Donnie Baseball not playing for the Yankees?
Don Mattingly notes that his playing career may not have been entirely with the Yankees if he played in the age of analytics and today’s free agency
By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
JUPITER, Fla. — Imagine Donnie Baseball playing for a team other than the New York Yankees?
No way, right?
Don Mattingly is an all-time Yankees’ great. One of the best players of his generation, Mattingly spent his entire 14-year career with the Bronx Bombers. He was a six-time All-Star, nine-time Gold Glove Award winning first baseman, and a three-time Silver Slugger. In 1984, he was the American League batting champion, and followed that up being named the A.L. MVP in 1985.
To Yankees’ fan, and anyone who followed his incredible playing career, Mattingly is fondly called “Donnie Baseball.”
The Yankees retired his No. 23 in 1997.
Mattingly, of course, is the manager of the Miami Marlins. Before that, he managed the Los Angeles Dodgers. So he’s worn uniforms other than Yankee pinstripes as a coach and a manager.
But as a player, could Mattingly have seen himself playing elsewhere?
“I could have,” Mattingly said. “If you’re forced to, right. If you’re forced to. If you still feel like you’re playing well. Today’s game probably would have been a little different with me.”
The game has certainly changed since Mattingly retired after the 1995 season, and 1,785 games with the Yankees.
Injuries slowed Mattingly down at the end of his playing career.
I asked Mattingly if he could have seen himself playing elsewhere, and he gave the above response.
I raised the topic in light of Freddie Freeman signing his free agent deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Many assumed Freeman would play his entire career with the Atlanta Braves.
Chipper Jones did it. But not too many All-Star caliber players spend their entire careers in the same spot.
Mattingly, of course, did it. So did Cal Ripken Jr., and Derek Jeter, and a few others of their generations.
Mattingly noted that in today’s game, player movement is likely. Analytics play a part, as do finances.
“I think it’s the nature of the business,” Mattingly said. “It’s changing. It’s been changing for a while, right. It’s harder to stay with one team.
“It’s great if you see it. At the end of your career, you do really feel pretty good about it. But I think the nature of free agency, and [player] movement. Getting back to analytics. How we analyze guys. Where they’re at, and their age. When that guy gets to free agency, do we have a better option? That balances what we’re going to have to pay this guy, compared to what we’re going to get.”
In the case of Freeman, the Braves decided to move on, and traded with the Oakland A’s for first baseman Matt Olson.
“Those are tough,” Mattingly said. “Nobody thinks Freddie is going to leave.”
If Mattingly played in today’s game, he believes he could have experienced a similar fate. After all, his career was in decline.
“They might have rather moved in a different direction,” Mattingly said, ” maybe, in today’s game.”
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