Don Mattingly and Kirby Puckett both provided Major League Baseball with plenty of highlight footage throughout the 1980s and early ’90s. Both players were the unrivaled leaders of their clubs, and their career numbers are actually quite similar. Most people now recognize Don Mattingly as a coach, whereas Kirby Puckett has moved on to the Field of Dreams. While Puckett was inducted into the Hall of Fame, Mattingly has been denied entry for 13 years in a row.
Don Mattingly played a total of 14 seasons, totaling 1,785 games, 2,153 hits, 222 home runs, 588 walks, 444 strike-outs, and finished with a career batting average of .307. Mattingly was selected as an All-Star in six of those seasons, won the Gold Glove nine times, brought home three Silver Slugger awards, and was the American League MVP in 1985. Don Mattingly, nicknamed “Donnie Baseball” throughout his career, is considered the best Yankee to never play in a World Series. Mattingly’s career began to diminish after back injuries plagued him between 1988 and 1990. Between 1984 and 1989, the first half of Mattingly’s career, he averaged 27 home runs, 203 hits, and a .327 batting average per season. From 1990 to 1995, the remainder of Mattingly’s career, he averaged 10 home runs, 142 hits, and a .286 batting average per season.
Kirby Puckett played a total of 12 seasons, totaling 1,783 games, 2,304 hits, 207 home runs, 450 walks, 965 strike-outs, and finished his career with a batting average of .318. Kirby was selected to ten All-Star games, and was a six-time Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner. In perhaps the biggest disparity between the two players, Kirby Puckett did win the World Series in 1987 and 1991 with the Minnesota Twins. Puckett was forced to retire in 1995 after abruptly losing the use of his right eye due to glaucoma. While Puckett’s numbers did not suffer due to a lingering injury such as Mattingly’s, his career numbers were also cut short. Puckett averaged 17 home runs, 192 hits, and a .318 batting average throughout his career.
While Mattingly never won a World Series, baseball hasn’t traditionally been the type of sport to deny players admittance to the Hall of Fame based upon their team performance. Puckett’s career numbers are inferior to the numbers Don Mattingly put up during the first half of his career. The Yankees did manage to win a World Series the year after Donnie Baseball retired, beginning the era of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettite. I don’t really see any justification in including one of these great players without the other, their numbers were just too similar. Besides, how can you tell a guy called “Donnie Baseball” that he isn’t worthy of the baseball Hall of Fame?