Dodgers miss out on adding to their Hall of Fame presence
Don Sutton won 324 games, ranking among the top 15 in major league history. He won 233 games for the Dodgers, the most of any pitcher for the distinguished franchise.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame, but not until his fifth year on the ballot.
“The wait was worthwhile,” Sutton said in his induction speech.
It was July 26, 1998, four months after a turquoise-and-purple outfit called the Arizona Diamondbacks played its first game.
Since then, the Diamondbacks have accomplished two things the Dodgers have not: win a World Series and get one of their players into the Hall of Fame.
The World Series came in 2001. The Hall of Fame called Tuesday, for Randy Johnson.
For Dodgers fans, the wait goes on, and there is nothing worthwhile about it.
That is what made Tuesday so frustrating. The Hall of Fame also called for Pedro Martinez, who should have been ours. Same thing for Mike Piazza, whom the Hall likely will call next year.
As the calendar flips to 2015, the Dodgers’ streak of consecutive years without a World Series appearance — longest of any team in the National League West — extends to 27.
That celebrated drought is related to another: no Dodgers player has been elected to the Hall since Sutton, the only one in 31 years. In the Dodgers’ first 26 years in Los Angeles, they had eight players elected to Cooperstown.
Although all eight played some or all of their careers in Brooklyn, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale hit stardom in L.A., as the Dodgers won the World Series three times in their first eight years in town. Duke Snider played for the first L.A. championship squad, in 1959.
Martinez and Piazza each made his major league debut in 1992, for the Dodgers, 23 days apart.
The Dodgers dumped both, in two of the most damaging trades in baseball history. In 1993, General Manager Fred Claire swapped Martinez, then considered a fragile middle reliever with a worrisome shoulder, for second baseman Delino DeShields. In 1998, the Fox ownership shipped Piazza, then considered too difficult to sign to a contract extension, to the Florida Marlins in a seven-player trade.
The Dodgers were swept in the division series in 1995 and 1996, the first time losing to the Cincinnati Reds and to Pete Schourek, Dave Burba and David Wells and the next year to the Atlanta Braves and Hall of Famers John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.
“If you have a pitcher of Pedro’s capability, would it have made a difference?” Claire said Tuesday. “Of course it would have.”
Martinez has ripped the Dodgers publicly — “I’m a living example of the mistakes the Dodgers have made,” he said in 1999 — but spoke graciously Tuesday.
“I was thankful for the opportunity from the Dodgers to show what I could do,” he said on a conference call.
“It was convenient for me to get traded, even though I was crying like a baby. No hard feelings. I’m glad the trade happened. I got to play in Montreal. That’s the way God had it written down.”
Claire spoke graciously too, extending “heartfelt congratulations to Pedro and his wonderful family.” He did not duck responsibility for the trade, made after consultation with Tom Lasorda and Dr. Frank Jobe, among others, but said he sometimes wonders what might have happened had the Dodgers found a second baseman somewhere else and kept Martinez.
“I can’t help but think about that,” Claire said.
We can’t help but think about what might have happened had Martinez and Piazza each played out his career in Dodgers blue. Perhaps the Dodgers would not have to drag out the Kirk Gibson video so often.
The Dodgers’ owners have bet heavily this off-season on Andrew Friedman, the president of baseball operations, and on General Manager Farhan Zaidi. By all appearances, the owners believe they have the executive smarts to avoid a Martinez trade and the hefty wallet to avoid a Piazza trade.
We hope so, because we wouldn’t want to see Clayton Kershaw inducted into the Hall of Fame with a Texas Rangers logo on his cap.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin
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