Richard Lee Sutcliffe (born June 21, 1956), nicknamed "The Red Baron," is an American former Major League Baseball pitcher
with the Los Angeles Dodgers
, Cleveland Indians
, Chicago Cubs
, Baltimore Orioles
, and St. Louis Cardinals
between 1976 and 1994. Sutcliffe is currently a broadcaster
A right-hander, Sutcliffe was a three-time All-Star. He won the National League Rookie of the Year
award in and the National League Cy Young Award
Early years and Rookie of the Year
Sutcliffe's first full season in the majors was 1979.
He won 17 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers
and was the first of four consecutive Rookies of the Year
for the Dodgers
from 1979– (Steve Howe
, Fernando Valenzuela
, and Steve Sax
were the others).
[ Although Sutcliffe did not appear on the Dodgers' roster for their 1981 World Series championship run, he was awarded a World Series ring by the team. The Dodgers traded Sutcliffe to the Cleveland Indians for Jorge Orta, a journeyman outfielder on December 9, 1981.
Sutcliffe won 31 games over the course of the next two seasons for Cleveland and led the American League in earned run average in . In mid-, Cleveland traded a struggling Sutcliffe to the Chicago Cubs for Mel Hall and Joe Carter. Sutcliffe rebounded and won 16 games for the Cubs while losing only one, helping them to the division championship. On October 2, 1984, he started the first game of the NLCS against the San Diego Padres, giving up two hits and no runs, not only gaining the victory, but also hitting a home run in the third inning. Five days later, Sutcliffe pitched the final game of the series at Jack Murphy Stadium, but posted the loss after giving up four runs in the seventh inning.
Sutcliffe won the Cy Young Award with a unanimous vote, beating out Dwight Gooden and Bruce Sutter. He also finished fourth in the league MVP voting. When he re-signed with the Cubs as a free agent the following year, his contract briefly made him the highest-paid pitcher in baseball.
Sutcliffe started the season strong, going 5–3 in his first eight starts, including two complete-game shutouts. A hamstring pull on May 19 limited his starts for the year, followed by a series of arm injuries which would limit Sutcliffe's effectiveness over the next two seasons. In , he bounced back to win 18 games and finished second in the league's Cy Young voting to Steve Bedrosian despite playing for a last-place Cubs team which also featured National League Most Valuable Player Andre Dawson. He also was presented 1987's Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to a Major League player who demonstrates sportsmanship and community involvement.
On July 29, 1988, in Philadelphia, Sutcliffe achieved one of baseball's rarest feats, especially for a pitcher, by stealing home plate during an 8–3 win over the Phillies, in which he also notched the victory. In , Sutcliffe won 16 games and made his final All-Star appearance, where he was managed once again by Tommy Lasorda. He also helped the Cubs to another division title, but the Cubs lost to the San Francisco Giants in the playoffs.
Recurring arm injuries caused Sutcliffe to miss most of the and seasons and the Cubs did not offer him a contract for the next season. Signing with the Baltimore Orioles, Sutcliffe went 16–15 and 10–10 in and , starting the first game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. He ended his career with the St. Louis Cardinals in , going 6–4 in an injury-plagued season. He retired with a career record of 171–139, with an ERA of 4.08. He holds the unique distinction of having won each of the following league awards, once each, and each in a different season: Rookie of the Year (1979), Cy Young Award (1984), ERA leader (1982), and wins leader (1987).
As a hitter, Sutcliffe posted a .181 batting average (102-for-562) with 42 runs, 4 home runs, 55 RBI, 4 stolen bases and 34 bases on balls. He had a career-high 17 RBI in 1979 as a member of the Dodgers. Defensively, he was above average, recording a .973 fielding percentage which was 19 points higher than the league average at his position. In eight postseason games, he hit .500 (4-for-8) with 1 run, 1 double, 1 home run and 1 RBI.
After his retirement from baseball, Sutcliffe was the pitching coach for the Idaho Falls Chukars (the "Idaho Falls Padres" at the time) in 1996 and 1997. After his coaching stint in Idaho Falls, Sutcliffe became a color commentator for the San Diego Padres on Channel 4 San Diego (1998–2004), ESPN (1998–present) and DirecTV/MLB International (1997–2002 and since 2010), as well as a minor-league pitching coach in the San Diego Padres system for a couple of seasons.
On March 13, 2008, Sutcliffe was diagnosed with "curable and maintainable" colon cancer. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments in his hometown of Kansas City during the spring of 2008 and returned to work with ESPN on May 21, 2008. He continues to maintain a positive attitude and credits this to his faith, family encouragement, friends, and support from fans. He also is a motivational speaker for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
ESPN announced that they had signed a multi-year extension with Sutcliffe in late 2018. The network announced that Sutcliffe would continue to be the lead analyst for their Wednesday Night Baseball coverage.
Rick Sutcliffe serves as an ESPN MLB analyst, appearing on Wednesday Night Baseball telecasts since 2002. He has also provided commentary for Major League Baseball’s International coverage of the World Series. He joined ESPN full-time in March 1999 after serving as a guest analyst for ESPN Radio’s coverage of the 1998 MLB playoffs. In 2002, he worked the ESPN-produced Division Series telecasts on ABC Family.
* List of Major League Baseball pitchers who have hit home runs in the postseason
Rick Sutcliffe's ESPN Bio
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