The St. Louis Cardinals’ All-Time 28-Man Roster

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Bullpen Slot #8 Bruce Sutter

Worrel/Kline to Isringhuasen to Smith to Sutter? Tell me that’s not a vaunted bullpen combination. Bruce Sutter, like Smith and Kline had a brief albeit magnificent career as a Cardinal. Sutter came to the Cardinals via the rival Chicago Cubs and like Lou Brock was rewarded with a World Series ring. Sutter was traded for the combination of Leon Durham and Ken Reitz in the 1980 0ffseason.

I will warn you that while Sutter doesn’t have the numbers of a Lee Smith or a Jason Isringhausen, Sutter is one of the greatest closers to ever play the game. In the words of manager Whitey Herzog, “He had the best makeup of any closer I’ve ever seen”. Sutter wasn’t the traditional closer like an Isringhausen or Smith was.

Sutter was most often used for two innings at a time and sometimes three innings, as was evidenced by Sutter’s 396.2 innings as the Cardinals’ closer. Singlehandedly being both the setup man and closer, shutting the door down and limiting teams to 21 outs instead of 27 outs.

In just four years, Sutter saved 127 games and had a 2.83 ERA (2.94 FIP) with the Cardinals, a record at the time he left the team after the 1984 season. A record that Todd Worrell would break in 1992. As a Cardinal Sutter had his absolute best season of his career in 1984, where he pitched to a sparkling 1.54 ERA (3.05 FIP) and saved 45 games, which was good for the NL record at the time.

Sutter’s split fingered fastball jumpstarted what was a languishing minor league career into a Hall of Fame career, as Sutter was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006, a whopping 13 seasons after first becoming eligible in 1993. While many trivialize what it takes to be a closer, Sutter was truly one of the best and did it the hard way by pitching as many innings as he did. I firmly believe that had Sutter done it like closers do today and how Lee Smith was eventually used, he would have pitched a few seasons longer and probably had set the bar a little higher for Smith.

The fact that Sutter is sitting in the Hall of Fame and Smith and Trevor Hoffman are well on the outside looking in tells me that people generally feel that Sutter was without a doubt one of the best guys to ever do the job.

Next: Bench Spot #1 - OF Joe Medwick