When HOF ballot time rolls around every year, Yankee fans from my generation (and I have been as adamant as any) rally around our hero, Don Mattingly.
Donnie Baseball was a God to many Yankee fans for a team that was far from dominant. his career seemed to last an eternity, as the team missed out on the postseason year, after year, after year. He had perhaps his best shot at a title ripped away from him by the strike in '94, and there wasn't a single die hard fan who wasn't teary eyed when he dropped to a knee at Skydome and pounded the turf in '95. He worked hard, played hurt, and didn't bitch in the media. Just grabbed his fucking lunch pail and showed up at the ballpark every day. This is why we all identify with Don Mattingly.
Make no mistake though: before all of the sympathy for a veteran whose body was failing, Don Mattingly was the best player in the American League, and arguably all of baseball. He was a great all around player that could hit for average and power, and was one of the top fielding first basemen ever. He had what my friend Spo calls the "Badass Quotient". It's that certain quality that instills fear in opponents. Mattingly was the type of player that other teams had a gameplan for. He might have been the best player in baseball for a stretch of five years or so, and that to me is what makes a Hall of Famer. Not pitching for 100 years and getting almost 300 wins.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame is not a Goddamned weigh station for stat compilers. It is a place where those who were considered SUPERSTARS to be immortalized. Batting titles, MVP's, and breathtaking plays in the field allowed Mattingly to reach what could have been rock star, Joe Namath heights - but that wasn't his style. Unlike some other private players, though, that didn't take away from his appeal to the masses in New York.
I know that the numbers may not be there from a career standpoint (although he was just as good as Kirby fucking Puckett, but I already made that argument), but there was no hitter as feared as Don Mattingly in his prime. That, to me, is what the Hall of Fame is all about.