Thursday, September 6, 2012

#428 - Gary Sutherland

Ah, the return of the Traded card. These things have been getting pretty scarce lately and this one is pretty interesting because its subject is yet another guy who by all rights shouldn’t have had a card in this set. Gary Sutherland only had a total of 62 MLB at bats the past two seasons when this card was printed and his inclusion in the trade here was sort of a throw-in. But give Topps props for its crystal ball gazing. Gary would go on to put up the next two seasons as the regular Detroit second baseman from pretty much out of nowhere; or in baseball’s version of nowhere as a 30 year old Triple A player. He did have a bang up year at that level in ’73, posting a .294 average with 36 doubles and 80 RBI’s while leading his league in fielding at second. Gary’s regular card shot shows him in an away uniform at what may be Shea. The Traded shot appears to be older, in a flannel away jersey that is probably Houston’s as well, possibly from ’72. That air-brush job isn’t too terrible. They should have put a Detroit skyscape in the background to add some authenticity.

Gary Sutherland was sort of a west coast version of Bobby Valentine while growing up. At nine he was a local figure skating champion and at Glendale High he would be a basketball and baseball star. After graduating in ’62 he went to USC where he continued to play those two sports. His sophomore year of ’64 he won his team’s defensive player of the year award in hoops and in baseball he was All-American. That summer he was busy as well, playing for the Goldpanners in Alaska – where he hit .365 – and playing in Tokyo in the Olympics where baseball was a demonstration sport (in their one game the US beat Japan). Later that year he was signed by the Phillies and halfway through his junior year would begin his career, putting up a .285 average in Double A and having a fine defensive year at second. The next year he moved up a level where he hit .254, this time while playing shortstop. Gary could put the ball in play and only had 67 strikeouts during his first two full seasons. 

 In ’67 Sutherland came up to Philadelphia where he started off hot – he was hitting .400 in early May – and was initially platooned in left field with Johnny Briggs. Gary's average cooled off a bunch the rest of the way and he spent the balance of the season backing up Bobby Wine at short. In ’68 he did the back-up thing again, this time adding third and second to his position arsenal while raising his average a bunch. After the season he went to Montreal in the expansion draft. There he was reunited with manager Gene Mauch and DP partner Wine and in ’69 he teamed with Bobby to form an excellent defensive middle infield for the new team. The trouble was though that neither of them hit terribly well, though Gary did continue his low K totals. In ’70 Gary had a hand injury for much of the season, lost some starting time to Marv Stahle, and saw his average drop thirty points. In ’71 Montreal acquired Ron Hunt from the Giants and Gary got more starts at short than at second as Wine's career was winding down. He did raise his average 50 points, though, which should have helped keep him in the lineup. But in the off-season Montreal picked up Tim Foli from the Mets in a big trade and Gary was sent to the minors. In Triple A he hit .285 before being sold to Houston midway through the season. For the Astros he remained at that level and hit just shy of .300 the rest of the way. After a very similar ’73 he went to Detroit in this trade.

For the Tigers Sutherland immediately took over second base, getting 619 at bats in ’74, by far his most at the MLB level. He hit .254 and then .258 the next year. Both were unfortunately pretty nasty years for the franchise. In ’76 Gary kicked off the year hitting only .205 and was traded to the Brewers for Pedro Garcia, another low-average second baseman. For Milwaukee the rest of the way he would split starting time with Tim Johnson and not improve his average terribly much. After the season he was released and signed with San Diego as a free agent. For the Padres he spent the ’77 season backing up rookie Mike Champion at second, hit .243 and was again released. He hooked up with the Cards for whom he had a token few at bats in early ’78 before he was cut loose in May. He finished with a .243 average with only 219 strikeouts in over 3,100 at bats.

After baseball Sutherland returned to the coast where he gave real estate a shot for a couple years. By ’80 he was back in ball, though, where he would have a long career as a scout: for San Diego (’80-’81; he discovered Tony Gwynn); Cleveland (‘82-’89); the Dodgers (’90-’98); and the Angels (’99-2011). For that last team he would rise to director of scouting until he was swept out last November after the California GM was cut loose. I am unsure what he has been doing since.

Gary’s star bullets are a bit more qualified in nature than quantified. That last name must give him hand cramps at card shows.

As indicated above, Topps does a nice job with the prediction on Gary’s at least immediate future in Detroit. Lots of excessive language here: “Super Scout” makes it seem like that Tighe guy wore a cape and his quote that ends the narrative seems awfully escalated.

Let’s try another utility guy for the hook-up:

1. Sutherland and Ty Cline ’69 Expos;
2. Cline and Bobby Bolin ’67 to ’68 Giants.

Ty Cline was a mostly back-up outfielder and first baseman who swung a light bat for a bunch of teams in the Sixties and early Seventies. He had a nice little post-season run for the Reds in ’70.

1 comment:

  1. I think his regular card is from spring training, not Shea Stadium.