Against Claire’s Wishes, Sutton Talks to Astros

Times Staff Writer

Don Sutton, the 43-year-old Dodger pitcher whose career appears to be nearing retirement, said Tuesday night that he has inquired about the vacant assistant general manager’s position with the Houston Astros and also has made calls to other major league clubs about future employment.

In doing so, Sutton apparently has violated a major league rule stating that no team may have contact with a player under contract for any position.

Fred Claire, the Dodgers’ executive vice president, said he did not give permission to Sutton to approach any club about future business associations while he is still playing for the Dodgers.


“Don has talked to me about his ambitions beyond his playing career,” Claire said. “But, no, I have not given him permission to talk formally or informally to any team. Nor would I give permission for a team to approach him.

“There should be no conversation at all. To me, it’s a condition of the rules set down by the commissioner’s office. If Don doesn’t understand that, I will talk to him and correct the misunderstanding.”

After Tuesday night’s 6-0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, Sutton said that he met informally with Bill Wood, Astro general manager, when the Dodgers played a four-game series against the Astros last weekend. Sutton also said he had talked with Claire about his aspirations and believed he could inquire about future positions.

“When we came into Houston, I bumped into (Wood) outside the clubhouse,” Sutton said. “I said, ‘I understand you’re thinking about hiring an assistant general manager.’ I told him I’d be interested to talk after the season’s over. He said, ‘OK, we’ll talk after it’s over.’

“I mean, if I had read somewhere that Harry Dalton or Sandy Alderson had an opening, I’d call them just to ask, nothing else. Or if there was a broadcast job with the Angels. Or if Fred Claire were to come up to me and say he’d have a position.

“I have no commitments past this year and I haven’t asked anyone for a job. But it’s basic to my nature that I have to look ahead, gather information for the future. That’s what I’m doing, just gathering information.”

Sutton, who has 324 wins in his 23rd major league season, said he was under the assumption that Claire had approved of “informal” inquiries during the season as long as no negotiations were engaged.

Sutton said he did not think he had violated any conflict-of-interest rules.

“I know I’m under contract, and I’d never do anything to jeopardize my relationship with the Dodgers,” Sutton said. “I went to Fred and talked to him about this. He said that it was no problem as long as it didn’t jeopardize this season.

“I owe Fred that courtesy. Fred is aware of other conversations I’ve had. I value my relationship with Fred, and I won’t jeopardize it. I believe in honesty and integrity. I just asked questions to see whether we can talk after the season. It’s not like I’m filling out an application or anything.”

Claire, reached late Tuesday night, said he has talked with Sutton but that he did not give him permission to approach other teams.

“Not per se, no,” Claire said. “Don has expressed his desires. But there are precise rules as to what clubs can and can’t do and what players can and can’t do. He should not have had any discussions with anyone. He’s playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers.”

Sutton, 3-6 with a 3.92 earned-run average after Tuesday night’s loss, has not said that he will retire. But his discussions with teams about possible front-office openings after this season indicate that he is considering retirement.

“There are a number of things happening in baseball, a number of positions that might be available,” Sutton said. “I have called some friends because I want to be prepared when the end comes.

“I know I can’t go on forever, and I’ve got to start thinking about my future outside of baseball.”