Less than three weeks after Yogi Berra’s death, another Yankee demi-icon (or is it “dummy icon”)–Don Mattingly–proved something that’s clear to many of us in high school: many athletes are dumb, but some are profoundly stupid & self-centered.
In the aftermath of the Ugly Utley sliding assault which broke the leg of New York Met’s shortstop Ruben Tejada, LA Dodger Manager Don Mattingly compounded a terrible display of unsportsmanlike conduct and naked aggression with stupidity and ingratitude. Mattingly, a Yankee hero for many years in New York whose solid, non-championship play earned him the nickname “Donnie Baseball,” whined to the LA Times that everybody was picking on Utley and the Dodgers because they weren’t New York.
“If it would have been their guy, they would be saying, `David Wright, hey, he’s a gamer. He went after him. That’s the way you gotta play,’ ” Mattingly said. “But it’s our guy. It’s different.”
Wait, Dumb Donnie was just warming up.
“I know how … the New York media gets a little bit going and it gets dramatic,” Mattingly said. “But for me you can’t have it both ways. If David would have done it, it wouldn’t have been any problem here in New York.”
Yes, Don Mattingly does know how the New York Media gets. After all, the fawning, sycophantic coverage of Mattingly by the New York sports media helped perpetuate the “Donny Baseball” myth, for a player who never won a World Series and, as the alleged team leader and captain of the Yankees, led his team to precisely zero World Championships. In 14 years.
As a die-hard Yankee fan, who watched the self-obsessed Mattingly play in dozens of games at Yankee Stadium from 1982-1995, it was infuriating how many times this .307 lifetime hitter would swing for a single, when only an extra-base hit or home run would do. Mattingly maddeningly played “small ball”, and it reflected his lackluster leadership of the Yankees during 14 seasons. He lacked the Derek Jeter quality of grit and team-centeredness that made the Yankees into a world class championship team, again and again. He lacked the grace, big-game sense and fan-friendliness of his successor, Tino Martinez. In fact, in half as many years with the Yankees–seven–Tino hit almost as many home runs (192) as Mattingly’s paltry total of 222 round-trippers over 14 years. In that same seven year stint with the Yankees, Tino helped lead the team to four (count ‘em, Donny Baseball, FOUR) World Championships with more than 700 RBI– only 300 less than Mattingly mustered in twice as many years. Tino got it–it wasn’t all about him; Mattingly didn’t. And Tino never once got nasty with fans nor with the press, was never an ungrateful boor, nor defended the ugly tactics of anyone like Chase Utley. Baseball was a sport he loved, and he respected the humanity of his teammates and of players on other teams. In Tino Martinez’ high-class playbook, misplaced aggression had no place on the field.
Not so, Don Mattingly.
“I look at it as a baseball play,” Mattingly said before Utley’s suspension was announced. “It was a hard, aggressive, legal slide to me. “Our organization is proud of the way Chase plays. We love the way he plays. He’s got a reputation for playing the game right, playing it hard, and we’re behind him 100 percent.”
Just like Mattingly was once behind the New York fans and media 100 percent–which was never. So here’s the guy canonized by Yankee fans for being a work-a-day player, and promoted to LA Dodger coach by then-Dodger Manager Joe Torre because Torre felt sorry that Donny Baseball never won a World Championship while he was with the Yankees. So how does the ingrate respond in his first national test as a big-league manager in the playoffs? He attacks the fans and the media of New York who lionized him for his leaderless play, during the longest Championship drought in the history of the New York Yankees.
Seems like “Dummy Baseball” is a more appropriate name for the Dodger Manager who is still clueless about leadership.