Will Yankees Greg Bird be more Moose Skowron or Nick Johnson?

Greg Bird (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Greg Bird (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Don Mattingly

If your favorite player is Derek Jeter, then it’s likely that your dad’s favorite player is Don Mattingly. Donnie has two advantages over the players listed so far. One, he has better numbers. That always helps. And, two, he played his entire career in pinstripes (1982-95).

Lifetime Yankees can move to the front of the line if they have the numbers to back them up; Mattingly certainly has those. He finished his brilliant career hitting .307/.358/.471. That all went along with his 222 home runs, 2,153 hits and 1,099 RBI’s.

And every one of those was done in pinstripes.

And what was the impact of his play? Mattingly won the MVP in 1985 and finished in the top five in voting twice more. He was a six-time All-Star, won nine gold gloves, and three silver sluggers awards.

That’s how you leave a mark on the game, the Yankees, and the first base bag. And it’s how you end your career with a 42.2 WAR.

A Pain in His…

Sadly, he was not blessed to play at a time when the Yankees were following their mantra of winning championships every year. Despite his efforts, he only played in one postseason series: The 1995 ALDS against the Mariners.

It was a legendary series and proved true the prediction made by many that the world would only see the real Mattingly in the postseason. Donnie revealed his true self by hitting .417/.440/.708 with one home run, four doubles and six RBI’s in those five games.

Because of his play, his attitude, and his respect for the game, Mattingly earned the moniker, Donnie Baseball. Bestowed by Michael Kay, few nicknames ever suited somewhere better.

But Mattingly developed chronic back issues mid-way through his career and stopped playing at a hall of fame level. In his last two years, Donnie was only able to step up to the plate 372 and 458 times, respectively.

Like Larry Bird in Boston, Mattingly played with the pain as long as he could; he stopped playing after that 1995 series. When Ken Griffey Jr. slid across the plate, Donnie Baseball’s career was over.

The Thompsons

One final note: There has long been a dispute between New York baseball fans about who was better, Donnie or Keith Hernandez. We could compare numbers and awards all day and not find a resolution. Instead, we will let the imprint on popular culture during their playing days break the tie.

Early on, the Simpsons produced an episode in which Mr. Burns brings in the best MLB players for his company’s softball team. Griffey was there, as was Mike Scioscia, but not Hernandez. Donnie Baseball was selected as the best first baseman of the ’80s, and that helped propel him to number two on this list.

Now, you probably know who is first, but you don’t know who is next.