No. 7 – Don MattinglyIt’s hard to believe that Don Mattingly, a Yankee captain for five years and player for 14, never won a World Series title – yet it’s true.
Mattingly was one of the best players in the game from his first full season in pinstripes in 1984. That is until 1989 when back issues began to sap him of all his power. In those six exceptional seasons, the guy that NY named Donnie Baseball was a six-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove winner and the 1985 AL MVP.
Mattingly’s career stats are very good, if not great. In 1,785 games played, Mattingly hit 222 home runs, scored 1,007 runs and had 1,099 RBIs. His most impressive numbers are his lifetime .307 batting average and his 5.8 strikeout percentage. To put Mattingly’s incredible K-percentage in perspective, according to FanGraphs.com, in 2016, shortstop Andrelton Simmons led all major leaguers with at least 100 at-bats with a strikeout rate of 7.9 percent, and the major league average was 21.1 percent.
Unfortunately for Mattingly, he played the majority of his career during the longest playoff drought in modern Yankees history. While the Yankees teams of the ’80s had some pretty great offenses, their pitching was often sub-par. In an era with no wild-card, the Yankees MLB-best overall winning percentage for the decade was not ever good enough to win a division title or get them to the postseason.
The 1994 Yanks were probably the best team that Mattingly ever played on. Unfortunately on August 12, 1994, with the Yankees in first place in the AL East, the players went on strike. The work stoppage resulted in the cancellation of the playoffs and World Series. Mattingly’s Yankees never had a chance and the ’94 team will remain a what-might-have-been story.
1995 was the inaugural season for the Wild-Card format, and the Yankees were the AL’s first WC team, so Mattingly finally got his shot. In an unforgettable five-game series against the Seattle Mariners, Mattingly batted .417 with a homer and six RBIs. Unfortunately for Mattingly and the Yankees, in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 5, Mariner All-Star Ken Griffey Jr. scored from first base on an Edgar Martinez double. The Mariners celebrated the walk-off as Mattingly and his teammates watched in stunned silence.
Donnie Baseball retired after the ’95 season. Tino Martinez moved from the Mariners to the Yankees in 1996 to man the hole Mattingly left at first base, and the rest is history.
Today, Mattingly is managing the Miami Marlins. There is a possibility that one day he’ll return to NY in that capacity and win his World Series. But until then, Mattingly will remain on this list of NY athletes that came up a little short.