The other day John Sterling related a bit about Dennis Eckersley while a reliever for Oakland. Eckersley had been preparing to come into a game in which his team had a 3 run lead, but a catastrophe happened. Oakland scored another run, thereby removing the "save" opportunity for Eckersley. Sterling's impression was that Eckersley was furious, boy was he mad (that he wouldn't get the "save" stat). Sterling didn't give the date, but it had to be between 1988 and 1995, the years in which he compiled the most "saves" for Oakland
. By the time this took place, the "save" stat had evolved into a snappy marketing vehicle to compile for awards. Irrespective of the degrees of difficulty of various kinds of saves. To create more sizzle, then grew the save "conversion" stat (which also ignores various degrees of difficulty), and the "1-2-3" closer stat.
A major function of the "save" stat, the "save opportunity" was the one that apparently had Eckersley fuming on the occasion Sterling spoke of. Roughly between 1983 and 1988, someone successfully sold the idea that an actual fragment of a stat, the "total save stat" could be manipulated (up or down) as a celebrity and awards vehicle--for regular season appearances. Perhaps the dramatic flourishes provided by Eckersley added to the aura. Which isn't to say he's the only guy ever upset over the loss of a save "opportunity."