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Hold on relief box scores have gone too far


Sometimes you just have to wonder when, or if, baseball's statistical craze will end. Or, at the very least, hope that the Figure Filberts of the world find a merciful way to put the rest of us out of our misery.

Trying to read some of the newfangled "everything you don't need to know and therefore didn't ask for" box scores is enough to provide indigestion at the breakfast table. They seem to provide everything but body temperatures and horoscopes and are about as easy to read as the assembly directions on those "do it yourself" kits.

Enough of this nonsense already. All we really need to know is who won or lost and which players were significant performers. We're not trying to split the atom here. It's a game, not a mathematical thesis.

The lunacy of some statistics was emphasized, again, earlier in the week. Those who are tracking Gregg Olson's efforts with the Atlanta Braves may have noticed that the ex-Orioles reliever was credited with his first "hold" of the season Tuesday night. In the same game he also got his second loss and his successor, Mike Stanton, was charged with a blown save -- after retiring the only batter he faced. Just another routine day in the toy department.

The "hold" is an unofficial term coined a few years ago by USA Today, the nation's leading stat manufacturer. The intention was to create something to reward pitchers who are often overworked and underexposed.

Supposedly, a "hold" is the long reliever's answer to the "save," which started as an unofficial statistic, but is now included in the record book. Heretofore long relievers were rewarded with "attaboys." After a good performance they got a pat on the back, accompanied by a congratulatory "attaboy." At the end of the season, the pitcher with the most "attaboys" was long reliever of the year.

Three nights ago, Olson entered a game with a 9-8 lead, pitched a scoreless sixth inning, then loaded the bases with nobody out in the seventh. He left the game with the score still 9-8, thereby qualifying for a "hold." Stanton gave up a sacrifice fly that drove in the tying run and then departed, qualifying for a "blown save."

Is this picture getting any clearer yet? When the rest of the lTC runners he left on base scored, Olson had a very official loss to go with his inconsequential "hold." Needless to say, he didn't get an "attaboy."

Baseball doesn't need any more statistics and should clean up a few already in existence, most notably the save rule. Remember the "game-winning RBI?" That one went from unofficial to official before it was trashed -- even though the numbers supported the contention that it was indicative of a player's performance.

The "hold" should be put on permanent hold before somebody runs amok and tries to make it an official entry. It's time to start a campaign to clean up the box score and get back to the "attaboys."

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