In the 2/11 "Daily Scoop", Jon Heyman of CNNSI included this brief paragraph about Don Mattingly.
• Don Mattingly did the right thing as usual by choosing his family over the Dodgers' hitting coach job, and many believe that he also cut his playing career a few years short for similar family reasons. That decision may have cost him being a part of the Yankees' late-90s dynasty as well as possible entrance into the Hall of Fame, but Mattingly has never said a thing about it publicly.
Don Mattingly's last season was in 1995, when he hit 7 homeruns with a .288 average a .341 OBP. I have not heard of anyone, until the paragraph above, ever speculate that he retired because of family issues and not his back and lack of productivity at the plate. Of course, Heyman’s “many” could be his contacts that I of course have no access to, but I personally think he’s just pulling this paragraph out of his ass. From my point of view, Mattingly was done as a star caliber player when he retired, and probably a season away from being a part-timer if he chose to stay on. He was not going to be a serious (star caliber) contributor a championship team (again, maybe a part-time player, but that flies in the face of the HOF talk). Mattingly could always hit for a decent average, but when he lost his power in the late 80’s he was really no longer a star. His great glove and pretty good BA at first base was diminished by his terrible power and the fact that he didn't walk much or have any speed.
Mattingly played 770 games over 6 seasons in the 1990’s. In those games he hit 58 home runs, or 12 per 162 games. I certainly don’t think that Mattingly hitting another 58 homeruns and a bunch of singles over his next 770 games was going to get him in the Hall of Fame or a continuous spot on the Yankees' roster.
I liked Mattingly (he was one my favorite players), and it’s a shame his back gave him so much problems. I also give him credit for walking away when he did and not creating the awkward “um, Bernie Williams, you suck now, go away” moment that a certain NY center fielder created.