Don Mattingly – 1994 UD Collector’s Choice

May 14, 2011

Alas, Poor Donnie Baseball…

Was there a better player with worse luck in baseball history?

Through 1989, he had an OPS+ of 144, accumulated 1300 hits (by age 28), had a WAR of 33.1, was an MVP (undeserved but he was in the team picture), won five gold gloves (sure, its reputation, but he was a decent first baseman). He could be expected to play 10-12 more seasons, in New York, and get 3000 hits and 300 home runs while batting over .300. He’d be a lock first ballot HOF player.

Then, his back started acting up. And by acting up, I mean, “HOLY FREAKIN’ COW I CAN”T MOVE”. My backs done that a couple of times, but I can’t imagine either trying to play baseball through it – or living with it day after day.

Because of the back problem he  couldn’t play every day, couldn’t hit for power, couldn’t field as well. He. Just. Couldn’t.

The Yankees couldn’t do much either when he was around. For an organization that prides itself on championships and winning – for a city that unfairly denigrated fine players like Roy White, Bobby Murcer and tarred a reasonable second baseman like Horace Clarke with a stain of loser-dom just because the Yanks were scuffling during the majority of their careers – Mattingly was about the only revered player that never won anything.

Hal Chase he wasn’t. (Though Chase was popular with the fans – or at least written that way – probably by sportswriters who were cut in on some of his nefarious deeds…)

And of course, the last year he plays, the Yanks make the playoffs. Mattingly’s season was sub-par but he shone in that series in Seattle. Don went 10-24 with a home run in the five-game loss. Then, he retired before 1996.

Of course, 1996 was the year the Yankees became THE GD, MFN’ YANKEES that many of us love to loathe.

He then spent time in the organization, and was the bench coach to Torre and many thought the heir apparent. But Joe Girardi got the job and Mattingly became a Dodger coach and now manager (and looks really, really weird in Dodger blue).

And now, he’s the manager of the biggest clown car in Major League Baseball. With all of the issues revolving around the Dodgers, Mattingly probably is going, “Hell, at least under Steinbrenner he wanted to win and had money, and could pay his bills.”

He’s also got a first baseman that’s hitting like Alvaro Espinoza, an over-matched rookie in left, a third baseman who had elbow surgery and then got a staph infection, a double play combo that are stretched thin defensively (Jamey Carroll, starting shortstop?), no bench, a closer with a complex, a young stud of a closer-in-training that they had to send down, and a counted on lefty reliever on the DL thanks to ‘anxiety disorder’ (and a 11.57 ERA).

Somehow, he’s 19-20 with that team. But that’s a baptism by fire and brimstone.

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