Allen Barra of the Village Voice quotes 88-year-old Hall of Famer and part-time Mets announcer Ralph Kiner on the evolution of the closer role and the modern manager’s obsession with saves:
One of the worst things they ever did to relief pitching was invent the “save” category. If they hadn’t done that, managers would bring in their best relief pitchers at the point in the game where he could do his team the most good. Casey Stengel used to do that, and so, a lot of times, did Leo Durocher.
Now you’re paying the relief aces for saves, and you can only bring them in in save situations where your team is already ahead. They show you how many games a relief pitcher saves, but they never tell you how many games a team loses because a manager didn’t use his best reliever in the toughest situation.