Bruce Sutter

1987 O-Pee-Chee #344 <a class=Bruce Sutter passed away October 13th at the age of 69.

Bruce’s best seasons were behind him when he signed with the Braves before the 1985 season, but nobody knew it at the time. Certainly not Ted Turner, who signed off on an interesting contract.

The 32-year-old Sutter was coming off of a career high 45 saves and a 1.54 ERA in 1984. He also had a career high 122 innings pitched, the 5th season of his career where he topped 100 relief innings. His resume with the Cubs and Cardinals also included the 1979 Cy Young award, 6 All-Star appearances, and 5 times leading the NL in saves.

His 1985 season ended with 23 saves, 7 losses, a 4.48 ERA, and off-season shoulder surgery. 1986 was worse: 16 games, and shoulder problems ended his season in May. In February of 1987 he underwent shoulder surgery again and missed the entire season. Sutter struggled through the 1988 season before retiring in March of 1989. The 40th and final of his Braves saves was the 300th of his career.

Bruce was involved in one of MLB’s most famous games, surrendering the eventual game winning homer to Mike Schmidt in the Cubs 23 – 22 loss to the Phillies, May 17th, 1979. What collection of stiffs, you may ask, could combine to allow 45 runs in a 9-inning game? Well, in addition to the Hall of Famer Sutter, Cubs pitchers were Dennis Lamp, Donnie Moore, Willie Hernandez, Bill Caudill, and Ray Burris. On the Phillies side were Randy Lerch, Doug Bird, Tug McGraw, Ron Reed, and Rawly Eastwick.

Lamp pitched 16 seasons in the majors, Moore saved 31 games for the Angels in 1985, Hernandez was the 1984 AL MVP and Cy Young award winner, Caudill saved 36 games for Oakland in 1984, and Burris was a 2-time 15 game winner over a 15-year MLB career. Lerch pitched 11 seasons in the majors, Bird saved 20 games in 1973, and had also had an 11-year career, McGraw totaled 180 saves over his 19-year career, Reed won 146 games and saved 103 in his 19-year career, and Eastwick led the NL in saves in 1975 and 1976. Ya gotta believe.

For a young college student person enrolled in college in the mid-80s Sutter came to symbolize all the unfortunate trades and ill-conceived signings that came during that terrible period. You thought the rebuild was bad? These guys were trying.

But time brings perspective and death sharpens it. The man had a heck of a career, and all is forgiven. Rest in peace Bruce.

Author: Rusty S.

Rusty S. is a Braves Journal reader since 2005 and an occasional innings-eater. It was my understanding that there would be no expectations.

19 thoughts on “Bruce Sutter”

  1. RIP. Trading for a guy who is never healthy would eventually become a standard Mets move, but back then IWOTB.

  2. Y’all, I can’t tell you how irrationally happy this makes me, but BRAVESJOURNAL.COM IS BACK, BABY! Both and will forward to

  3. Congrats, Ryan!

    This also makes me extremely happy:

  4. This past summer, it wasn’t just Bobby Bonilla Day. The Braves also paid the final payment (the balloon payment) on Sutter’s deferred money contract from that signing. His wife still lives in their beautiful home off Lake Allatoona near Emerson. May he RIP.

  5. I wonder if advanced analytics could have predicted Sutter’s demise. The dude pitched 122 innings in 71 relief appearances in 84, but that was not thought to be excessive at that time. Mike Marshall pitched 208 innings in 106 appearances in 1974!

  6. @6

    The chances that the regional sports networks have either entirely gone away or look way different by that point are high. The lucrative local TV deal bit was always overblown IMO. It was just an excuse for the team to not spend money when it didn’t want to. However, the chance for teams to sign crazy local/regional TV deals is basically over. By the point you’re talking about, MLB will probably have either figured out how to get control of all local broadcasts and consolidated and sold them all as one big block, or at least gone in with the NBA and NHL to buy out the decrepit and poorly-run Bally Sports and gained control of a massive chunk of them (including ours). Long story short, “local” media rights will likely be way more uniform in terms of payout per team before too long.

  7. Why in the everlasting hell did the Guardians not throw Shane Bieber on three days’ rest in this game? Last night’s rainout solved their problem for them and they refused to make use of the solution. Talk about losing the game before it even starts!

  8. Keith Law on Justyn Henry-Malloy in the AFL:

    Malloy started in High A this year at age 22 and ended up in Triple A for the last week-plus of the season. Like the other older hitters I mentioned above, Malloy showed excellent plate discipline at all levels, with 97 walks and 138 strikeouts in 133 games this year. He’s the best hitter of this cluster, though, showing better off-speed recognition and ridiculous strength, driving a slider from a right-hander (so he didn’t have the platoon advantage) to right-center for a hard-hit double and turning on average velocity whenever he saw it. I didn’t get him against plus velocity, but didn’t see any issues with his bat speed. I’m surprised he only hit 16 homers this year because everything I saw him hit was loud.

  9. Yeah, but so did Andy Marte.

    I have nothing but respect for you guys who follow the guys coming up; to me, they all look like ballplayers until they get to the majors.

  10. @11 great to hear that on Justyn Henry-Malloy – LF was by far the Braves’ worst position last season, thanks (no thanks) to Ozuna and Rosario. Both of those guys are under contract for next year and I assume they’ll have first dibs on claiming a full time role (or in Rosario’s case at least a strong-side platoon role) in LF. However, the LF solution may well involve Vaughn Grissom or Mr. Henry-Malloy, both of whom look like they could be solid offensive contributors. If they’re both ready for prime time in 2023, that may well be enough for the Braves to finally cut Ozuna loose / fire him into the sun.

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