Every year at Hall of Fame voting time many Yankee fans across New York resume their favorite cause celebre: pleading their case with anyone who will listen that Don Mattingly belongs in the Hall.
Now, let's make one thing clear. As a child of the '80s who grew up loving the Yankees, like many current twentysomething Yankee fans I absolutely adored Don Mattingly. He was, by far, my favorite baseball player, and truthfully, without his awe-inspiring bat anchoring year after year of putrid Yankee lineups it's quite possible I might not have become the baseball obsessive that I am today.
With that out of the way, I can comfortably say what every statistically-minded fan knows: Donnie Baseball has no business even being considered for the Hall of Fame.
In addition to writing this blog--not to mention reading however many Yankee blogs I can get to on any given day-- I participate in a daily group e-mail back-and-forth with 20 or so die-hard Yankee fans (if it hasn't been made abundantly clear, I obviously can never get enough discussion about the Yankees. I guess this is what happens when you hate football and the Knicks haven't been enjoyable to watch in a decade--and no, they're still not fun this year), and my good friend Lenny asked if the stat-driven guys in the group could manipulate the numbers to make a case for Donnie Baseball to the Hall. Lenny is a very knowedgable and passionate Yankee fan, although when it comes to the acceptance of advanced stats he seems to be firmly entrenched in the Jon Heyman school of skepticism.
Here's what I had to say:
"For a six-year stretch, from 1984 through 1989, Donald Arthur Baseball had a case for best player in baseball. His corresponding OPS+'s were as follows: 156, 156, 161, 146, 128, 133. Remember, anything above 130 is very good; above 140 is superstar; above 150 means you're among the best hitters in the game.
On a non-stat note, I was among the many thousands of young Yankee fans who grew up idolizing Mattingly. He was my favorite player in the game by far as a youngster.
However, Mattingly's bad back derailed any chance he'll ever have at the Hall of Fame. As much as some of the criteria used by the dinosaurs in the BWWAA seems archaic, one unwritten rule of the Hall is that the player has to have been dominant for at least a 10-year stretch, and that's something I happen to agree with. There are many players who have had five-year periods of outrageous production only to flame out; those players -- like Mattingly -- belong in the Hall of Very Good.
Unfortunately, D. Baseball just wasn't elite long enough to make it to the Hall of Fame, despite being the one shining light on a number of very bad Yankee teams. I love Donnie Baseball, but there's no case for him for the Hall, and I don't want to see him in there. He doesn't deserve it."
Following this, my younger brother Craig, who was obsessed with Danny Tartabull as a young Yankee fan, said that "if Mattingly belongs in the hall then Danny Tartabull should get a look too."
My gut instinct was to chuckle at that statement, although it's not quite as off-base as I would've initially though. Check it out:
Tartabull's career OPS+? 133. Mattingly's? A somewhat surprising 127. They both played 14 seasons.
Tartaball career wOBA? .377. Donald Arthur Baseball? .361.
Not saying it is necessarily so, or that I'm going to make it, but it appears there's a case to be made for Danny Tartabull actually having a better career than Don Mattingly, despite the fact that almost no Yankee fans would probably ever think or realize that. And you're never going to see Danny Tartabull's name turn up on a Hall of Fame ballot.