• Donnie Or Mex With The Leather?

    Posted by on February 25th, 2007 · Comments (8)

    Bob Klapish takes on the question with the aid of some Yankees:

    Just who was the area’s best first baseman of the 1980s, Keith Hernandez or Don Mattingly?

    “Come on, you know I’m not going to touch that one,” Joe Torre said with a laugh. “I’ve always hated Keith because he took my job [with the Cardinals in 1975]. But there’s no way to choose between them.”

    Jason Giambi picked Mattingly for sentimental reasons – “Donnie was my favorite player” – while Alex Rodriguez was on the verge of choosing Hernandez because, as a die-hard Met fan growing up, “I watched every single Met on WOR for four straight years. I saw so much more of Mex than I did Donnie.”

    A-Rod didn’t officially choose Mattingly, however, because as he said with a rueful smile, “Yankee fans already hate me.”

    But that’s not to say Mattingly was conceding to his Mets counterpart. Quite the contrary. Donnie Baseball said, “I could pick it with anyone.”

    Yet, Mattingly had nothing but praise for Hernandez, standing by his assertion that if it would’ve meant becoming teammates with the Met first baseman, he would’ve vacated the position.

    “I meant what I said, I would’ve moved to left for Keith,” Mattingly said Saturday. “I would’ve done it because we would’ve been a better team with the two of us on the same field. I wouldn’t have minded if he played first instead of me.”

    As a Yankees fan who suffered when things were not going perfect in the Bronx during the mid-’80’s, while the Mets were winning a ring with Mex at first, I will share that I learned to hate Keith Hernandez. I was sick of hearing from, and about, him. And, while he was with the Mets, I rooted, hard, for him to do poorly.

    Now, years later, to be candid, I will now confess, looking back at it all, Hernandez probably was the best fielding first baseman of all-time (or darn close to it) and he should be in the Hall of Fame (at Cooperstown).

    As I wrote in my book, in terms of relative career offensive production, Don Mattingly was more like Rocky Colavito and Keith Hernandez was more like Enos Slaughter.

    Slaughter is in the Hall. Factor in Hernandez’ brilliance with the glove, and he should be there too. Why Keith got dismissed by the voters so quickly, I have no clue? Perhaps it’s because Mex was done by the time he was just thirty-four? (Too many lounge visits catching up with him, maybe?)

    Donnie was right – the Yankees would have been a better team with Mattingly in left, and Hernandez at first, than with Mattingly at first and guys like Gary Ward and Dan Pasqua in left.

    In fact, add Hernandez to the Yankees in 1985 and maybe the Bronx Bombers win the pennant that year – and the Mets don’t win in 1986. How sweet would that have been (for Yankees fans)?

    Comments on Donnie Or Mex With The Leather?

    1. jonm
      February 25th, 2007 | 3:04 pm

      I agree with you. Hernandez was a little bit better in the field than Mattingly. In light of his numbers, he should, at the very least, have been given strong consideration for the Hall of Fame. I think that the cocaine stories hurt him as a borderline guy. A player would have to get 3000 hits, like Molitor, for that not to matter somewhat.

      I never hated Keith (I hated Carter) but I’ve become a big fan of Hernandez in retirement. He showed that he had a sense of humor about himself by appearing on Seinfeld and I think that he may be the most interesting announcer working today. He is hyper-critical — sort of like Steve and the fans who post here.

    2. Jason O.
      February 25th, 2007 | 3:15 pm

      “Yankee fans already hate me.” That must make Steve and his online and print partners-in-crime really satisfied.

      Sometimes you’ve got to go back to basics, I recommend Aesop’s fables, because the aforementioned media pack is killing the golden goose.

    3. rbj
      February 25th, 2007 | 3:58 pm

      I’ve never hated the Mets. In fact, I’m glad they won in 1986 — the alternative was to have the Red Sox win.

    4. Raf
      February 25th, 2007 | 6:17 pm

      Anyone care to speculate as to why Hernandez wasn’t traded to the Yanks? From what I’ve read, Herzog just wanted him gone.

    5. JeremyM
      February 25th, 2007 | 10:03 pm

      The real question is who had the better cameo on a TV show, Hernandez in “Seinfeld” or Mattingly on “The Simpsons.” Both are brilliant, but as a Yankee fan in the early 90s, Mattingly and his “sideburns” are tough to beat.

    6. February 25th, 2007 | 10:26 pm

      ~~~Anyone care to speculate as to why Hernandez wasn’t traded to the Yanks? From what I’ve read, Herzog just wanted him gone.~~~

      Considering what the Mets were able to use, to get him, I’m guessing that the Coke-label scared off a lot of teams.

    7. Raf
      February 25th, 2007 | 10:44 pm

      Considering what the Mets were able to use, to get him, I’m guessing that the Coke-label scared off a lot of teams.
      I would’ve thought coke was prevalent in each clubhouse during that period; Rod Scurry was pitching for the Yanks around that time. Molitor, Raines, Howe, Perez, among others were into the stuff. And Hernandez had a much better pedigree than the others; championship player on the Cards, MVP, Gold Glover, All-Star.

    8. February 26th, 2007 | 1:53 am

      Mattingly was the superior player, the superior leader and the superior person. They were equals on defense, but there’s no comparison to be made when you’re talking about the complete package.


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