WE ARE IN the midst of a double-pronged saves crisis in Major League Baseball, and, frankly, it's keeping Couch Slouch up at night.
First of all, the "save rule" has been under fire for years.
Second of all, baseball's best closers hardly ever blow save opportunities anymore; they're so reliable, they make FedEx look like the U.S. Postal Service.
We'll deal with the save rule first because, well, I brought it up first.
A relief pitcher on the winning team recording the last out can earn a save one of three ways:
(a) Enter the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitch for at least one inning.
(b) Enter the game with the potential tying run on base, at bat or on deck.
© Pitch at least three innings.
In Scenario (a), a pitcher could take over in the ninth inning with a 3-0 lead, and, conceivably, allow two homers, a triple, a double and three walks, hold on for a 3-2 final and earn a save. Think about it - the pitcher allowed seven base runners and had an 18.00 ERA for his inning's work and somehow got statistically rewarded.
In Scenario (b), a pitcher could take over with two outs in the ninth with the bases loaded and a 5-0 lead, and by recording one out - with the tying run on deck - he'd get a save. In fact, he could throw a ball on his first pitch, and if the catcher then picked off the runner at third - bang!!! - that's a save in a 5-0 game.
In Scenario ©, a pitcher could take over in the seventh with, say, a 31-0 lead, allow 30 runs over three somewhat rocky innings and hold on for a 31-30 victory, and, well, there's another save for you.
You can see why the save stat is sometimes discredited by many baseball cognoscenti.
Heck, I believe Goose Gossage once was credited with a save for shouting a profanity at Dave Kingman from the bullpen just before Kingman struck out to end a game.
(Column Intermission: The NBA playoffs don't seem fair. Five or six Western Conference teams capable of winning the title beat up on each other, with only one able to make it to the NBA Finals, while the Miami Heat just strolls through Division II, better known as the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, I have been aggressively tweeting barbs about the Heat's Shane Battier, but I'd better be careful - he might be the first person capable of drawing a charge on Twitter.)
Okay, onto the second issue: