Says Claire, who has seen both sides, "The job has changed so much that even a guy with 30 years in an organization might get fired. You better win, and you better say and do the right things. And you better hold on to your hat, because it's going to be a rocky ride."
News Flash For Gordon
Tom Gordon of the Red Sox was tied for the American League lead with 25 saves at week's end, which is particularly notable because Gordon seems to have little idea what a save is. A starter for most of his first nine seasons, Gordon had just three saves before becoming a closer for Boston last August, and he admitted on April 29 that he didn't understand the rules that govern a save situation. He got his ninth save that day in an 8-4 win over the Angels after entering the game with two outs and two runners on base in the ninth inning. He retired Cecil Fielder on a fly-out and was credited with a save because the tying run was in the on-deck circle. "I couldn't tell you how that worked," Gordon said later. "[Dennis] Eckersley was trying to explain it to me when we came in the clubhouse, but I really don't even want to know."
After saving a June 17 game at Comiskey Park, Gordon still had no clue. With the Red Sox leading 6-5, he came into the game with one out and a runner on base in the eighth and retired the next two hitters. Boston scored six runs in the top of the ninth to take a 12-5 lead, and Gordon then closed out the win by holding the White Sox scoreless in the bottom of the ninth. "I thought in the eighth inning that I had a chance for a save," he said afterward, "but when we scored six runs, I thought I was done."
Apparently Gordon isn't the only closer who lacks a firm grasp of the stat by which relievers are most commonly measured. Just listen to several of his peers.
The Rangers' John Wetteland (22 saves): "I get real confused. Sometimes I ask my teammates if it's a save situation."
The Giants' Robb Nen (25 saves): "I was a starter coming up, so I haven't really kept up on all the ways to get a save. I still don't realize whether I've gotten a save or not. Somebody has to tell me. If it's a save, fine, but I'm not worried about it."
The Mariners' Heathcliff Slocumb (three saves): "I didn't know until recently that you had to pitch a complete inning to get a save. [He's wrong, of course.] And isn't there something about pitching the fifth inning of a rainout?" No.
The Angels' Troy Percival (25 saves): "I made a bet with Lee Smith on what was a save and what wasn't. I lost 50 bucks. Then I learned the rules."
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]