How Derek Jeter makes me RE2PECT Don Mattingly even more.


Very few people have been thinking or reminiscing about Don Mattingly in the heat of Jeter week.   Delusional people like Keith Olbermann and a few other Jeter haters with the gall to open their mouths, got me thinking about WHY Derek Jeter is so important to the Yankees and baseball.  Even Boston “gets Jeter” and comprehends his place in history and our hearts.  Jeter and Mattingly are everything that is right in baseball and life.  One thing in Jeter’s favor is that he came up in a perfect storm, orchestrated by the baseball gods, Gene Michael and The Boss.  That being said, Don Mattingly just came up in a storm.


It’s easy to be happy, grateful, classy, positive, humble and incredibly successful when everything is going great around you, the stage is set for your greatness and all you have to do is walk in and fulfill your destiny.  I’m not taking anything away from Jeter at all, but we can see that his surroundings helped create his greatness while he totally lived up to the challenge on and off the field.  Did Mattingly have the stage set for him to achieve great numbers and win championships? Not so much, so he took his destiny into his gold gloves and lived his full potential with the walls of Jericho falling around him.


Many of us remember what was once called, The Bronx Zoo and the emergence of Donnie Baseball that set the stage for the Jeterization of the Yankees.  Like Jeter, Donnie played his whole career with the Yankees.  Unlike Jeter, who played under 2 stable like-minded managers, Donnie had 10 managers from 1982 to 1995, with the wild Billy Martin making 3 appearances in 83, 85 and 88 and Buck Showalter being the bridge between the insane and sane. Given these extremes, both were incredibly consistent players, posting great numbers, Thurman worthy captains, beloved by fans and great role models on and off the field.  Both are workhorses, humble and strive for greatness.  In today’s world of PED scandals and twitter wars, Jeter has distanced himself from any drama.  In the 80’s world of ego maniacs, a revolving door of managers and open clubhouse discord, Donnie also distanced himself and was able to post outstanding numbers on a team that always seemed to under-achieve, which makes it even harder to post great stats.  It’s hard to get RBI’s if no one is on base!


If you look at their numbers, make sure you remember that Donnie did not have Rivera to save games, protection in the lineup and most of all, team chemistry.  The 80’s was all about the individual and personal stats, and lets face it, aside from 1996 to 2000, the Yankees haven’t had real chemistry since the late 70’s.  The Yankee’s had some great players like Winfield, Righetti, Goose and Nettles, but they could never seem to all be on the same page at the same time and win titles.  Through all the drama, Donnie was able to get 9 gold gloves and 6 All-Star appearances, a 1985 AL batting title and the 1985 MVP.  All this, with NO POST SEASON, except for a wild card failure in 1995 before the Jeterization of the Yankees.   Lets not mention 1994, the Yankee championship that never was.  This generation or Jeteration, has no idea what it’s like to go for years knowing that your team will be nowhere near post season and the ungodly fear of the Mets winning more games than us.  As a “real” fan, I remember when Rick Cerone was their best pitcher. Yes, pitcher, you read it right. Madonna mia, times were tough.


Of course, the Yankees retired Mattingly’s number 23 and his plaque calls him “A humble man of grace and dignity, a captain who led by example, proud of the pinstripe tradition and dedicated to the pursuit of excellence, a Yankee forever.”  Hmm, sounds exactly like someone else we know and therein lies the qualities of greatness.


I look forward to having Donnie Baseball back in the Bronx and pinstripes where he belongs.jeterback