Sutcliffe Traded Midseason, Catalyst to Cy Young Award
By Vince Guerrieri
In 2009, the Indians became the first team in Major League history to trade Cy Young Award winners in back-to-back years.
But in 1984, the Indians traded a pitcher in what turned out to be his Cy Young season – and ended up getting the better of the deal.
Rick Sutcliffe came to the Indians from the Dodgers. He won the 1979 Rookie of the Year award, the first of four Dodgers in a row so recognized, and at the end of the 1981 season went on a screaming destructive tirade against manager Tommy Lasorda when he was left off the postseason roster (the Dodgers would go on to win the World Series that year), and was dealt to the Tribe for Jorge Orta.
In 1982, he led the American League in ERA, and won a total of 31 games in two years for mediocre Tribe teams. But in 1984, he was 4-5 with an abscessed tooth and an ear infection. The last-place Indians were thrilled to deal him, Ron Hassey and George Frazier to the Cubs, in the thick of a pennant race. “I picked up 25 games in one night,” Sutcliffe said.
All Sutcliffe did was go 16-1 for the Cubs down the stretch, as they won the National League East and advanced to the postseason for the first time since 1945. In the National League Championship Series opener, Sutcliffe threw a shutout – and hit a home run – for the Cubs win. The Cubs won the next game, and it looked like a trip to the World Series was in the cards. But it was not to be. The Padres came back from a two game deficit to win what was then a best-of-five series. But Sutcliffe went on to win the National League Cy Young Award unanimously, and was fourth in MVP voting. The Indians, meanwhile, finished sixth in the seven-team American League East, 29 games behind eventual World Champion Detroit.
Even then, Sports Illustrated wondered if Cubs general manager Dallas Green gave away the store for Sutcliffe. Among those dealt to Cleveland were Mel Hall and Joe Carter. Hall was a good defensive outfielder with a little pop for the Indians before he moved on to the Yankees, a stint in Japan and then the Giants. Carter was a slugger that was the heart of the Indians’ lineup until 1989 – when he was the subject of another great trade in Indians history.
Carter was dealt to San Diego for Sandy Alomar – a top-flight catching prospect who was stuck behind Benito Santiago – and Carlos Baerga, two players who became cornerstones of the Tribe dynasty of the 1990s.
Photo: Sports Illustrated