Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and let’s get right to No. 18 in our countdown.
The 25 greatest Dodgers, No. 18: Don Sutton (No first-place votes, 6,262 points)
Don Sutton is the highest finisher among players not to receive a first-place vote.
How many great pitchers have the Dodgers had in their history? So many that their all-time leader in wins and strikeouts finishes 18th in a list of greatest Dodgers, trailing five other pitchers.
Sutton pitched for the Dodgers from 1966 to 1980 and again in 1988. He leads the team in wins (233), games as a pitcher (550), innings pitched (3,816.1), strikeouts (2,696), shutouts (52) and losses (181).
Sutton was the Dodgers' opening-day starter from 1972 to 1978. His seven opening-day starts tie him with Don Drysdale and Clayton Kershaw for most all-time for the Dodgers. Kershaw is scheduled to break that record this season.
Sutton is one of those guys who puts together a remarkable string of good seasons, but is never truly great in any one season. He led the league in ERA once (in 1980, 2.20) and in shutouts once (nine in 1972), but never finished higher than third in Cy Young voting and received Cy Young votes in just five (from 1972 to 1976) of his 16 seasons with the Dodgers.
None of that is meant to downplay Sutton. Part of putting together a winning baseball team is finding guys who you know will give you good season after good season. Sutton did just that, finishing with double-digit wins each year for the Dodgers from 1966 to 1980 and finished with an ERA better than the league average in 10 of those 15 years.
Sutton often gets overlooked when people talk about great Dodgers, but it doesn’t bother him. “I am 100% convinced that if I had spent most of my career anywhere but with the Dodgers, I would not have the record, not have the Hall of Fame, not have the life I enjoyed,'” Sutton told The Times’ Bill Plaschke in 2017. “All those Dodger people gave me all of that. It's my alma mater, and all the good I had in baseball came from them.”
Sutton was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 and had his number (20) retired by the Dodgers the same year.
“I don't have any fantasy or thought of being the best pitcher in Dodger history,” Sutton said last year. “But I would like to think I got everything I could get out of what I was gifted with.”
Note: A reminder, I received 8,382 ballots from newsletter readers who sent me their choices for the top 10 Dodgers of all time. Points were assigned based on ranking, with the first-place choice getting 12 points, second place getting 10, third place eight, down to one point for 10th place. After tabulating the ballots, I will be presenting the top 25 in points. We will be counting down Nos. 25 to 11, one each weekday, for the next three weeks. Then we will time the top 10 so No. 1 unveils on March 29, the day the season opens. There will be separate newsletters for any news that comes out of spring training.
Two more Hall of Famers will round out this week’s portion of the countdown on Thursday and Friday. But they aren’t players. Who will they be?