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What about Bruce Sutter?
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01/07/2003  2:15 PM ET 
What about Bruce Sutter?
Murray, Carter deserving, but reliever overlooked
Vote now for the 2003 All-Star game
Bruce Sutter led the National League in saves five times. (Chicago Cubs)
There can be no serious quibbles with the election of Eddie Murray and Gary Carter to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The arguments come, as usual, in the cases of deserving candidates who did not quite get to Cooperstown. But in the results of the voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, announced on Tuesday, Murray led the field. He was named on 85 percent of the ballots cast and, in the ultimate tribute, he was elected in his first year of eligibility.

His career numbers meet and exceed the standard criteria: more than 3,000 hits, more than 500 home runs, more than 1,900 runs batted in, and serious longevity, 21 seasons. And he could play some nice first base, too. You cannot realistically ask for much more and the voters didn't.

Hall of Fame 2003

Induction Ceremony
Sunday, July 27
Cooperstown, New York

The inductees
Gary Carter | Eddie Murray

Schedule of weekend events
Complete coverage

Carter's election had become a question of when, not if. He is in his sixth season on the Hall of Fame ballot, and last year he had received 72.7 percent of the vote, with 75 percent needed, only 11 votes out of 472 away from being enshrined. This year, he was up to 78 percent and into Cooperstown.

Carter does not have Murray's career numbers, but he was a catcher and an exceptional one, at that. He meets another standard for Hall of Fame inclusion -- he was a leading player at his position for a long time. Carter was named to 11 All-Star teams. And he held up remarkably well over a 19-year career behind the plate. He holds the Major League catching records for most career putouts and total chances accepted.

So the congratulations that are in order for Eddie Murray and Gary Carter must be sincere congratulations. Their Hall of Fame credentials are in order and their selections are richly deserved.

Final results
 Player Votes   %
 Murray  423  85.3
 Carter  387  78
 Sutter  266  53.6
 Rice  259  52.2
 Dawson  248  50
 Sandberg  244  49.2
 Smith  210  42.3
 Gossage  209  42.1
 Blyleven  145  29.2
 Garvey  138  27.8
 *Kaat  130  26.2
 John  116  23.4
 Morris  113  22.8
 Trammell  70  14.1
 Mattingly  68  13.7
 Murphy  58  11.7
 Concepcion  55  11.1
 Parker  51  10.3
 Valenzuela  31  6.3
 Hernandez  30  6
 Kile  7  1.4
 Coleman  3  0.6
 Butler  2  0.4
 Fernandez  2  0.4
 Honeycutt  2  0.4
 Pena  2  0.4
 Daulton  1  0.2
 Davis  1  0.2
 Tartabull  1  0.2
 Jackson  0  0
 Tettleton  0  0
 Williams  0  0
 Worrell  0  0
*Jim Kaat final year on ballot

The arguments are elsewhere in the 2003 Hall of Fame elections. Two first-year candidates, Ryne Sandberg and Lee Smith, might have been expected to at least get in the voting vicinity of Cooperstown. But Sandberg received only 49.2 percent of the votes cast and Smith received only 42.3 percent.

Sandberg does not have Murray's career numbers, but again, he played second base, a defense-first position, and played it remarkably well and was a 10-time All-Star selection. Smith holds the Major League record for saves with 478. You might imagine that these candidacies would pick up over time, much as Carter's did. But both have a lot of ground to gain between here and Cooperstown.

But I reserve most of my serious issues with this election for a candidate who is never totally overlooked, but never actually elected, either. That would be this year's third-place finisher, Bruce Sutter, who was named on 54 percent of the ballots. (Last year he was fourth with 50.4 percent.)

Sutter was a pioneer of the split-fingered fastball, a pitch that eventually became a staple of the game. More than that, he defined the closer's role in the modern era's formative years of that job, the mid-'70s through the mid-'80s. He led the National League in saves five times and he was absolutely dominant in those seasons and others.

If his career was not as long as some others, he still had 300 saves and his career ERA was a superb 2.83. He was often his own setup man, coming out of the bullpen in the eighth inning, occasionally even the seventh.

It was not his fault that some of his finest seasons came while he was employed by the Chicago Cubs. This situation probably kept him out of the national spotlight for some time, but when he got a chance to be with a winner, he delivered. Sutter had one save and one victory in the 1982 NLCS for the St. Louis Cardinals and then had two saves in the Cardinals' World Series triumph that season.

    Bruce Sutter   /   P
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 190
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
Career stats
Sutter autographed ball
etopps
Bruce Sutter's work was of Hall of Fame quality. His support from the voting members of the BBWAA has been substantial, but not substantial enough. After 10 years on the Hall of Fame ballot, it is not clear what would have to change to get Sutter from more than half of the votes to 75 percent of the votes. But he deserves to be in the Hall, with or without the additional votes.

The very nature of the Hall of Fame leaves us with these sorts of debates on an annual basis. Everybody has a favorite candidate or two who gets some support, but not quite the magic amount of support, from the voters. The electorate in this case guards the gates of Cooperstown with a great deal of zeal. The voters, if they err at all, will err on the side of not letting in enough candidates. And for all of our individual preferences, if it were otherwise, it wouldn't be the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

So Eddie Murray and Gary Carter are to be doubly congratulated. There were, as always, more than enough worthy candidates. But the voters found these two to be the worthiest of all.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.





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