Mariano Rivera's save that wasn't

Rob Carr

Today's HERO IN SPORTS?

By my lights, it's Mark Jacobson, the official scorer in Thursday night's Yankees-Orioles game. Briefly, here's what happened ...

Heading into the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees were beating the Orioles 5-2. David Robertson, who's pitched brilliantly all season, entered the game and got lit up like a White House Christmas tree, giving up four hits including a three-run homer that tied the game. He did finish the inning. In the top of the ninth, the Yankees scored once to take a 6-5 lead. Mariano Rivera retired all three batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth to earn his one millionth career save.

Except he didn't. Earn the save, I mean. He did retire all three batters he faced. Something like, what, 99 times out of 100 he would have earned the save. But Mark Jacobson went in a different direction. Jacobson gave Rivera the WIN. And Joe Girardi didn't like it one bit:

Told of the scoring decision, manager Joe Girardi said he believed the scorer had made "a mistake." It was Rivera's sixth victory of the season against two losses, and he has 651 career regular-season saves.

l like Joe Girardi. But I wish he would stick to managing, and stay out of official scoring. Because while the applicable rule does leave room for interpretation, it seems pretty clear that Jacobson did not make a mistake.

Rule 10.17(c) The official scorer shall not credit as the winning pitcher a relief pitcher who is ineffective in a brief appearance, when at least one succeeding relief pitcher pitches effectively in helping his team maintain its lead. In such a case, the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the succeeding relief pitcher who was most effective, in the judgment of the official scorer.

Comment: The official scorer generally should, but is not required to, consider the appearance of a relief pitcher to be ineffective and brief if such relief pitcher pitches less than one inning and allows two or more earned runs to score (even if such runs are charged to a previous pitcher).

Well, okay ... In fairness to Girardi, there's even more interpretation here than I realized. Looking at the first part of that, it seems the scorer has a great deal of leeway in defining both "ineffective" and "brief" ... but the comment below does seem to semi-define both criteria. Or does that "generally should, but is not required to" clause merely offer guidance on the specific situation, while leaving room for other definitions of "ineffective and brief," too?

I don't know. There's not a lot of precedent on Jacobson's side, as this is reportedly just the fourth time in the last 25 years that a relief pitcher has been given a win when he could have been given a save. But there is precedent. And there's also common sense. In no sense of the word does Robertson deserve a W for his performance Thursday night. What happened Thursday night should happen a lot more often, except very few people care about the integrity of the statistics. They care about themselves, so the closers want saves and the set-up men want wins and the scorers don't want to annoy anybody because the players can be such whiny, abusive jerks.

Not Mariano Rivera, of course. His reaction?

"I'm fine with that. We won."

Gonna miss that guy.

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