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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

A Split-Fingered Pitch for Sutter and Perez

January 06, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

If I had a vote for baseball's Hall of Fame, Don Sutton wouldn't have been my first or second choice. Tony Perez and Bruce Sutter would have been.

Having said that, I'm glad Sutton is finally going to Cooperstown, if only because I no longer have to listen to the increasingly vehement arguments between pro- and anti-Sutton factions. Few players have inspired such debate.

Yes, it's hard to argue with 324 major league victories, even if it did take him 23 seasons to amass them. Only 10 Hall of Fame pitchers won more games and only four pitchers--Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Bert Blyleven and Nolan Ryan--struck out more batters.

No, Sutton wasn't Sandy Koufax or Don Drysdale. He was never considered the dominant pitcher of his time, never won a Cy Young Award and only once won 20 games, although he did win 19 twice.

"I revere Cooperstown," Sutton said Monday. "To me, it's a sacred place. It's where the Holy Grail of baseball is."

Is that diminished by his presence? I don't think so.

But I do hope some day there also is room for Perez and Sutter. Based on the votes, considerably more people agree with me on Perez.

He was the 1967 MVP and a seven-time all-star first baseman who has more RBIs, 1,652, than all but 15 players and more home runs, 379, than all but 33.

He might have been only the fourth-best player on his team, but it was a terrific team. Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" also included Johnny Bench, Pete Rose and Joe Morgan.

I can't help but join Perez in wondering if he would get more respect if there were more Latino voters.

Sutter apparently suffers from discrimination against relief pitchers. He played only 12 seasons, but for much of that time dominated the position, earning 300 saves, the 1979 Cy Young award and six All-Star game berths.

If he didn't invent the split-fingered fastball, he at least perfected it. Hitters who swing and miss at it often today have him to blame.

*

"As bad as it gets," Jack Nicholson must have been muttering to himself during the Lakers' loss Sunday night to Philadelphia. . . .

These Lakers talk about wanting to distinguish themselves from the Showtime Lakers. . . .

They succeed too often. . . .

You can count on one hand the times that the Lakers of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy cheated ticket buyers in their years together by giving less than their best effort. . . .

These Lakers make a habit of it. . . .

They have no excuse for losing at home to teams such as Boston and Philadelphia, or on the road to Golden State. . . .

Not many teams are worse than the Clippers, but at least the Clippers can beat them. . . .

I repeat something I wrote at the beginning of the season: that the Lakers won't threaten Chicago for the NBA title unless they acquire veteran leadership. . . .

Or grow up. . . .

Among position players, only two projected starters, Mike Piazza and Raul Mondesi, didn't show when the Dodgers began voluntary workouts Monday. . . .

Last year, the only two who did show were Eric Karros and Todd Zeile. . . .

Todd Hollandsworth said that's evidence of an attitude adjustment. . . .

The Dodgers weren't as good as they thought they were last season. . . .

Next season, they want to prove they're not as bad as everybody else thinks they are. . . .

It appears as if the minor league player of the year, Paul Konerko, will start the season on the Dodger bench while backing up Karros at first and Zeile at third. . . .

Is that better than allowing Konerko to play every day again at Albuquerque? . . .

"If he gets the hit that puts us in postseason play, it is," Fred Claire said. . . .

For the fifth time in four decades, the Dodgers won the award in 1997 as baseball's best organization. . . .

Only the Yankees have won it as many times. . . .

But the best management of major league teams in recent years has been in Atlanta and Cleveland. . . .

Not coincidentally, one or the other is likely to start next season with Chuck Knoblauch at second base after a trade with Minnesota. . . .

My guess is that the Angels tried hard to get him but just missed out. Don't you think?

*

While wondering if anyone still believes Peyton Manning should go first in the draft, ahead of Ryan Leaf, I was thinking: I'd want Bill Cowher to coach my team, I know Wade Phillips and he's no Bum, you can play taps in Oakland for Joe Bugel.

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