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The 100 Greatest Angels - #86, Don Sutton

#86 - Don Sutton, RHP

Career Stats

I didn't care much for Sutton once I had read reports of him turning in a teammate, a fellow pitcher, for a dui coincident with Sutton's being considered for a demotion to the bullpen. The teammate's public arrest after pounding a few back on a team flight home ensured Don retained his role as #5 Starter. He was not exactly Mister Popularity in the clubhouse of the '87 Angels.

But the 1986 season saw him win 15 games and set many of his career benchmarks - 300th victory foremost among them, and to do it in an Angel uniform meant quite a bit for the franchise struggling in Big Blue's shadow. These are the good times, but it only makes those who carried the torch in the dark days all the more important.

As Sutton once pitched for Big Blue, Rob McMillin of the 6-4-2 Red and Blue L.A. Baseball Blog is a must to do the honors...

Mostly famous for the years he spent with the team on the north end of the I-5, Don Sutton didn't spend a single day on the disabled list in his career. He won the Sporting News' Rookie Pitcher of the Year award in 1966, partly on the strength of his 209 strikeouts, the most since Grover Cleveland Alexander had 227 in 1911. By the time the Angels got him in September 1985, too late for the postseason the Angels wouldn't be taking part in anyway, he was 40 and a league-average pitcher.

Traded to Oakland the year before, he was so unhappy that he refused to report to the A's training camp in Phoenix, demanding a trade. He finally got his wish on September 10, after being placed on waivers. Oakland gave him up for a pair of minor leaguers who never made it to the show. For Sutton, the Angels were a chance to keep plying the trade he had once dominated, and to do so close to his ailing father-in-law. As well, it was a big step up from Oakland -- ten games out of the AL West -- to California, only a game and a half back.

The overachieving 1985 Angels went 90-72, never quite catching up to the Royals; Sutton did well enough with a 3.69 ERA in five starts, with a 2-2 record. Sutton's first home game in 1986 made it look as though he were done, an 8-earned-run implosion against Seattle in which he collected only two outs, an outing he called "the worst game of my career". He regrouped and improved his record to 15-11 over 34 starts, with a 3.74 ERA, collecting his 300th career win, his 700th career start, and 5,000 innings pitched in an Angel uniform that year.

Similar to John Candelaria, he had one good game in the ALCS -- a 6.1 inning Game 4 with one earned run, against a young Roger Clemens -- and also pitched three and a third innings of one-run ball in the 8-1 horror in the Game 7, again against Clemens. Afterwards, he said "We had 'em put away but let 'em up. They didn't beat us, we lost to them. It may be semantics but that's how I feel about it. We had it on ice and let it get away. So I didn't enjoy it and still don't like it. But there's nothing I can do about it now except prepare to do it again."

Sutton rattled through another year with the Angels, age taking its toll on his abilities. The Angels released him in the offseason, and he pitched a half season for the Dodgers, retiring involuntarily in August 1988 after a less-than-satisfactory season. It wasn't all Kirk Gibson and glory that year.