Readers of The Kansas City Star have lost two prominent columnists in the last year. Some readers might lose interest in the city's sports section as a result, but they'd miss the next great columnist in Kansas City sports: Sam Mellinger. Unlike other sports-opinion writers, Mellinger understands the statistics-based analysis that plays an increasingly prominent role in how fans understand games. And unlike Jason Whitlock, Mellinger writes 12 months a year. Best of all, he's a true reporter who rewards readers with access. To wit: His dazzling Jose Guillen profile provided terrific insight on an enigmatic subject, and his column on Wizards goalkeeper and recovering gambling addict Jimmy Nielsen was smart and well-crafted.