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Hoffman takes humble approach to Hall of Fame chances

Former Padres closer to appear on ballot for first time

KANSAS CITY -- Trevor Hoffman's name will appear on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot that arrives in the mail of voters in the next couple of weeks, and 601 saves over an 18-year career is a pretty strong argument for him to join likely first-ballot inductee Ken Griffey Jr. in 2016.

But the Padres' legendary closer is taking a purposely chill and cautionary approach right now, remembering a conversation he had with late Hall of Famer and longtime teammate Tony Gwynn around this time in 2006 -- in the days before Gwynn's first-ballot election.

"Five years went by pretty quick," Hoffman said on Wednesday before Game 2 of the World Series, where he and Mariano Rivera presented the Reliever of the Year Award presented by The Hartford, named after each of them in their respective leagues. "I'm optimistically hopeful that I'll have the opportunity to go to Cooperstown. I didn't play with that in mind. I don't think you can. Ultimately, being a team player, that's not what it's about. But deep down you know if you have a decent career going, and some of the numbers might stack up.

"Being in that role, where it's kind of evolved as much as it can, you look at how it's laid out pretty clearly what a decent career in that role is. So we'll see. It would be a tremendous honor, icing-on-the-cake, package-it-all-together type of thing, but it's kind of out of my hands."

So, where would he rate his chances on a scale from one to 10?

"I say that honestly, because T-Gwynn, in his induction year, was frettin' it," Hoffman said. "Nervous as all get out. I was like, 'Are you kidding me, T? Eight batting titles, 3,000 hits, Gold Gloves ...' He said, 'Hoffy, there's no guarantees. You never know.'

"So sitting in that situation now, I get where he was coming from. You never want to put the cart before the horse, and you just hope that what you did was good enough."

Hoffman racked up a Major League-high 53 saves and finished second in NL Cy Young Award voting in 1998 for the NL champion Padres. That was just part of a stretch of eight seasons of 30 or more saves, including four straight with 40 or more.

"I'd like to let you guys in on my first greatest save today," he joked during the Reliever of the Year ceremony, "and that was having Kansas City barbecue and not getting it on my white shirt."

But seriously. Hoffman wound up with 14 seasons of 30-plus saves, nine with 40-plus. He finished his career by spending two seasons with the Brewers, running his career saves total to what was then an all-time high of 601 -- or 123 more than the previous record of 478 set by Lee Smith. Hoffman, who finished with a 2.87 ERA in 1,035 career appearances, held the all-time saves mark from 2006 until Rivera surpassed him in 2011, en route to 652.

That's the same Rivera who sat alongside him at the dais here at the World Series, two bullpen immortals who combined for a ridiculous 1,253 saves. They both led a panel of elite relievers who decided that Mark Melancon of the Pirates and Andrew Miller of the Yankees were deserving of the respective Reliever of the Year Awards.

Afterwards, Rivera was asked whether he thinks Hoffman will be a first-time electee.

"He has my vote, I will put it like that," Rivera said. "He has my vote. I don't have one, but he has my vote.

"He deserves it. He broke the record before I did, so he did a tremendous job. He did it with class. He was always trying to do it for his team. So he's No. 1 there, definitely."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of Read and join other baseball fans on his community blog.
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