The results of the 2011 Baseball Hall of Fame voting will be announced this afternoon, and there are several players with New York Yankees connections on this year’s ballot. The ones most obviously thought of as Yankees, of course, are Don Mattingly and Tino Martinez.
Neither Donnie Baseball nor the Bam-Tino will be getting enshrined into Cooperstown today — or ever, for that matter. But, let’s not let that little detail stop us from looking at the case for and against each guy, anyway.
I would love to see Mattingly enshrined in Cooperstown. It isn’t going to happen, however, and as much as I would love to see it happen I don’t believe that it should. Donnie Baseball might be my favorite Yankee of all time, well maybe second to Mariano Rivera, but his greatness just didn’t last long enough to justify election to Hall of Fame. He received 16.1 percent of the necessary 75 percent a year ago.
From 1984-87 there was no better hitter in the game than Mattingly. Four straight seasons of 110 or more RBI, a batting average no lower than .324 in that stretch, 30 or more homers from 1985-87, 145 RBI in winning the American League MVP in 1985. There was nobody better during that time, and nobody better with the glove at first base than the nine-time Gold Glove winner.
Yet, four years is not enough. In a 14-year career Mattingly only had one other season in which he hit more than 20 homers and drove in more than 100 runs — 1989. For the rest of his career back injuries limited him to being an average to slightly above average hitter, with no more than 17 home runs or 86 RBI in any season. He is a .307 career hitter, but only once after 1989 did he hit above .300, amassing a .304 average in just 97 games in 2004. He finished his career with 222 home runs.
In 1987, or even 1989, I would have said Mattingly was headed to the Hall of Fame. In the end, though, the greatness just did not last long enough.
For Martinez, the honor is even being on the ballot. I’m curious to see if he even gets the 5 percent support needed to appear on the ballot again next year, and I doubt that he will.
Tino was a very good player who finished his 16-year career with 339 home runs. He did have a five-year stretch where he drove in 100 or more runs each year, four of those with the Yankees. His best season was a 44-home run, 141-RBI campaign in 1997.
I love the guy, and he was a key part of the Yankee glory years of the late 1990s, but he isn’t in the Hall of Fame category.