Braves broadcaster and Hall of Famer pitcher Don Sutton knows a thing or two about great rotations. He pitched alongside Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, and he broadcast games pitched by Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. Here’s what he had to say about what the signing of Cliff Lee does for the Phillies rotation:
“If they stay healthy, they could be one of the best in the history of the game,” Sutton said. “What I like is they are four guys who have small egos. They’re going to blend well together. If they stay well, we’re going to be talking about them years from now.”
Sutton said one of things he loves about baseball is being able to talk about history and comparing the great staffs and players from one year to the next.
With Lee joining Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, it’s kicked up conversations about whether they will rank with the best rotations in history. Are they better than the Braves of the 1990s, like the staff of Maddux, Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery of 1993, or the same first three plus Denny Neagle in 1997?
Some have suggested this Phillies rotation will have the best “stuff” since the Dodger rotation of 1966, when Sutton was a rookie playing alongside Koufax, Drysdale and Claude Osteen.
Interestingly enough, Sutton points to a staff he was on with the Houston Astros in 1981 and 1982 that he thinks is getting overlooked in this conversation.
“I’m not sure there was a better one I was a part of than the ‘81 and ‘82 Houston Astros,” Sutton said. “We had (Nolan) Ryan, (Joe) Niekro, (Bob) Knepper and myself and together we won 1,015 games.”
Ryan and Sutton each won 324 games, Joe Niekro (not to be confused with his brother Phil) won 221. Knepper won 150. By comparison, the Braves staff of 1993 won 969 career games, and the staff of 1997 compiled 997 career wins.
So, what about Koufax and Drysdale and the staff of 1966? “We were pretty good,” Sutton said. “But I think any time you run anybody out there with Koufax and Drysdale, all you need are backup singers – when you’ve got Elvis and Sinatra.”
- By Carroll Rogers, Braves blog