Don Sutton was an American major league pitcher. He spent 23 seasons playing in the Major League for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, and California Angels. He is one of only five pitchers in history to win at least 10 games in each of his three career seasons. He is one of just two pitchers in major league baseball history to be selected to the All-Star team three times.
One of Sutton’s feats is quite remarkable. He is the only player in history to have three different streaks of quality starts in consecutive seasons. The streaks happened in 1970, ’71, and ’72. Those are some pretty tough odds. He broke a record that stood for decades.
Don Sutton had a reputation as a “closER” as a pitcher in his prime. It certainly seemed as though he could not slow down even when things were not going his way. When he was not on the mound, he would spend hours running up and down the outfield grass. His energy level would soar when he was not working. Many will swear he could not throw harder than he did. Well, his tenure with the Angels did prove him wrong.
As a member of the Angels, Don Sutton made more than seven hundred appearances. That is six hundred games played over seven years. He started with the Angels where he was a valuable player. He has been traded to the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees.
While in Atlanta, he was traded to the New York Yankees where he will once again try to re-establish himself as a quality pitching pitcher. So far, so good. Injuries limited him to just ninety starts over parts of four seasons with the Yankees. However, he made thirty starts in his Yankee career. For whatever reason, he was never the same following those injuries.
Once he was moved to New York, Don Sutton became a part of the Yankee dynasty. He was traded to the Texas Rangers, but again had trouble finding a team that would let him continue to be their closer. He only lasted two years in the Rangers’ organization before he was traded back to the Angels in a trade for Craig Fitzgerald.
So, what went wrong? Why was Don Sutton’s career so short-lived? Was it because he was not the right pitcher or was he simply not the right person for the job? After all, he had been a very successful closer for the Angels before this. Did he just need a change of pace?
The problem with Don Sutton is that no one knows for sure what his true condition was before his retirement. He suffered from various injuries throughout his career and never truly lived up to the expectations of what a closer could do for a team. Many people will disagree, but the truth is that as a closer, Don Sutton simply did not give his team everything that they needed or wanted him to. Had he been more healthy, would he have played more? There are many theories, but only one man can answer that question, and that is Don Sutton himself.
Don Sutton enjoyed a 19-year major league career and pitched in a lot of different environments. But he wasn’t effective anymore in the American League than he was in the AL East. His fastball was average in both leagues, but he struggled in the Coliseum, posting an unimpressive 95 mph with runners on base. Overall, his value as a reliever was minimal, because he gave up too many runs and was often caught making bad throws. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to his AL East bosses, who often switched him to a reliever role midway through the season.
It also didn’t help that he was consistently unavailable for his teammates when they were struggling. He didn’t seem to know why he was traded, but fans assumed it was because the team was headed for the wilderness. Little did we know at the time that he was ill, but by the end of the year, he was back in full shape and ready to help his team to another pennant.
Hopefully, we can get past this year’s World Series disappointment and see Don Sutton again. The Indians need someone to groom Porcello into a solid reliever, and they might finally trade him to the Angels. If they do, they will have found themselves even more desperate for an ace, which is exactly what Sutton has been over the last couple of years. He is the Indians’ only true All-Star, but they could use somebody who can pitch in the rotation. It will be interesting to watch him in 2021 but don’t worry too much about his future, he’s still got plenty left in the tank.
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