Mark Davis 1988 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for February 18 2017

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The following pitchers never won a Cy Young Award:

Juan Marichal
Nolan Ryan
Curt Schilling
Jim Bunning
Dave Steib
Dave Stewart
Bert Blyleven
Don Sutton
Jack Morris
Jimmy Key
Mike Mussina

Neither did reliever Mariano Rivera.

One San Diego Padre reliever DID win a Cy Young Award. It wasn’t Trevor Hoffman nor Goose Gossage. Nor was it Rollie Fingers (who won HIS Cy Young with the Brewers.)

Mark Davis has a Cy Young Award.

I told that to a friend of mine. He looked at me as if I told him Steve Bannon won an NAACP Image Award.

But it is true. And like a movie that won an Oscar that aged badly (I am looking at YOU, Crash) Davis’ Cy Young looks bizarre on today’s eyes..

The Livermore California native was the number one overall pickĀ in the secondary phase of the 1979 draft. The Phillies, a powerhouse in the 1970’s had that pick so I officially have NO CLUE how they figured out the order of the picks.

As a 19 year old, he made a relief appearance for the 1980 World Champion Phillies and started game 162, giving the regular pitching staff a rest before the post season.

Davis did not fare well in his cameo with the 1981 Phillies and did not play in the majors in 1982.

After the 1982 season, he was sent packing with Mike Krukow to San Francsco for Joe Morgan and Al Holland.

Think about that trade for a second. Mike Krukow is a beloved Giants announcer now and a fan favorite as a player. Joe Morgan is in the Hall of Fame. Al Holland became an All Star closer. And of course we have established that Mark Davis is an eventual Cy Young winner.

Shouldn’t that be remembered as an All Time star studded trade?

While Morgan and Holland found themselves in the 1983 World Series, Davis pitched fairly for the 1983 Giants squad as a starter but got bombed in 1984, leading to his transfer to the bullpen. He was an effective but unspectacular reliever for the 1985 and 1986 Giants but was moved back to spot starting in 1987, where he did not fare well.

Then, with the Giants chasing the Reds for the NL West, Davis was involved in another blockbuster. He was sent with Mark Grant, Keith Comstock and Chris Brown to San Diego for Kevin Mitchell, Dave Dravecky and Craig Lefferts.

Think about that for a second. Mitchell would go on to win the MVP. Davis would win the Cy Young. Shouldn’t that be a legendary trade?

The Padres figured out exactly what to do with the left hander. He was a reliever. Now Lance McCullers and Rich Gossage did the bulk of the closing, but Davis found his role replacing Lefferts as the lefty in the pen.

In 1988, Gossage was gone but Davis still was behind McCullers for the closer role. He would log an occasional save, including going 3 2/3 innings against the eventual World Champion Dodgers on April 12th.

By the end of May, the job was his, and he ran with it. He rattled off 16 saves by the All Star Break. He recorded a 1.93 ERA in July and did not allow a run over 18 2/3 innings in August. Over the second half, he allowed 5 earned runs over 43 innings.

Going into the 1989 season, the Padres were aggressive, picking up Bruce Hurst and Jack Clark in an effort to take the NL West from the Dodgers, Reds and Giants. San Diego held close to San Francisco until they dropped 11 of 12 games in June. They finished the season 20-8 but could never close the gap.

Nobody could blame Mark Davis for the Padres falling short. He picked up where he left off and after a bumpy June, was almost unhittable the rest of the season. He let up no runs in July, pitched to a 1.86 ERA in August and an 0.86 ERA in September, piling up saves along the way.

His dominating performance earned him the Cy Young Award in the off season. The vote wasn’t really close. Davis got 19 first place votes, Mike Scott earned 4 and Orel Hershiser got one more.

Today’s voters would probably give it to Hershiser, who followed up his legendary 1988 with a terrific campaign in 1989. But his win loss record was 15-15, which was all anyone looked at then.

Greg Maddux would also get a lot of consideration today, who also had the old school requirements of 19 wins and being the ace of the Division winning Cubs.

Scott, whose overall numbers were inferior to Hershiser and Maddux, had 20 wins, which everyone loved then.

Now Hershiser and Scott already won Cy Youngs and Maddux would go on to win a closet full of them, so it is tough to feel badly for them not padding their resume in 1989. But there is no way that Davis would win today.

Davis timed his best season with free agency perfectly. Not only was his contract up, but the owners, having been found guilty of collusion, needed to spend big in the off season of 1989.

He signed a massive (by 1989’s standards) contract with the Kansas City Royals. It was a wonderful coup for the Royals. Bret Saberhagen won the 1989 AL Cy Young and now they had the 1989 NL Cy Young winner. It would be the foundation of a wonderful Royals staff.

Midway through April, everything was going according to plan. Davis did not allow a run as he converted his first 3 save chances. Little went well after that. A disastrous May cost him his closer job. By the end of the year, he was used as a middle reliever and spot starter.

He bounced around between 1991 and 1994 between the Royals, Braves, Phillies and back to the Padres. A brief stint with the Brewers in 1997 was the end of his career.

Since then he has been a coach in the Diamondbacks and Royals organizations. All the while played along side All Stars and Hall of Famers in his 13 plus seasons in the majors.

And in his trophy case is a Cy Young Award. Lots of great pitchers can’t say that.

Mark Davis can.

Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – February 17, 2017

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Former Cleveland Indians All Star reliever Sid Monge joins the podcast today.

We talked about his days with the Tribe and the Tigers, his 30 years of coaching and what other sports he could have mastered.

Passing on knowledge with the AL Pitcher of the Month for July, 1979 on thisĀ episode of Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.

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Bruce Sutter 1980 Kellogg’s 3-D Super Stars Card – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for February 16, 2017

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Bruce Sutter is my Go-To reference when I talk about players in the Hall of Fame that I would not have voted for if I had the vote.

Now let me be 100% clear. I have nothing against Bruce Sutter. He had a fine career. His peak was outstanding. And the next time I go to Cooperstown, I will see his plaque, nod and move on. I won’t egg it, cover it in toilet paper or stand by it with a megaphone protesting it.

If I were a Cubs or Cardinals fan, I’d love his inclusion. I am not. I am a Red Sox fan. I am sure some people feel that Jim Rice does not belong in, but I was thrilled at Rice’s election because he was one of my favorite players.

I am not one of those people who do not believe relievers should be in Hall or disrespect closers (or firemen as they were called in Sutter’s day.) I love closers. I wanted to be one growing up.

I just think only a handful of relievers in history belong in the Hall of Fame. Hoyt Wilhelm Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley and Mariano Rivera would be my proverbial Mount Rushmore and probably the only 4 I would admit.

Sutter was an undrafted free agent out of Mount Joy, Pennsylvania signed by the Cubs in 1971. From the start, he was a reliever. A surgery on his arm in 1972 made him change how he gripped the ball. Sutter learned the split finger fastball and he was off and running.

In Single A Key West and Double A Midland and Triple A Wichita, he threw to microscopic ERAs out of the pen. This was at a time when teams were embracing the role of the relief pitcher, so Sutter went through the farm with only two career Single A starts.

Midway through 1976, he got the call to Wrigley. Right away, he became an elite reliever in the National League. He was selected to the 1977 and 1978 All Star teams. In 1979, he was teamed up with Dick Tidrow in the bullpen with Tidrow being the set up man and Sutter closing out the games.

The result of the Tidrow/Sutter combination was a lockdown pen for an 80-82 Cubs team. Sutter saved 37 games and pitched to a 2.22 ERA over 101 1/3 innings. He struck out 110 and walked only 32.

Sutter’s performance won him the Cy Young Award, a title that bolstered his Hall of Fame case. Today there would be no way that he would have won the Cy Young over J R. Richard’s dominant performance or Phil Niekro’s 342 innings (or the other Niekro, Joe, and HIS 21 win season.) But you can not remove Cy Youngs retroactively.

Sutter had another fine All Star season in 1980 but the Cubs were a rotten 64-98. It is amazing that Sutter led the league with 28 saves that year when you consider how infrequently his team had a lead. The Cubs realized they had a luxury they could not afford with a dominant reliever around a lousy team. They shipped him off to St. Louis for a package that included Leon Durham on December 9, 1980.

The Cardinals found themselves in a strange spot that day. The previous day, they made a blockbuster trade with San Diego to acquire Rollie Fingers. So they had the two best relievers in baseball under contract. On the 9th, 10th and 11th of December, Sutter and Fingers were teammates technically. The idea of that tandem must have been tempting.

On the 12th of December, it was over. The Cardinals forked over Ted Simmons, Pete Vuckovich and Fingers to Milwaukee. The Brewers would get 2 Cy Youngs and a MVP out of the deal. The Cardinals would get Dave LaPoint and a few others.

The Cardinals chose Sutter to be their closer. The 1981 Cardinals had the best record in the NL East overall, but they did not make the post season because of the absurd split season playoffs. Sutter won the Rolaids Relief award and led the NL in saves.

In 1982, everything came together for St. Louis. Another saves lead for Sutter, 102 1/3 innings logged out of the pen, and a third place finish for the Cy Young as the Cardinals won the Division.

Sutter closed out the NLCS sweep of the Braves and faced the Brewers in the World Series. An injury to Rollie Fingers made the Brewers bullpen vulnerable. Sutter won a game and saved 2 more as he got the highlight all closers wish for, the final out of the World Series.

In 1984, he had his last great season, matching the record for saves in a season, 45, and throwing 122 2/3 innings along the way. He left St. Louis for Atlanta for the 1985 season. He bombed in Atlanta, missed an entire season and never pitched after 1988, even though he collected a check through 1990.

He had a fine career. He had a fantastic peak. But it was not as long a peak as Rollie Fingers or Rich Gossage. Was his Cy Young what put him over the top?

His career seems more comparable to Dan Quisenberry, who also had a great peak, post season success and many top 5 Cy Young finishes. And yet Quiz was one and done on the ballot and Sutter hung around until he was voted in.

Again, I am not mad that Sutter got elected. I won’t get mad when Trevor Hoffman gets elected either. I just would not have voted for him with all due respect.

But let’s finish this positively and remember his greatest moment, confirming to St. Louis they made the right choice in bullpen closers at the end of the 1982 World Series.