie Baseball also never rediscovered the form that made everyone in baseball assume that he was destined for Cooperstown. His career is clearly divided into two halves, the 1984-1989 seasons in which he was brilliant, and the 1990-1995 seasons in which he was barely above average.

Don Mattingly: Season Averages for 1984-1989 and 1990-1995

1984-1989 684 97 203 43 27 114 .327 .372 .530 147
1990-1995 550 65 142 28 10 64 .286 .345 .405 105
Total 7722 1007 2153 442 222 1099 .307 .358 .471 127

Courtesy Baseball Reference

Rare Yankee Star without an October Record to Remember

One of the bitter ironies of Don Mattingly’s career is that it began the season after the Yankees appeared in the 1981 World Series and ended in the season before the Bombers got back to the Fall Classic IN 1996. Mattingly, deprived of post-season play in a manner unheard of before (or since) for a star in the Bronx, was able to at least end his career with a taste of October baseball. The ’95 Yankees made the playoffs thanks to the newly invented Wild Card system. Although the Yanks would fall in a thrilling five-game series to the Seattle Mariners, the Hit Man hit. .417 with one home run and 6 RBI in the series. The lone tater was a 6th-inning blast in Game 2, one that broke a 2-2 tie in a game that the Yankees eventually won in 15 innings.

Mattingly didn’t actually retire, announcing that he was just going to sit out 1996 to give his body a rest. In January 1997, he formally hung up his spikes.

“I was born with a congenital defect. If I hit too much, I got a pounding soreness. It was like a dead ache in my back. I still get it today when I go out and hit too many golf balls. … I tried to make the best of it. I didn’t want to talk about it.”

— Don Mattingly (from his SABR Bio, quoting “Mattingly in Good Company” from the New York Times)

Making the Hall of Fame Case for Donnie Baseball

The Hall of Fame case for Don Mattingly is all about peak performance. His career counting stats (222 HR, 1,099 RBI, 2,153 hits) do not measure up, especially for a first baseman. He debuted on the 2002 BBWAA ballot with 28% of the vote, not a great total but not a pittance either. Many players (including the recently inducted Tim Raines, Mike Mussina, and Larry Walker) hit the ballot for the first time with a lower total and eventually found themselves with a plaque in Cooperstown. Unfortunately, 28% was the most Mattingly would ever get. After 15 tries, he fell off the ballot with 9% of the vote in 2015.

While he was being considered, the case that his advocates made he was the best player in the game for that six-year period of time.

“He overcame his status as a 19th-round draft choice to become one of the best two or three position players for a half decade, before his bad back sapped his strength. A bonus: He’s one of the two or three best fielding first baseman ever.”

— Jon Heyman (, Jan. 4, 2015

“I understand the opposing case: didn’t play long enough, wasn’t dominant long enough. I also know, when he was healthy, Mattingly was as enjoyable a player to watch, both sides of the ball, as anyone in the last 30 years. I long ago came to terms that he won’t get in.That doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with that assessment. And these votes, better and worse, are nothing if not purely subjective.”

— Mike Vaccaro (New York Post), Nov. 25, 2014

“If you’re the dominating player at your position, or of the game, for five or six years, you’re a Hall of Famer…Throw in the defense, throw in the leadership qualities, whatever you want to throw in. I just think Don Mattingly was a Hall of Famer.”

— Mike Shalin (in New York Magazine), March 2011

“My eighth and final vote last year went to Don Mattingly, for the same reasons I always voted for Will Clark and Keith Hernandez. Each of these first basemen was a game-changer, a hitter of legendary skills, consummate ballplayers who made their presence felt in every game. They were Hall of Famers at the time, not in retrospect, during their prime years.”

— Bruce Jenkins (San Francisco Chronicle), Nov. 27, 2013

Best Player in Baseball from 1984-89

The question here is whether these Don Mattingly advocates are correct. Was he the best (or one of the two or three best) players in all of baseball from 1984-1989? Looking just at his offensive prowess, here’s how the Hit Man ranked in 10 different categories from 1984-1989.

Don Mattingly's ranks (1984-1989) (min 3,000 PA)

Stat Mattingly Rank Behind
HR 160 6 Murphy, Strawberry, G. Bell, Dw. Evans, Hrbek
RBI 684 1
Hits 1,219 3 Boggs, Puckett
Runs 581 T-5 Rickey, Boggs, Butler, Evans, (tied Ripken)
2B 257 1
BA .327 3 Boggs, Gwynn
OBP .372 14 Boggs, Raines, Rickey, Gwynn, 9 others
SLG .530 1
OPS+ 147 T-2 Boggs (tied w/ Strawberry)
WAR 33.0 7 Boggs, Rickey, Ripken, Ozzie, Trammell, Raines

Courtesy Baseball Reference

If you are a WAR devotee, Mattingly was the seventh-best position player from 1984-1989 behind six Hall of Famers. Remember though, WAR punishes first basemen just for the audacity of playing that position. In the hitting component of WAR, Mattingly was 2nd best only to Boggs for these six seasons.

For those who like the numbers we grew up with, you’ll like that Mattingly led all players with 684 RBI in those six seasons, a mark which was a whopping 59 more than 2nd place finisher George Bell. Sometimes, however, RBI can be a misleading statistic, a product of opportunity. The Yankees’ lead-off hitter from 1985 through the middle of 1989, after all, was Rickey Henderson, the best lead-off man of all time.

It’s true that Mattingly had the most plate appearances with runners on base to drive in of any hitter during those years. However, by looking at the top 10 RBI men from 1984-89, going to the “Advanced Stats” section on Baseball Reference for each of them, we can see that it’s also true that he also drove in a higher percentage of those runners than any of the others during those seasons. (You can look at this for any players by going to “Situational Batting” under “Advanced Stats.”)

I think it’s not a stretch to say that Don Mattingly was the fifth-best player in baseball from 1984-1989, behind only Boggs, Henderson, Ripken, and Ozzie. That’s a nice credential for a Cooperstown case.

Comparing Don Mattingly and Kirby Puckett

Another point made in favor of Don Mattingly’s Hall of Fame case has been how remarkably similar his career statistics are to those of Kirby Puckett, the Minnesota Twins center fielder who also had to retire early.

Puckett 7831 1071 2304 414 207 1085 .318 124 51.1
Mattingly 7722 1007 2153 442 222 1099 .307 127 42.4

Courtesy Baseball Reference

There are other similarities:

  • Mattingly won 9 Gold Gloves; Puckett won 6.
  • Mattingly made 6 All-Star teams; Puckett made 10.
  • Mattingly retired at 34 because of a bad back; Puckett retired at 35 because of glaucoma.

Some differences:

  • Puckett was faster, stealing 134 bases to Mattingly’s 14. However, Puckett was not an effective base stealer. He had a 64% success rate, which does not help your team.
  • Puckett was primarily a center fielder, a much more important position on the defensive spectrum.
  • Puckett was a two-time World Series Champion.

The key difference is that Puckett went out in style, hitting .314 with 23 HR and 99 RBI in his final season. The denouement of any player’s career has a significant impact on how Hall of Fame voters feel when it’s time to vote and Mattingly’s final six seasons paled in comparison to Puckett’s. For this reason, when both players hit the BBWAA ballot in 2001, Mattingly got 29% of the vote while Puck sailed into Cooperstown with 82%.

Don Mattingly v Darryl Strawberry

I grew up in New York City, born in 1967. In a strange story, one that I will not bore you with now, I grew up a fan of both the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox. In the mid-1980s (my teenage years), I went to about 200 Mets games and several dozen Yankees games.

Should Donnie Baseball Be in the Hall of Fame? - Cooperstown Cred (2)

For most of the history of New York baseball, the city has been a Yankees town because of the 27 World Championships. However, that was not the case in the mid-1980s. The Mets of that era had Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Gary Carter, and Keith Hernandez. During Mattingly’s peak years (1984-1989), the Mets were perennial contenders while the Yankees had only one or two seasons where they had a chance at the postseason.

Strawberry was the #1 overall pick (by the Mets) in the 1980 player draft and the N.L. Rookie of the Year in 1983, the season before Mattingly emerged as a star. The Mets’ young right fielder and the Yankees’ young first baseman were the two biggest position player stars of the mid-1980s, dwarfing even Henderson and Winfield on the Yanks and Carter and Hernandez on the Mets. The only bigger star in New York in the mid-1980s was Gooden, the 1985 N.L. Cy Young Award winner at the age of 20.

What’s the point of this story? Mattingly got a respectable level of Hall of Fame love from the writers for 15 years’ worth of ballots while Strawberry (considered a wasted talent because of his drug and alcohol abuse) was a first-ballot casualty.

Mattingly 7722 .307 .358 .471 222 1099 2153 588 127 42.4
Strawberry 6326 .259 .357 .505 335 1000 1401 816 138 42.2

Courtesy Baseball Reference

Although Mattingly’s batting average was much, much higher, Strawberry’s fearsome presence in the lineup and plate discipline yielded a nearly identical on-base percentage and a higher slugging percentage. In addition, despite Donnie Baseball’s deserved reputation as an RBI man, Strawberry drove in only 99 fewer runs (in 1,396 fewer plate appearances).

The irony of all ironies is that Strawberry, known forever as a member of the Mets, won two World Championships late in his career with the Yankees. Straw and Donnie Baseball were teammates in 1995; Mattingly never played again while Strawberry hung around for two rings.

Don Mattingly v Keith Hernandez

Next, a comparison between Mattingly and the first baseman of the Mets in the 1980s.

Mattingly 7722 .307 .358 .471 222 1099 2153 588 127 42.4
Hernandez 8553 .296 .384 .436 162 1071 2182 1070 128 60.3

Courtesy Baseball Reference

Should Donnie Baseball Be in the Hall of Fame? - Cooperstown Cred (3)

I think it would surprise most people that Hernandez’s OPS+ is actually better than Mattingly’s. Another advanced metric, Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) from Fan Graphs, also lists Mex as the superior hitter.

The Yankees’ first sacker had more power but Hernandez drew nearly double the number of walks while playing in generally less favorable ballparks for hitters.

I will also say that, having attended hundreds of games, sitting in the upper deck behind home plate, that the difference between Hernandez and Mattingly defensively is much greater than Keith’s 11-to-9 Gold Glove advantage. I don’t always agree with the retroactive defensive metrics but, when they say that Hernandez was a vastly better player in the field, those numbers match my eye test.

Remembering that Hernandez also won an MVP trophy (shared with Willie Stargell in 1979) and was a two-time World Series Champion, it’s hard to see how Mattingly would belong in the Hall of Fame above him.

Don Mattingly v Bernie Williams

There’s one other New Yorker who I feel got the short end of the BBWAA stick and that’s a four-time World Series Champion of the Yankees, center fielder Bernie Williams, Mattingly’s teammate from 1991-95 in the Bronx. As great as Donnie Baseball was during his best six years, you’ll be amazed to see how close Bernie Baseball stacks up in comparison.

6-year Peaks Peak Yrs BA HR RBI Hits OPS+ WAR
Don Mattingly 1984-1989 .327 160 684 1219 147 33.0
Bernie Williams 1997-2002 .326 147 629 1073 146 31.1

Courtesy Baseball Reference

Mattingly’s statistics are a little better across the board but not by much. However, take a look at their career numbers and consider that Williams was a key contributor to four World Championships.

Mattingly 7722 .307 .358 .471 222 1099 1007 2153 588 127 42.4
Williams 9053 .297 .381 .477 287 1257 1366 2336 1069 125 49.6

Courtesy Baseball Reference

Despite brutal defensive metrics, Bernie still has a higher WAR than Mattingly and the rest of his career statistics are right in line. Williams was booted from the Hall of Fame ballot on his 2nd try after getting just 3% of the vote in 2013.

How Great Was That 6-Year Stretch?

Since the Hall of Fame case for Don Mattingly rests with the “best or almost best player” argument, it’s worth delving into the question of how excellent that six-year run really was. The best way to find out is to compare Mattingly’s six years of brilliance to others who played the position. Keeping it as simple as possible, here are four basic statistics (BA, HR, RBI, and hits) with two advanced ones (OPS+ and WAR) for Mattingly and several other non-Cooperstown enshrined first basemen who also had six-year runs of greatness starting during or after Mattingly’s run:

6-year peaks Years BA HR RBI Hits OPS+ WAR
Don Mattingly 1984-1989 .327 160 684 1219 147 33.0
Will Clark 1987-1992 .303 151 595 1022 152 32.0
Fred McGriff 1988-1993 .284 208 573 927 155 30.8
Carlos Delgado 1998-2003 .295 237 741 979 155 31.6
Mark Teixeira 2004-2009 .295 216 714 1030 140 33.9

Courtesy Baseball Reference

Do these six-year peaks of these five players look that much different? No, they don’t. Fred McGriff is on the Contemporary Baseball Players ballot with Mattingly after finishing his 10-year run on the BBWAA ballot with 39.8% in 2019. Will Clarkwas one-and-done on the ballot in 2006, getting just 4.6%. Carlos Delgadowas booted off the ballot in 2015, getting a mere 3.8% in his only bite at the BBWAA apple. Mark Teixeira retired after the 2016 season and got just 1.5% of the vote in 2022, eliminating him from future BBWAA ballots.

Note that we did not include the best six-year numbers from Hall of FamersJeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas, or Jim Thome, who all had six-year peaks superior to those of all of the above.

Anyway, sticking with the five players listed above, where did each of these five players end up in their respective careers?

Career Years PA BA HR RBI Hits OPS+ WAR
Mattingly 1982-1995 7722 .307 222 1099 2153 127 42.4
Clark 1986-2000 8283 .303 284 1205 2176 137 56.5
McGriff 1986-2004 10174 .284 493 1550 2490 134 52.6
Delgado 1993-2009 8657 .280 473 1512 2038 138 44.4
Teixeira 2003-2016 8029 .268 409 1298 1862 126 51.8

Courtesy Baseball Reference

Ouch. Donnie Baseball is last among this quintet of first sackers in HR, RBI, and WAR and 2nd to last in OPS+. Now, it’s fair to point out that Mattingly won 9 Gold Gloves while the others didn’t (Teixeira won 5, and Clark won the award once). It’s also true that Mattingly had fewer years in which he played in the turbo-charged offensive era but OPS+ accounts for that.

Compared to the others, Mattingly’s career offensive statistics are way off.

Embed from Getty Images

How Do We Explain This?

What is the reason that Don Mattingly’s six-year peak doesn’t look much different than the six-year peaks of Clark, McGriff, Delgado or Teixeira?

The reason is that it was really those first fourseasons that put Donnie Baseball at or near the top of those many offensive categories. To recap, here are the numbers for each of those six seasons:

Mattingly BA HR RBI R H 2B OPS+ WAR
1984 .343 23 110 91 207 44 156 6.3
1985 .324 35 145 107 211 48 156 6.5
1986 .352 31 113 117 238 53 161 7.2
1987 .327 30 115 93 186 38 146 5.1
1988 .311 18 88 94 186 37 128 3.7
1989 .303 23 113 79 191 37 133 4.2

Courtesy Baseball Reference

(statistics inbold indicate leading the A.L., and those in bold italicsindicate leading all of MLB)

If you just take the first fourseasons of that six-year stretch (1984-87), Mattingly had the most RBI in all of baseball, the most doubles, the best in slugging percentage, and the best park-adjusted OPS+ (155). He had the second-most hits (to Boggs) and the third-best batting average (to Boggs and Tony Gwynn). His WAR from 1984-87 was fifth best to Boggs, Henderson, Gwynn, Raines, and Ripken.

If you just take the last twoseasons of that six-year stretch (1988-89), his WAR is 34th best. His 131 OPS+ (among those with 1,000 plate appearances) was just good enough to tie for 24th. His best categories during those years were hits (he had the 6th most), doubles (tied for 5th most), and RBI (tied for 8th most).

The point here is that Don Mattingly was not one of the best players in baseball in 1988 and 1989. At best, he was the third-best first baseman for those two years (behind Clark and McGriff). By WAR, he was the 5th best (also behind Glenn Davis and Kent Hrbek). Eight first sackers hit more home runs; Clark drove in more and had a higher batting average. The Hit Man was just 9th in on-base% and slugging% for those two years and thus his OPS+ was just 9th best among all MLB first basemen for those years. Defensively, whether you believe them or not, the defensive metrics on Baseball Reference put him 9th as well.

If you just take 1989 (in which he was better than in ’88), he still doesn’t crack the top 3 among first basemen in WAR, OPS+, HR, or any of the three “slash” line categories (BA, OBP, and SLG).

The bottom line: Don Mattingly had a peak of just four years in which he was one of the best players in the game. Just four. Typically, that’s not going to yield a Cooperstown plaque and it hasn’t.

Comparing Don Mattingly to the Other Players on the Current Ballot

On the Contemporary Baseball Players ballot, three of the eight candidates were first basemen. Besides Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff and Rafael Palmeiro are on the ballot. More often than not, these committees in recent years have valued longevity over peak performance. With the huge disclaimer that Palmeiro’s career is tainted by a positive steroid test in the final year of his career (2005), here is a look at the career statistics of the three first sackers:

Palmeiro 12046 569 1835 3020 .288 .371 .515 132 71.9
McGriff 10174 493 1550 2490 .284 .377 .509 134 52.6
Mattingly 7722 222 1099 2153 .307 .358 .471 127 42.4

Courtesy Baseball Reference

Of course, if Palmeiro had never tested positive for PEDs, he wouldn’t be on this ballot. He would have been a first-ballot inductee by the BBWAA in 2011. Instead, Palmeiro got under 5% of the vote in his fourth turn on the ballot (2014), eliminating him from future consideration by the writers.

Given that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are also on the current ballot, it seems unthinkable that Palmeiro will get any support at all from the 16 members on the committee. I have a hard time imagining that anyone would use all three of their ballot options on Performance Enhancing Drug-linked players.

For Mattingly, however, this doesn’t help him much. He suffers significantly in comparison to McGriff. Donnie Baseball’s only edge over the Crime Dog is in his batting average, but that 23-point edge is negated by McGriff’s advantage in both on-base% and slugging%.

However, let’s suppose for a moment that the Contemporary Baseball Committee is filled with hard-liners against inducting players linked to PEDs. This is a possibility if that’s how the majority of the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors feels. In this hypothetical scenario, McGriff and Curt Schilling would seem like the most likely candidates to get elected. So, if you’re a voter with one more space on your ballot (because you won’t vote for Bonds/Clemens/Palmeiro), do you pick Mattingly, Dale Murphy, or Albert Belle?

Murphy 9041 398 1266 2111 .265 .346 .469 121 46.5
Mattingly 7722 222 1099 2153 .307 .358 .471 127 42.4
Belle 6676 381 1239 1726 .295 .370 .564 144 40.1

Courtesy Baseball Reference

I go through the three-way comparison in much more detail in my piece about Belle, but it seems here like it’s a choice between Murphy and Belle and that Mattingly falls short by comparison.


This seems like it would be a tough year for Donnie Baseball to break through, given the quality of competition on the ballot and especially considering the presence of Fred McGriff, who had a much longer and prolific MLB career.

Don Mattingly had an excellent career but I am not convinced it was a Cooperstown-worthy career. If, however, the Contemporary Baseball Committee feels differently and votes him in next week, he will not dilute the quality of the Hall of Fame.

Mattingly was and remains respected in the game and this is evidenced by his post-playing career. After many years as Joe Torre‘s bench coach with the Yankees, he had one of baseball’s 30 managerial jobs for the last 12 seasons (five with the Los Angeles Dodgers and seven with the Miami Marlins). Who knows, although it certainly doesn’t look likely, perhaps in the future he might make the Hall of Fame based on the combined work of his playing and managerial careers. If that day comes, a lot of Yankees fans will smile and I (although not a fan of the team) will be smiling too.

If you’re a baseball fan, it’s hard not to also be a Don Mattingly fan.

Thanks for reading. Please follow Cooperstown Cred on Twitter @cooperstowncred.

Chris Bodig

Embed from Getty Images


Is Donnie Baseball in the Hall of Fame? ›

No. He played 14 seasons. His 42.4 WAR just doesn't quite cut it for the Hall of Fame (these days) — on the surface at least. But it also does not capture the totality of his career.

Should Don Mattingly be in the Hall of Fame? ›

The Hall of Fame case for Don Mattingly is all about peak performance. His career counting stats (222 HR, 1,099 RBI, 2,153 hits) do not measure up, especially for a first baseman. He debuted on the 2002 BBWAA ballot with 28% of the vote, not a great total but not a pittance either.

Will Keith Hernandez ever make the Hall of Fame? ›

When Keith Hernandez became eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot in 1996, he stayed on the ballot until 2004, never garnering more than 11% of the 75% threshold needed to gain entry. He was, however, voted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2021, and the Mets Hall of Fame in 1997.

Is Don Mattingly in Cooperstown? ›

Mattingly was considered again by the Veterans Committee in 2019 but failed to get enough votes to make Cooperstown. A three-time Silver Slugger award winner playing first base for the New York Yankees, Mattingly was the 1984 American League batting champion and 1985 Most Valuable Player.

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