Sunday, January 08, 2006

January 8th, 1953

Bruce Sutter Born

As the deadline for Hall of Fame voting draws near it is, appropriately enough, the birthday of one of this year's most contentious candidates, Bruce Sutter. Sutter was for many, many years a top-flight reliever (I deliberately don't call him a "closer" since Sutter's annual inning totals were frequently twenty to forty innings ahead of the load carried by modern closers) who won a Cy Young award in 1979 and finished with an ERA more than thirty-five percent better than average. On the con side of the argument, although Sutter pitched a lot of innings by modern standards he still never topped one hundred and twenty-five and managed only 1,042 innings in a twelve year career.

Hall of Fame voters’ estimation of Sutter has improved through time; he drew less than twenty-five percent of voters to his cause in 1994, his first year on the ballot, but has since increased nearly every year and was just under sixty percent last year. It would take a relatively large leap to put Sutter in this year (one must be named on seventy-five percent of all ballots) but with a relatively weak ballot, it is possible. Personally, I hope Sutter makes it; his small innings are somewhat mitigated by the circumstances in which he threw those innings. To wit, the innings thrown by a reliever are often more crucial to the outcome of a game than those thrown by a starter.

It will not be a grand injustice if Bruce Sutter fails to reach the Hall of Fame (he's still behind Bert Blyleven in my book) but an institution that claims to honor the game's greatest players should house Sutter long before it welcomes Jim Rice, another much-debated player who drew just under sixty percent of the vote last year.

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