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.