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Legendary Dodgers pitcher dies at 75

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Don Sutton, a Hall of Fame pitcher who was a stalwart of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rotation spanning an era from Sandy Koufax to Fernando Valenzuela, died Tuesday. He was 75.

The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, said Sutton died at his home in Rancho Mirage, California, after a long struggle with cancer. The Atlanta Braves, for whom Sutton was a long-time broadcaster, said he died in his sleep.

A four-time All-Star, Sutton had a career record of 324-256 and an ERA of 3.26 while pitching for the Dodgers, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, California Angels and the Dodgers again in 1988, his final season.

The durable Sutton never missed a turn in the rotation in 756 big league starts. Only Cy Young and Nolan Ryan made more starts than Sutton, who never landed on the injured list in his 23-year career.

A master of changing speeds and pitch location, Sutton recorded just one 20-win season but earned 10 or more wins in every year except 1983 and 1988. Of his victories, 58 were shutouts, five were one-hitters and 10 were two-hitters. The right-hander is seventh on the career strikeout list with 3,574.

Sutton ranks third all-time in games started and seventh in innings pitched (5,282 1/3). He worked at least 200 innings in 20 of his first 21 seasons, with only the strike-shortened 1981 season interrupting his streak.

“He worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever known and he treated those he encountered with great respect … and he took me to work a lot,” his son, Daron, wrote on Twitter. “For all these things, I am very grateful.”

Donald Howard Sutton was born April 2, 1945, in Clio, Alabama, the son of sharecroppers. The family moved to northern Florida, where Sutton was a three-sport star in high school who showed an affinity for baseball as a youngster. He played the sport in junior college before the Dodgers signed him as a free agent in September 1964, months before the first MLB draft.

After going 23-7 during one season in the minors, Sutton won a spot in the Dodgers’ rotation in 1966. He made his big league debut for the defending World Series champions on April 14, 1966, and earned his first victory four days later.

Sutton immediately found himself in a rotation with Koufax, Don Drysdale and Claude Osteen as the fourth starter. Sutton recorded 209 strikeouts that season, the highest total for a rookie since 1911.

He helped the Dodgers win National League pennants in 1974, 1977 and 1978.

“Today we lost a great ballplayer, a great broadcaster and, most importantly a great person,” Dodgers president Stan Kasten said. “I was privileged to have worked with Don in both Atlanta and Washington, and will always cherish our time spent together.”

Sutton left the Dodgers as a free agent in 1980 and signed with Houston.

A trade in 1982 sent Sutton to the Brewers, where he pitched Milwaukee to its first American League pennant. He worked for his sixth postseason team in 1986 with the AL West champion Angels and then returned to the Dodgers in 1988, retiring before the end of a season that saw them win the World Series.

Sutton was 4-1 with a 2.02 ERA in seven National League Championship Series games and was 2-3 in eight World Series games. In the 1974 postseason for the Dodgers, he was 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA and 25 strikeouts in four games.

He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. The Dodgers retired his number 20 the same year.

“2021 is just taking freaking legends man,” Alex Wood, former Dodgers and Braves pitcher, wrote on Twitter. “Getting to be around Don every day my first few years with the Braves was something I will cherish forever. He genuinely cared about everyone he talked to and was a wealth of knowledge. Prayers up for his family.”

During his long career in Southern California, Sutton also took a stab at show business, appearing on the iconic game show, “Match Game.”

Sutton carved out a new career as a broadcaster after his playing days ended, spent almost entirely with the Atlanta Braves.

He joined the Braves in 1989 when they were one of baseball’s worst teams but had developed a national following through the TBS superstation and its trio of broadcasters: Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren and Ernie Johnson Sr.

Sutton was part of the soundtrack for Atlanta’s worst-to-first season in 1991, its dominating run of 14 straight division titles, and the 1995 World Series championship. He called Braves games on television and radio for 28 of 30 seasons, interrupted only by his move to the Washington Nationals in 2007. He returned to the Braves in 2009 and continued to broadcast games through the 2018 NL Division Series, when Atlanta lost to his long-time team, the Dodgers.

Shortly before the start of the following season, Sutton broke his left leg. He struggled with his recovery and never returned to the booth.

The Braves said they were “deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend.”

“A generation of Braves fans came to know his voice,” the team said in a statement. “Don brought an unmatched knowledge of the game and his sharp wit to his calls. But despite all his success, Don never lost his generous spirit or humble personality.”

Sutton’s passing comes on the heels of seven Hall of Famers dying in 2020, the most sitting members of Cooperstown to pass away in a calendar year. They were Lou Brock, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan, Phil Niekro and Tom Seaver.

Sutton pitched for Dodgers Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, who died on Jan. 7.

“ENOUGH! #DonSutton Such a classy man,” Reds Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench wrote on Twitter. “Great career not only in baseball but broadcasting as well. I am so sad.”

Besides his son, Sutton is survived by his wife, Mary, and daughters Staci and Jacquie.

Mets get rid of GM

NEW YORK — Jared Porter went from rising star to unemployed — literally overnight.

Just more than a month after joining the New York Mets as general manager, Porter was fired Tuesday for sending sexually explicit, uninvited text messages and images to a female reporter in 2016 when he was working for the Chicago Cubs in their front office.

ESPN reported late Monday that Porter sent dozens of unanswered texts to the woman, including a picture of genitalia, ESPN said it obtained a copy of the text history, and many of the messages and photos he sent were displayed in the report online.

About nine hours later, new Mets owner Steve Cohen posted on Twitter that Porter had been fired.

“We have terminated Jared Porter this morning,” Cohen wrote Tuesday. “In my initial press conference I spoke about the importance of integrity and I meant it. There should be zero tolerance for this type of behavior.”

Approximately 30 minutes after that, the Mets released a statement from team president Sandy Alderson saying the move was effective immediately.

“Jared’s actions, as reflected by events disclosed last night, failed to meet the Mets’ standards for professionalism and personal conduct,” Alderson said.

New York hired the 41-year-old Porter last month. He agreed to a four-year contract after spending the past four seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks as senior vice president and assistant general manager.

It was not immediately clear if the Mets planned to replace Porter with a new GM. Porter reported to Alderson, who is running baseball operations.

The woman was not identified in the report. ESPN said she recently chose to come forward only on condition of anonymity because she is afraid of backlash in her home country.

In a statement Monday night addressing the report, Alderson said the Mets would “follow up” as they reviewed “the facts regarding this serious issue.”

“I have spoken directly with Jared Porter regarding events that took place in 2016 of which we were made aware tonight for the first time. Jared has acknowledged to me his serious error in judgment, has taken responsibility for his conduct, has expressed remorse, and has previously apologized for his actions,” Alderson said in that statement.

“The Mets take these matters seriously, expect professional and ethical behavior from all of our employees, and certainly do not condone the conduct described in (the ESPN) story.”

ESPN said the woman was a foreign correspondent who had moved to the United States to cover Major League Baseball. She met Porter in a Yankee Stadium elevator in June 2016, and she said they spoke briefly about international baseball and exchanged business cards. She told ESPN that was the only time they ever spoke.

After text exchanges that began casually, Porter started complimenting her looks, inviting her to meet him in different cities and asking why she was ignoring him, ESPN said.

After he sent her a lewd picture, the woman ignored more than 60 messages from Porter before he sent the most vulgar photo, according to ESPN. The woman told ESPN she intentionally tried to avoid him at a couple of big league ballparks and the texts from Porter ultimately contributed to her decision to leave journalism and return to her home country.

Porter texted apologies to the woman in 2016 after she saw the naked picture and wrote to him that his messages were “extremely inappropriate, very offensive, and getting out of line,” ESPN reported.

ESPN said it contacted Porter on Monday evening, and he acknowledged texting with the woman. At first, he said he hadn’t sent any pictures of himself, but when informed the exchanges show that he sent selfies and other pictures, he said “the more explicit ones are not of me. Those are like, kinda like joke-stock images,” ESPN reported.

After asking whether the outlet intended to run a story, Porter requested more time before later declining further comment, ESPN said.

It’s another embarrassing development for the Mets, who have energized fans by acquiring star shortstop Francisco Lindor and several other notable players since Cohen purchased the club from the Wilpon and Katz families for $2.42 billion in early November.

Last offseason, under previous GM Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets hired former slugger Carlos Beltran as manager only to cut ties with him 2 1/2 months later when he was implicated in MLB’s investigation of illegal sign stealing by Houston while Beltran was an Astros player in 2017.

Beltran was let go by the Mets — without managing a single game — just more than a year ago on Jan. 16, 2020, following a tenure that lasted 77 days. Porter was fired less than 40 days after being introduced as GM of the Mets, which he called “a dream job.”

Before his Diamondbacks tenure, Porter worked under Theo Epstein with the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, winning three World Series championships in Boston’s front office and another with the Cubs. ESPN said Porter was the Cubs’ director of professional scouting when he sent the messages to the woman.

Not fully familiar with the English language and American culture, the woman received help from an interpreter in constructing a message to Porter asking him to “please stop sending offensive photos” or messages. He apologized by text multiple times and said he would stop, ESPN reported.

ESPN said it interviewed three other people who said they saw or were told about the texts at the time.

The woman eventually informed her bosses and was connected in 2016 with a lawyer and a Cubs employee from her home country, ESPN reported. She didn’t want to identify the employee publicly because she feared retribution, according to ESPN.

She said the Cubs employee told her Porter wanted to apologize in person, but she didn’t want to see him. She said the employee pressed her repeatedly on whether she planned to file a lawsuit against Porter and months later got angry when she saw the employee at spring training in 2017 and said she was still considering it, ESPN reported.

ESPN said the employee confirmed Monday that he discussed the situation with Porter and the woman but denied getting angry. The woman did not pursue legal action and told ESPN she doesn’t plan to.

“This story came to our attention tonight and we are not aware of this incident ever being reported to the organization,” the Cubs said in a statement given to ESPN late Monday.

“Had we been notified, we would have taken swift action as the alleged behavior is in violation of our code of conduct,” the club said. “While these two individuals are no longer with the organization, we take issues of sexual harassment seriously and plan to investigate the matter.”

Cohen brought back Alderson, the Mets’ general manager from 2010-18, as team president and he immediately fired Van Wagenen and several of his top front-office aides.

The team initially sought to hire a president of baseball operations but changed course when it was unable to attain permission to interview several candidates around the majors and at least one did not want to move to New York.

Instead, the 73-year-old Alderson has taken over baseball operations, and the idea was for Porter to potentially grow into that role.

“I think what we’ve talked about the most is just a cultural shift, for one,” Porter said when introduced as GM last month. “Adding good people to the organization. Improving on the organizational culture.”

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