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Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Why save your closer?

By Tim Keown
Page 2

Bear with this for a second because there might be an important point about the mechanics of managing a baseball team in here somewhere.

On Saturday night, the Dodgers were tied with the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the ninth: The D-Backs are in first place, the scuffling Dodgers need a win – hey, this game means something. And now the D-Backs have the bases loaded and nobody out, thanks to a mess created by Dodger reliever Giovanni Carrara.

The situation is fairly simple: The Dodgers need one strikeout, and preferably two, to keep the D-Backs from winning the game. Understand, this isn't a save situation because the game is tied.

Among the Dodgers' relievers, who is best equipped to get one or two strikeouts? If you said Eric Gagne, you're right. So why not bring Gagne in to clean up Carrarra's mess? Well, because it's not a save situation, that's why.

So Carrarra – by all accounts a heck of a guy – stays out there and walks Kelly Stinnett to lose the game.

That's right – four balls to Kelly Stinnett with the bases loaded. You think Gagne would have done that?

And answer this: If Carrarra had gotten out of that mess, and the Dodgers had scored three in the top of the 10th, and Gagne had pitched the bottom half without giving up the lead, who would you say saved the game?

The statistics would say Gagne saved it, but logic would say otherwise. The guy who truly saves the game is the one who gets the most important outs, no matter the inning. That's why the save is and will continue to be the most overrated statistic in the game.

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More importantly, what does Rev. Benny Hinn think about all that twisting and shaking?: Good for him, I guess, but what does Evander Holyfield want with that upcoming ballroom-dancing reality show on ABC?

There are maybe five of you who care, but since I've got the keyboard it must be said: The Cal Bears, with a better record and a higher finish than Stanford in the Pac-10, got robbed in a big way when they didn't make the NCAA baseball playoffs and the look-what-we've-done Cardinal did.

There are times when you realize 60 feet just isn't that far away to stand from a guy swinging a bat: Mark Prior and Rick Helling.

Just for the heck of it: Joel Chimelis.

It's comforting to know in these trying times that there's a chance Twins owner Carl Pohlad might soon become the world's richest welfare recipient: Contrary to previous years, there's a chance the voters of Hennepin County might vote for a sales tax that would pay for roughly 75 percent of a new stadium for the Twins; the 25 percent Pohlad would contribute will be quickly recouped by his sale of stadium naming rights.

Hold on a second while I vociferously declare my ignorance: Giants GM Brian Sabean, always quick to deliver unchallenged bluster to the pliant Bay Area media, outdid himself last week by decrying the "National Enquirer" tactics of ESPN and house organ MLB.com for their coverage of Barry Bonds' injury and extended convalescence.

It's nothing more than a funny quirk of history, really: Sabean never seemed to get too hot and bothered when the media were covering Bonds' home-run chase or the Giants' pennant run in 2002 or anything else that might reflect positively on the Giants.

But, really, it bears repeating: Sabean took on MLB.com, the PR arm of big-league baseball, for its hard-hitting reporting.

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By the way: I'll start rooting for The Schwab the day he wears a Doug Frobel jersey on the air.

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You gotta love the guys who talk big and then back it up with the mealy-mouthed "It's-just-a-small-number-of-people-who-spoil-it-for-everyone" smack: Stan Van Gundy, issuing a blanket criticism of Pistons fans before weaseling out of it.

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Now they can get back to the business of being the best team in baseball: The White Sox got a good 6 1/2 innings out of Frank Thomas on Monday before he got hurt again.

Why do these nutcase religious kooks always gravitate toward sports when they want to prove just how far out of the mainstream they reside?: New Jersey state assemblyman Craig Stanley, a Baptist deacon, wants the New Jersey Devils to change their name because he is unhappy with the satanic angle of the whole thing.

One thing Mr. Stanley has on his side: Every other problem in this country has been solved, so it's OK that he's spending his time worrying about the nickname of a hibernating hockey team.

I keep reading this, over and over, but I'd like to hear a woman say she actually believes it: Story after story in the papers Monday said Danica Patrick struck a huge blow for women by finishing fourth in a race people used to care about.

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And out there somewhere, you know what's happening: Danny Fortson sits in front of the television, saying, "Damn, that coulda been me."

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The John Daly sculpture would seem to be a more true-to-life pursuit: According to the Los Angeles Times, a 75-year-old lady named Norma "Duffy" Lyons, known for her butter sculptures, will fashion a butter likeness of Tiger Woods for the Iowa State Fair.

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Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.