Don Sutton is a first ballot True Blue LA HOF, now read on if you want to know why I think its a difficult choice.
All time lists are good for some things, in baseball they establish a starting point for discussions like this one. When you review the Los Angeles Dodger All-Time Pitching leaders, you will find Don Sutton listed as the top man in all of the major starting pitcher totals. Given the pitchers who have toed the rubber wearing Los Angeles Dodger gear, it is a tribute to Sutton’s durability and consistency that has those records.
But it would be disingenuous to ignore the fact that Sutton was not best pitcher in the National League during his main time with the Dodgers (Tom Seaver was the best, followed by Steve Carlton). Sutton never had a season like Koufax, Drysdale, Hershiser or Valenzuela. He never pitched a no-hitter nor struck out 18 batters like Ramon Martinez. Even Bobby Welch had an iconic moment in the World Series.
Perhaps I have chosen the wrong time to bring this up. In Bill James original "Baseball Historical Abstract," he used two grades when judging players, peak and career value. And while, Sutton may not have had the peak value as Koufax, Drysdale, Messersmith, Valenzuela and Hershiser, he certainly is at the top in career value.
And given the changes in baseball and the financial realities of the game as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, it is very doubtful that anyone will approach many of Sutton’s records.
Don Sutton has not been recognizable figure in the last 20 years at Dodger Stadium, though he visited often while he worked announcing games for the Atlanta Braves. He does deserve first ballot into this HOF, he may be fifth in this rotation but he’s the best 5th man in the last 50 years for any other team in baseball.