Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Changing The Game

Bruce Sutter was nasty.

There really isn't any other way to say it when you talk about Bruce Sutter and his split fingered fastball. And when you realize that it was Sutter that was the guinea pig for a unique pitch that would soon be a staple in the baseball world, you understand why Sutter is in the Hall of Fame.

Most players in the hall of fame had stats that were not to be ignored. Others changed the game towards a different direction. King Kelly originated the hit and run. Players like George Wright, Oscar Charleston, and Jimmy Collins revolutionized their position. And Edd Roush was the forefather of the salary holdout.

Bruce Sutter brought the split fingered fastball into the fold...long before Roger Craig taught the pitch to every Tiger pitcher in 1984 which was probably the driving force behind that championship (and the staff's subsequent arm problems later in life), and long before Mike Scott hid behind the beauty of the pitch for a darker calling. And for that, Sutter is a worthy candidate to be the Hall of Fame class of 2006.

Now if you played word association with me, then in addition to finding out that I need extensive therapy, you'll learn that "Bruce Sutter" equals "Gary Carter".


Sutter came to the Braves in 1985 as a free agent, hoping to bring the Braves back to the right side of .500, and to give them one dominant closer, rather than the three headed monster of Donnie Moore, Steve Bedrosian, and Gene Garber. Meanwhile, Carter also changed teams for the '85 season, being traded to the Mets for Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham and Floyd Youmans. And while Gary Carter's opening day dinger against Neil Allen signaled his New York arrival, his hall of fame matchup with Sutter signaled the change of direction in two baseball entities.

On May 7th, Sutter was brought in to face Carter with the bases loaded in the 8th and a 1-1 tie after an intentional walk to Keith Hernandez. Now Neil Allen was OK and all, but this was Bruce Sutter we were talking about here. Nobody hit Bruce Sutter. And the Mets didn't have the built in euphoria of opening day to fall back on. Something special would have to happen for Shea to rock...and rock it did.

Gary Carter hit a grand slam.

And there it was...finally, a Met acquisition getting a big hit off of a legitimately nasty pitcher in a big spot as the Mets went on to win the game 5-3. Finally, proof positive that Carter wasn't Ellis Valentine or George Foster or Jim Fregosi. Proof positive that the 1984 Mets weren't the ultimate tease...a flash in the pan. And unfortunately for Sutter, well, instead of his infamous split finger fastball falling like a penny off the Empire State Building, on May 7th it was the 1985 Braves (66-96), and Sutter's career that went downhill.

But today, it's Sutter's hall of fame career that Carter sent downhill.


Anonymous said...

I had a front-row seat, albeit well down the left field line, for that grand slam. It was quite comforting (to say nothing of exciting). I'd forgotten it was off Sutter. Nice job.

Mookie took Sutter deep to attain the last crucial win of 1981. Sutter couldn't hold the Mets off in the July 4-5 game in Atlanta. That's three incidents in which the Mets overcame a HOF closer. You know what that means.

Sutter must not have been as good as we thought.

Anonymous said...

I was at his first game that year in 2003. It was a cold misty night against the expos I believe. Sat there and watched him pitch and felt back in 88 again. Always loved Coney.

He should be in the hall in a couple, tree years.

How many rings he have?
He was integral part of every single one of those championship teams & a leader on both.

I'd vote him.
He was so clutch for those scumbags in the bronx & I hated every second of it but those years in my mind cemented his place in cooperstown regardless of being shy of 300 wins.

Anonymous said...

Don't feel guilty, Metsra...
I'm whichya and when I say I'm whichya I mean I'm whichya. Capiche?

Anonymous said...

I'd also say that Carter's career went in a different direction when he went into the Hall as an Expo! Sutter was the best first choice of the old-time relief corps. Lets hear it for Goose in 2008 after Gwynn and Ripken get their due!