For all the talk about the current face of the Yankees, whether it be A-Rod, Derek Jeter or someone else, Don Mattingly was the clear symbol of the team during the 1980s and early 1990s. Many of us grew up watching and idolizing Donnie Baseball, and no topic generates more discussion than whether or not Don Mattingly belongs in the Hall of Fame.

For the most part, Yankee fans agree that Don Mattingly was very good. He was a bright spot on a franchise that made the playoffs once during his tenure and generally wasn’t good. In fact, the team finished first just once during his career, and that just happened to be in a year with no postseason. But Mattingly, these fans, argue just wasn’t a Hall of Famer. He never reached those benchmark Hall of Fame levels, and while he certainly deserves to see his 23 hung up, a spot in Cooperstown would not be warranted.

Sometimes, though, we lose sight of just how good Don Mattingly was. For those of us who grew up watching him, we didn’t really start to appreciate baseball until Mattingly’s quick and rapid collapse. For five years, Don Mattingly was one of the best players in baseball.

Between 1984-1989, Mattingly’s peak and among players with at least 1000 plate appearances, he was one of the top offensive players around. His OPS+ of 147 was seventh best in the Majors, and his 160 home runs were sixth best. His overall line was .327/.372/.530. As 1989 was his age 28 season and he was just entering his peak, anyone watching would be right in expecting a future plaque on the wall in the Hall of Fame.

But Mattingly’s career didn’t follow that typical path. From 1990 until he retired following the 1995 season, Mattingly’s numbers weren’t as impressive. His OPS+ over that period ranked him just 147th out of those with 1000 plate appearances, and he hit just 58 home runs. He hit a pedestrian .286/.345/.405. Injuries derailed his career and sapped his power. He was out of baseball before his 35th birthday.

So Mattingly was very good, but he wasn’t the best. He had a five-year peak that ranks up their in the 1980s, but at a time when he should have gotten better, at a time when most sluggers enter their peak, he declined. It was a fast and painful decline.

Had Mattingly sustained his early production over a long career, he would have been a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame, but he didn’t. He’ll always be remembered as a very good player, an icon of the Yankees and one who declined quickly and painfully. Cooperstown will forever miss him, but that’s just the way it should be.

Categories : Analysis
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  • Saturday morning musings: Important Yankees
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    In a moment of Frigid Stove downtime over Thanksgiving, Peter Abraham offered up his thought-provoking list of the top 20 most important Yankees. He starts with Joba, ends with Dave Eiland and touches everyone in between. In a few days, we’re going to have a RAB round table about these picks and offer up our own. In the meantime, what’s your take? Is PeteAbe’s list accurate? Do you disagree? I do, but I’ll save that for another day. · (111) ·

Why has the Hot Stove been so lame this year? Free agents have been able to negotiate with teams for two full weeks now, yet the only player to sign with a new team has been Jeremy Affeldt. Jon Heyman says a number of things could be affecting free agency, including the economy, Scott Boras, and CC Sabathia. It’s understandable that other free agent pitchers would wait for CC to sign so he could set the market, and of course Boras is Mr. My Client Will Sign When He’s Damn Well Ready, but come on man, throw a blogger a bone. We’re running out of things to write about.

Hopefully we get some actual news soon, because I’m going through withdrawals here. Until then, check out this wicked awesome video of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade getting Rick Roll’d (h/t Jamal G.):

How great is that?

Here’s your open thread for the evening. The only local team in action tonight are the Rangers, who are down in Ft. Lauderdale to take on the Panthers. Otherwise you’ve got … uh … Dwayne Wade taking on old friend Shaq out in the desert. I guess that’s interesting.

You know the deal, anything goes, just be cool to each other.

Categories : Open Thread
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  • Catching on
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    As we all know, the injury to Jorge Posada was one of the major factors in the Yanks’ sub-par 2008 showing. None of the various replacements could close to Posada’s offensive production, and partially as a result, the Yanks scored nearly 200 fewer runs this year than they did last. To that end, Cliff Corcoran over at the Banter analyzed the Yankee catching prospects for 2009. The organization is stocked at the position and seem to realize that Posada won’t be around forever. · (21) ·

Updated 10:43 a.m.: Before this week, we all assumed that Andy Pettitte would come back to New York or retire. Last week’s news that Andy and Joe Torre were talking L.A. upset that balance.

Today, in the Paper That Must Not Be Named, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti confirmed on the record that the team has “some” interest in the 36-year-old pitcher. This leaves the Yankees in something of a bind as they have a big decision to make after the weekend.

Monday, you see, is MLB’s arbitration deadline. By the end of the day, the Yanks must decide whether or not to offer arbitration to Andy Pettitte. This is a rather complicated decision, and it could play itself out in a variety of scenarios.

The easiest option — and perhaps the most beneficial to the Yanks — would be to offer arbitration to Andy Pettitte and hope that he heads to Los Angeles. As Mike noted earlier this week, the Yanks would land the 17th slot in the draft and a supplemental pick as well. But because the Dodgers would be giving up a fairly coveted spot, they may not be so keen to sign Pettitte if the Yanks offer arbitration.

Meanwhile, this decision could easily backfire on the Yanks. If they offer arbitration and Pettitte accepts and he doesn’t sign with the Dodgers and he wants to play for only one more year, Pettitte could actually take the Yanks to arbitration. While he, as a veteran free agent, wouldn’t be guaranteed at least 80 percent of his 2008 salary of $16 million, players nearly never receive a lower salary in arbitration. So even if he were to lose, he would still get a payday well above what he could probably receive from the Dodgers or Yankees right now.

Of course, those are two extremes. Pettitte could accept arbitration and renegotiate with the Yankees. If the Yankees don’t offer arbitration, they can still renegotiate with Andy Pettitte, but if he were to sign with Los Angeles, the team would receive no compensatory picks.

This is the decision with which Brian Cashman and the Yankees brain trust must grapple this weekend. They have to decide if they want Pettitte, if they feel Pettitte might actually go to the Dodgers and if the arbitration decision wouldn’t come back to haunt them. It ain’t easy being a GM.

Categories : Analysis
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I could really use a new couch.

Ah, Black Friday. Nothing beats waking up early and wading through a crowded store stuffed with insanely cut-throat bargain-seekers. Luckily, in this wired day and age, we have the Internet for all of our shopping needs, and nothing beats MLB.com’s shop for things you don’t need and never knew existed.

So in the spirit of Black Friday, let’s take a whimsical look at some of the — for lack of a better word — stuff that you can buy decked out in Yankee memorabilia.

Continue reading here for pictures, pithy commentary and more.

Categories : Whimsy
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  • The Sabathia dance
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    To raise or not to raise? That is the question, and it’s one on which Ken Davidoff can’t quite get a handle. As MLBTR notes, yesterday, Davidoff’s sources said the Yanks would not raise their offer to CC Sabathia. Today, Davidoff reports that the Yankees would go higher if the Angels ever get around to making a bid. Meanwhile, unless something drastic happens, it seems as though CC will remain unsigned through the weekend. Alas. · (43) ·

We Yankees’ fans are a lucky bunch. The team has experienced so much success over the last decade and a half that we have so much to be thankful for. There’s this. And this. And this guy. And those guys. I could go on and on (Joe already did). There’s no doubt we’ve been spoiled by our beloved Bombers, but today is the one day a year we should take a step back and say “thanks” for all the joy they’ve brought us.

It’s easy to forget that it’s just a game, but Thanksgiving is one of the rare days that the intensity of the hot stove will simmer down. Don’t expect much, if any baseball news today; players, agents and execs will be sitting around with friends and family and great food just like everyone else.

The only hot stove on your mind today should be the one in the kitchen, but if you have some time to kill before the bird’s ready, use this as your open thread. You know the routine by now – anything goes here, just keep it civil.

Happy Thanksgiving. May Mo watch over your travels.

Categories : Open Thread
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  • Thankful for the Yanks
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    As part of our guest stint at On the Yankees beat filling in for Kat O’Brien while she’s on vacation, Joe took at a look at the things for which Yankee fans have to be thankful. Among the Yanks we’re thankful for are our owners, our GM and the underappreciated A-Rod. On a personal note, we’re also thankful for the nearly five million fans who have stopped by River Ave. Blues in our 21-month history. It wouldn’t be the same without all of you. · (23) ·