The Shawn Green comparison

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Shawn Green, a 14-year veteran, called it quits today, and something David Pinto wrote about him made me think about his career. Let’s play the comparison game.

Player A played in 1951 games spanning 15 years. He racked up 2003 hits, 445 doubles, 328 HR, 1070 RBIs and a hitting line of .283/.355/.494. No one is talking about his career as anything close to Hall of Fame-worthy. Nevertheless, during Player A’s five best seasons, he was quite the hitter, racking up a .288/.369/.545 line with 192 home runs.

Player B played 1785 games over 14 season and knocked out 2153 hits, 442 doubles, 222 HR, 1099 RBIs and a hitting line of .307/.358/.471. With nine Gold Gloves in tow, fans of Player B love to make his case for the Hall of Fame. During his six best years, he hit .327/.372/.530 with 160 HR.

Both players saw their playing time, power numbers and careers cut short by various injuries.

As you may be able to guess, Player A is of course Shawn Green, and Player B is Yankee fan favorite Don Mattingly. When all is said and done, their career numbers are remarkably similar, but Mattingly seems to enjoy the grassroots Hall of Fame support among die-hard Yankee fans while Green and Cooperstown won’t ever end up in the same sentence.

Now, you can look closely at these numbers and see differences. Mattingly was a more prolific hitter and won more Gold Gloves, for whatever those are worth. Green, playing in a power era, had a higher career slugging percentage and launched over 100 more home runs than Mattingly. It all evens out in the end.

So what is it about Donnie Baseball that drives Yankee fans so crazy? To me, it’s what he epitomizes. The Yanks in the 1980s and early 1990s were barren wastelands of teams, but Mattingly was a real throwback to the days of Yankee greats. He came to play every day, health-permitting, and he gave it his all. When he called it quits at a young age, New Yorkers didn’t embrace Tino Martinez, his replacement, for some time.

This isn’t meant to tear down Mattingly. I grew up idolizing Donnie Baseball, and I always wanted Number 23 for whatever after-school team I was on. He was my favorite. But Yankee fans get blinded by their love sometimes. Mattingly was great; he was a real presence on the team. His number deserves its spot in left-center field. But he doesn’t really warrant the Cooperstown support he seems to get from a lot of fans. If you don’t believe me, just ask Shawn Green.

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  • monkeypants

    OK, Donnie Baseball is not HOF material. The comparison with Green is somewhat bogus, however, since it looks only at counting stats without putting them in histoical context. For example, looking at OPS+ (which adjust for league and stadium), Mattingly is much superior:

    Career:
    Mattingly–127
    Green–120

    Peak seasons:
    Mattingly (1984-1989)–156, 156, 161, 146, 128, 133, AVE 147
    Green (1998-2003)–116, 143, 116, 154, 154, 116, AVE 133

    Green played in an era of more inflated offensive numbers. When put in context he only had three outstanding seasons. Neither his peak nor his career was as good Mattingly’s.

    And no, that is not an endorsement for Mattingly for the HOF.

  • Dave

    Let’s do a similar comparison and see what happens.

    Player A played in 1783 games spanning 12 years. He racked up 2304 hits, 414 doubles, 207 HR, 1085 RBIs and a hitting line of .318/.360/.477. Not only was he talked about as Hall of Fame-worthy, he went in on the first ballot. During Player A’s five best seasons, he was quite the hitter, with a line approximately equal to .338/.370/.514 line with 111 home runs.

    “Player B played 1785 games over 14 season and knocked out 2153 hits, 442 doubles, 222 HR, 1099 RBIs and a hitting line of .307/.358/.471. With nine Gold Gloves in tow, fans of Player B love to make his case for the Hall of Fame. During his six best years, he hit .327/.372/.530 with 160 HR.” (Ben K.)

    Both players saw their careers cut short by injuries.

    As you probably guessed Player A is Kirby Puckett, who the baseball world universally accepted as a Hall of Famer. Player B is Don Mattingly who has received only marginal support. The Puckett/Mattingly is a far more appropriate comparison because they played in the exact same era, unlike the Green/Mattingly comparison.

  • RollingWave

    Puckett was also a CF for most of his career. and he stole 134 bases (not a ton but hey) and had huge playoff moments. fair or not, playoff moments count, which is one reason why Curt Schilling is a more deserving HOF candidate then Mike Mussina despite nearly identical career.

    Puckett is a iffy HOF case, but his case is still a lot stronger then Donnie’s

  • Rick in Boston

    When it comes to Donnie vs. Puckett, I look at it this way –

    Outside of Minnesota, nobody cares about Kirby Puckett. They remember him as a short, fat guy.

    Donnie Baseball is beloved in many, many circles. Even Red Sox fans (begrudgingly) admit that they respect Don Mattingly, moreso than any other Yankee in the last 25 years.

    Plus, Don had the best review in Bill James’ Historical book:

    “100% ballplayer, 0% bullshit”

  • http://www.razzball.com rudygamble

    This one’s tough b/c I’m a Yankee fan….and I’m Jewish… :)

    But Mattingly was a better player in his prime. Look at MVP votes. Mattingly was in the top 20 seven times, with a 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 7th to his credit and 2.22 total MVP shares. Green has a 9th, 5th, and 6th for a total of .69 MVP shares. Mattingly has 6 All-Star appearances, Green had 2.

    And while Mattingly was generally regarded as the best place for about a 3-4 year stretch, Green has about 3 years where he was the best player on his team (Delgado in TOR, Sheffield in LA).

    I suppose you could argue that Mattingly did better in MVP because he played in New York. Last I checked, though, MVP voters don’t do favors for Yankees. Morneau over Jeter? Rice over Guidry?

    I agree that Mattingly didn’t have an HOF career. But he’s at least worthy of the discussion. Can’t say that for Green….

  • Rob_in_CT

    Mattingly doesn’t belong in the HoF. And besides, it’s not like he isn’t remembered. Yankees fans remember, and honor him.

  • Geno

    The difference between Green and Mattingly, as I see it, is how close they came to greatness. This doesn’t explain why Donnie baseball should be in the Hall, but I think it does explain why fans would want him there over someone like Green. Before Mattingly’s career was derailed by a series of back injuries, he was great. Hall of Fame great. He was a gold glove in the field, and a triple-crown threat at the plate. It’s the lure (and sadness) of “what could have been”.

  • steve (different one)

    the Puckett vs. Mattingly argument is a little embarrassing.

    Puckett played CF. Mattingly played 1B.

    would we be calling Jeter a 1st ballot HoFer if he played 1B? that doesn’t mean Jeter would NOT have made it, since he could wind up in the top 5 in hits. but if jeter retired tomorrow as a SS, he’d be a HoFer. if he retired tomorrow as a 1Bman, he wouldn’t.

    Puckett was, at the time of his election, one of the 10-15 best players to ever play his position. he wasn’t a slam dunk, but he had a decent case.

    Mattingly is simply NOT one of the best to ever play his position.

    there are a TON of guys not in the Hall of Fame who all had similar careers to Mattingly and did not play premium defensive positions. Just off the top of my head, i don’t see the case for Mattingly over:

    Will Clark
    John Olerud
    Dick Allen
    Fred McGriff
    Frank Thomas
    Joe Torre
    Jim Thome
    Keith Hernandez
    Albert Belle
    Jim Rice

    etc. etc. etc.

    are you going to put all of those guys in the Hall? is John Olerud really a Hall of Famer? what is the OBJECTIVE case for Mattingly over Olerud?

    i LOVE mattingly, but we have to let it go. he just didn’t play at his highest level long enough. it’s that simple. he had 4 HoF seasons. i wish he had more, but he just didn’t.

    if you guys want to make an argument about Puckett, you should be comparing him to Bernie Williams. then we might have an interesting conversation.

    • RollingWave

      Ehhh there are few guys on your list that should /will get in. Thomas for one is pretty close to a lock, so is Thome and Dick Allen really shoulda gotten in.

      • steve (different one)

        right. and the more guys that deserve to be in before Mattingly weakens Mattingly’s case.

        let’s simplify this:

        What is the argument for Mattingly over Will Clark?

    • Whitey14

      Steve, I know we differ a lot on opinions, but I respect your ability to look past your yankee bias and bring forth your honest opinion of the issue at hand. I feel Mattingly was a great player, both offensively and defensively. It would have been nice to see what may have been if not for his injuries.

  • MD

    Donnie probably isn’t an HOF’er, but he gets the support because he’s a HOF person……..so he doesn’t get a plaque in Cooperstown, but he’s got one with millions of fans……..at some point he will be back with the Yanks…..and will be embraced for the rest of his public life, and remembered with the greats……..

  • deadrody

    The only one here that really hit the single biggest point was Geno. Now I didn’t follow Shawn Green’s career, but the important question here is, was his career derailed by injury like Mattingly’s ???

    Mattingly simply was the best player in the game before the back problems. I don’t think you could ever say that about Green.

    • ceciguante

      agreed w/ you and geno: mattingly gets the love not just for his no-bullshit, maximum effort, no ego approach, but the magnitude of his greatness. he was the best player in MLB for 2 or 3 years, and that says something big.

      everyone loves to play the “let’s compare the cumulative stats” game, but i don’t really care if a guy was above average at the plate for 20 years (i.e., harold baines). nice career, but that’s not “fame” to me. i look at it as having more to do with greatness. mattingly was great, he just got hurt. shawn green was never really great, once you control for the era he played in, so this post offered the worst kind of stats analysis — add up the numbers and conclude the players are about equal.

      and if you don’t think defense at 1B is important, tell that to a team that just charged off the field pumped up b/c their 1Bman made a diving stab to save an RBI double and end the inning. yes, yes, defensive stats. but lifting your team doesn’t show up in defensive stats.

  • Tripp

    Steve (different one), some of those guys aren’t even finished with their careers. And you know damn well Frank Thomas and Thome will be first ballot hall of famers.

    • steve (different one)

      how does that change anything?

      they are better players at the same position as Mattingly.

      and no, i do not know “damn well” that Thome will be a 1st ballot HoFer.

  • David

    Green played most of his years in the offensive explosion years, while Mattingly played in much more of a pitcher’s era. Their numbers look comparable, but they really aren’t.

  • http://arcglasseffects.com Bob

    I think the main difference in the HOF support between Mattingly and Green is motivated by the fact that Mattingly played his entire career for one team as in icon while Green was popular, but not iconic in his stays with several teams.

    Therefore, Kirby Puckett is a better comparison for Mattingly, as was already suggested. However, I don’t think that Mattingly is a slam dunk for the hall regardless.

  • steve (different one)

    Shawn Green is not anywhere close to a Hall of Famer.

    he has nothing to do with why Mattingly is or isn’t a Hall of Famer.

  • Will

    I don’t get the point of this post? Mattingly has only received between 10-15% of the vote, so it seems as if you are creating an easy straw man to tear down. The more relevant issue you raised is why is Mattingly so beloved among Yankee fans, but that answer is simple…he was a great and beloved player who played his entire professional career with one team. What’s more, he stood out in era that didn’t offer Yankees fans much for which to root. Even if Mattingly didn’t seem to possess all of the personal attributes that made him such an endearing figure, he would have enjoyed enormous popularity among Yankee fans.

    Even more obvious is why Shawn Green doesn’t have a similar following. Throw out performance and personality…the reason Shawn Green’s career will fade into more obscurity is partly because of the era in which he played, but mostly because he wore 4 uniforms. You can’t have a grass roots campaign when you don’t even have a well established base of support.

    • steve (different one)

      Mattingly has only received between 10-15% of the vote, so it seems as if you are creating an easy straw man to tear down.

      this is what Ben wrote:

      But he doesn’t really warrant the Cooperstown support he seems to get from a lot of fans.

      he wasn’t really talking about the actual voting.

      but you are right in that the comparison doesn’t hold water for one glaring reason:

      Mattingly was BETTER than Shawn Green. Yourself, David and others have already pointed out the difference in their offensive environments. superficially they look similar, but when you dig into the numbers, you can see that Mattingly was a better player.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

        Oh yeah, there’s no doubt that Mattingly was better than Green. He was a better hitter, a better fielder and a much better clubhouse leader. But when it comes to things that HoF voters look at, he’s not that much better.

        • ceciguante

          i disagree, ben. voters remember a player like mattingly’s greatness, leadership, approach and defense. in other words, i think they do / will control for relative strength of era, not just compile the numbers and conclude that green is about equal to mattingly. at least, i hope so, or a lot of incomplete players who could hit the ball a long way are going to be voted in over the next 10-15 years.

  • http://www.razzball.com rudygamble

    i think Puckett is a good case study against Mattingly for HOF.

    but my vote would match the hall – Puckett – Y, Mattingly – N

    Puckett had a longer prime period (in the 9 years from 1986-1994, he made top 10 in MVP voting 7 times!). 2 world series. And he played CF – a position with less depth than 1B. what CFs in their prime would you take over Puckett since 1970? the only guy I can put above him is Griffey Jr. Lofton is a consideration. Andruw Jones isn’t….

    i have no doubt, though, that if mattingly’s back doesn’t give out, he goes to the HOF….

  • Bo

    Thankfully the Hall of Fame isnt strictly about numbers.

    Its for the great players. Mattingly was. Green wasnt.

    Mattingly will never get in though. Which is a shame. if Kirby is in, Donnie should be.

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  • http://www.yankeesdaily.com/ Sean Serritella Yankees Daily

    Mattingly was my favorite growing up too. I even starting using my stance like his in little league because I wanted to be just like him. He epitomizes what “class” is all about and handed it down to Jeter when he left.

    YankeesDaily

  • http://aroundthemajors.blogspot.com/ Around The Majors

    Pretty interesting comparison.

  • http://rivaveblues Brian C

    As for the discussion about “who got more MVP votes” I would venture to say the primary reason Puckett got more MVP votes than Mattingly was because Puckett was on a winning teams. Mattingly was not, for the most part. My opinion, during the prime of each player, Mattingly was better. Donnie was the best hitter in baseball for a handful of years. Can’t say that about Puckett.

  • Brian

    First I want to respectfully state that I love the blog. However, the Mattingly, Shawn Greene comparison is pretty bogus. And if you’re going to suggest that gold gloves mean little then consider this. Ozzie Smith’s career numbers .262/.337/.328 with 28 hrs. If not for gold gloves why did he make it to cooperstown. I’m not trying to draw a comparison between the two or even make an arguement that Mattingly should be in the hall. Simply stating the defense all too often does get overlooked and Donnie certainly deserves mention among the all time great first baseman.