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Hoffman deserves spot in Hall of Fame

Value went far beyond stats ... and he had the stats
Padres.com

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Hall of Fame ballots were received late last week by the 425 eligible voters from the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Hall of Fame ballots were received late last week by the 425 eligible voters from the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

In what has become a recent trend, the arrival of ballots unleashed comments from those who annually disparage the credentials of many players on the ballot.

First of all, most of those don't have votes. True, the BBWAA did alter membership rules several years ago to widen the membership spectrum. Given the health of newspapers, I backed this expansion.

But to have a Hall of Fame vote, a member must be active in the BBWAA for 10 years -- in other words, a true background in the game.

I was a bit shocked last week to see Trevor Hoffman's credentials for the Hall of Fame called into question by some using a wave of new-age statistics.

I have an answer for those types.

Impact!

Impact has always been my first criteria for my Hall of Fame vote. Did the player on the ballot have impact? And when you look deeper at the criteria -- a positive impact.

Trevor Hoffman made an impact. And it was nothing but positive.

You can find obtuse statistics to support any position. I know. I majored in mathematics and statistical analysis way back when.

I love many -- make that most -- of the modern baseball statistics.

But statistics alone don't measure the value of a player. And the further you head out the statistical tree, the further you distance yourself from the eye test.

I was among the 68 percent who voted for Trevor Hoffman in 2015, the first time he was eligible for the Hall of Fame. I was among the 74 percent who voted for him last year. And had five more members of the BBWAA voted for Hoffman in December 2016, I wouldn't be writing this now.

In my mind, Trevor Hoffman deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. And I've talked to a number of Major League players who faced or played with Hoffman who agree with that point. And they didn't have to go to statistics to reach that conclusion.

One, they saw Hoffman in action -- that focused mindset of a closer combined with one of the great changeups of all time.

Two, they knew what Hoffman had done.

Six-hundred-and-one times during his career, Hoffman got the save.

Think that's easy?

Think again.

I've seen a lot of great relievers in my time. But only a small percentage became great closers. Getting the final three outs of a win is getting the toughest three outs in a game. Stuff alone doesn't get the job done. Closing is part psychological warfare.

Impact.

Not only did Hoffman get 601 saves, he helped change the way the game was played. As Hoffman was starting to develop as a closer, other managers came to the conclusion that they needed to find a closer.

Hoffman was far from the first closer, but he was closing games before Mariano Rivera and Billy Wagner. And he was close to the forefront of the trend where every team had someone in the bullpen to nail down those final three outs.

For those doubters out there who believe closers are of a lesser importance, listen each season to those managers desperately seeking someone to fill the position. For 14 of the 15 full seasons that Hoffman pitched for the Padres, Bruce Bochy and Bud Black didn't have to worry about getting the final three outs. In the one season he missed due to injuries, the ninth inning was a scramble.

Impact!

Between 1994 and 2008, Hoffman had 549 of his 552 saves as a Padre. During that span -- excluding the 2003 season that Hoffman missed due to injury -- the Padres had 1,086 wins -- meaning Hoffman had saved 51 percent of all Padres wins during the span, at a 89 percent success rate.

Statistic -- No other regular closer saved a higher percentage of his team's wins over the 15-year period.

Impact!

And Hoffman did it the right way.

On those rare occasions when he did blow a save, Hoffman was always immediately in front of his locker to face the music. On those 601 occasions when he completed a win, Hoffman typically demurred to the efforts of teammates.

And Hoffman was a man of quality off the field as well as on it. During his career, Hoffman was honored with Major League Baseball's Lou Gehrig and Hutch awards as well as the Padres Chairman's Award for community service. Six times he was named the local recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award for his activities to make San Diego a better place.

Hoffman did pitch in an era when steroids raised questions about the deeds of many of the game's greatest names. But Hoffman, who lost a kidney as a child, was never tainted by the stigma of performance enhancers.

Trevor Hoffman was an impact player. Trevor Hoffman is a Hall of Famer.

San Diego Padres