Don Sutton Swallows His Threat, Reports to the A’s Camp
Don Sutton, who had said he would retire if he was not traded to the Angels, Dodgers or San Diego Padres, reported to the Oakland A’s Monday and said he was prepared to make a trade of another kind.
“This won’t be as easy as walking out of the stadium and driving home, but anything worthwhile is worth sacrifice,” Sutton said, alluding to the distance between the Oakland Coliseum and his Laguna Hills house.
In considering a 20th major-league season, Sutton had hoped to be traded to a Southern California team so that he could spend more time with his family by living at home.
He implied Monday that his bid for 300 wins--he has a record of 280-218--and the encouragement of family and friends were foremost among the reasons that prompted him to reconsider.
He said he is now committed to spending the new season with the A’s and that he was not enticed by any promise of continued efforts to trade him or a contract extension beyond 1985.
“Don is no different than any of our other players,” A’s Vice President Sandy Alderson said Monday. “His name could come up in trade talks, but we’re not making a special effort to trade him.
“He understands that. He understands that it is likely he will be with the A’s all year.”
The A’s got Sutton in a Dec. 7 trade that sent pitcher Ray Burris to Milwaukee. Then, responding to Sutton’s trade demand, the A’s learned that neither the Dodgers nor Padres wanted him.
There have been periodic conversations with the Angels, but both clubs insist that talks are dead.
The A’s see Sutton, who will be 40 on April 2, as a stabilizing influence on an otherwise young and suspect starting staff. However, they would have allowed him to retire before making a weak trade with a division rival.
Sutton praised Alderson, saying the A’s never misled or intimidated him. He said that Alderson’s approach provided him with a clearer perspective of his own responsibility. He said the A’s seem convinced that his discomforts at the thought of spending another season away from home are genuine and will work with him in trying to alleviate them--short of allowing him to commute each day by plane.
“I’m not sure how we’ll do it (alleviate the discomforts), but the bottom line is that I came here because I’m committed to pitching here,” Sutton said. “I have a job to do. I’m not thinking about a trade or looking for it to happen.”
Why did he change his mind and agree to join the A’s? Sutton said it simply evolved from what had been an obvious topic of daily conversation.
“I can’t give you a specific reason,” he said. “We didn’t sit down with an agenda. It was a combination of a lot of things and the approval of people I care about.”
Sutton cited family and friends.
“We do everything at my house by committee,” he said. “The committee met Thursday and Friday and decided that we could make this work, even though it wasn’t what we had it mind.
“We decided that since I had come this far and was still productive, I should continue to pitch. We decided that it was worth the sacrifices, rather than giving it up this close (to 300).
“The feeling was that I might have looked back four or five years from now and regretted having missed the chance (at 300). It’s certainly one of the big reasons I’m back, but I wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for the support and encouragement I got at home.”
The goal-oriented former Dodger has long considered 300 wins his passport to the Hall of Fame. He would be considerably closer now had the Brewers provided better support last year when Sutton said he pitched as well as ever but finished with a 14-12 record and a 3.77 earned-run average.
Hopeful of a trade, Sutton said he had been throwing every other day for the last two weeks at Capistrano Valley Christian School. A’s pitching coach Wes Stock watched Sutton throw for 15 minutes Monday morning and said he seemed almost ready to open the season.
Sutton seems in equally sound fiscal shape, although the A’s fined him $3,000 for reporting 12 days late. The final year of a contract he signed with Houston guarantees him $500,000 with a shot at another $300,000 through incentives. He also heads a successful investment corporation for athletes and doctors.
Of his potential influence on the young A’s, Sutton said:
“My own start wouldn’t have been as easy if I hadn’t had Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax to help me. I don’t consider myself a baseball professor, but if I can’t find an answer, maybe we can work it out together.”
Sutton’s first day with the A’s was not an easy one. He understands that his reluctance to leave home might have been interpreted as a power play that didn’t work. He knows that some new teammates, and some fans, may still feel that he simply didn’t like the A’s and their city.
Sutton held a private meeting with the team when he arrived.
“I was nervous. I was scared to death,” he said. “I told them that I hoped they understood that what I did wasn’t based on a dislike of the team, the players or the organization.
“I tried to make it clear that I had never said negative things about Oakland, that I had only said I didn’t want to leave home.
“The acceptance seemed good. I didn’t detect any animosity. I’m sure that anybody who likes being home, who likes being with his family, will understand. I can’t help it if they don’t.”