Imagine being the agent for Texas Rangers relief pitcher Wes Littleton this winter and going in to general manager Jon Daniels’ office this winter to ask for a raise for your client.

Assuming you’re not willing to wait for arbitration, you’d probably try to make a case based on Littleton’s two-year career with the Rangers, which has been pretty solid. He’s worked mostly in middle relief and set-up roles and batters are hitting something like .230 against him in 50-some-odd appearances.

But set-up guys don’t get paid the big bucks, so it’s up to you as Littleton’s agent to make his stats as sexy as possible. You have no choice but to point out that he’s never blown a save opportunity.

Daniels, if he has any pride, will probably spit out his coffee and tell you to get your butt out of his office. You see, as of yesterday, Littleton has all of two saves in his big league career, and one of those came Wednesday night… when the Rangers drubbed the Orioles, 30-3.

Oh, it wasn’t like Littleton had a 27-run lead to protect the whole time. It was only 14-3 when he came into the game to start the seventh inning. He really had to bear down to get those three outs and allow his team to give him a little more cushion with a 10-run eighth inning.

Littleton got the save because he had the good fortune of getting the call in the blow-out to end all blow-outs and because the save rule in baseball is one of the dumbest rules in all of sports.

There are a number of ways to get a save, but the one that applies to Littleton was that he came in with the lead and pitched three full innings Wednesday without giving it up.

And while this is an extreme example, it is by no means rare. Just one night earlier, the Anaheim Angels’ Marc Gwynn got the save in their 18-9 pummeling of the New York Yankees. And he wasn’t exactly lights out, either. He gave up four runs (two earned) on four hits in his three innings of work.

Look, give Littleton credit for doing his job. Of course, a trained seal could protect an 11-run, 21-run or 27-run bulge (the leads Texas had when Littleton took the mound for the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, respectively). But he came on in the first game of a double-header and allowed manager Ron Washington to save his bullpen for the second game, a 9-7 game in which, as it turned out, he needed to use four relievers. It’s not Littleton’s fault the save rule is so absurd.

But it is a joke when, with the LaRussaization of pitcher use over the last 25 years, closers are now getting all the credit, and the big bucks, to come in and finish off games when often they’ve come in with little or no danger of blowing the lead or after the heavy lifting has already been done by a set-up guy who got the team out of a jam in the sixth, seventh or eighth inning.

Littleton’s agent doesn’t care about this. Neither do the agents for the Joe Borowskis and David Weathers of baseball who regularly come into 6-3 games in the ninth and give up two or three hits and a run or two before getting three outs, a bunch of handshakes and, most importantly, an all-important save to put on their resume come salary arbitration season.


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