A recent trend on social media has been asking which players in a certain sport deserved a championship. Unfortunately for the Yankees, there are two players in recent memory who are perfect answers for this question.
The most recent National League Manager of the Year, Don Mattingly, was the face of Yankees baseball in the 1980s. While the Yankees won the most regular season games in the 80s, the success wouldn’t follow them into October. Meanwhile, Mattingly was quickly becoming a star. In 1984, a final day 4 for 5 saw him edge teammate Dave Winfield for the AL Batting Title. In the follow up 1985 season, Mattingly was the class of the American League and found himself going home with the AL MVP award. Mattingly’s 1985 saw him slash .324/.371/.567 with 35 home runs and 48 doubles. It seemed like it was only a matter of time before Mattingly would be lifting the World Series trophy.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be for Donnie Baseball. In 1987, allegedly in a clubhouse incident, Mattingly suffered his first back injury. After bouncing back, Mattingly had a few solid seasons before his back injuries returned in 1990 with a vengeance. In his first seven seasons, Mattingly hit 164 home runs but would only hit 58 in his final five seasons. Despite the injuries, it looked like he would get one more strong chance at a World Series in 1994. With about 50 games remaining in the season the Yankees had the best record in the American League when disaster happened: a players’ strike that prematurely ended the season. Mattingly would play one more year and never reached the World Series.
The following season, the Yankees would defeat the Braves to win the 1996 World Series. Mattingly eventually became the manager of the Dodgers but again couldn’t quite make it to baseball’s pinnacle. Now as the manager of the Miami Marlins, Mattingly is paired with Derek Jeter in his quest for a ring.
Six years after Mattingly finished in the Bronx, the Yankees announced the signing of Mike Mussina. After dominating baseball as a member of the Orioles, Mussina signed in the Bronx and joined a Yankees team that was coming off of three consecutive championships. Moose was dominant his first year in pinstripes and the Yankees found themselves once again in October. Unfortunately Mussina struggled in the World Series and the Yankees suffered a heartbreaking loss in Game 7 and Mussina would never get that close again.
In 2003, the Yankees would lose in 6 games to the Florida Marlins despite a dominant October from Mussina. Moose would remain in baseball for 5 more seasons before finishing after the 2008 season. In his last year, Moose would finally win 20 games for the first time in his career but the Yankees would fail to reach the playoffs.
The Yankees would win the World Series in the following season. Unlike Mattingly, Moose has not pursued a career in coaching but is still active with the Little League World Series. Moose was enshrined in the MLB Hall of Fame in 2019.
Both of these players were really good Yankees but never found the postseason glory that comes with so many Yankees legends. While Mattingly remains an important figure in Yankees lore and Moose made his way to Cooperstown, both probably would have traded some of that success for a ring.
Both Mattingly and Moose deserved a ring but unfortunately climbing to the top in baseball isn’t easy. Now, the Yankees have a whole roster full of really good players that hopefully won’t meet that same fate.