Monday January 31, 2011
I had to wait to write this column about Trevor Hoffman's retirement until I wasn't so emotional. The problem is every time I saw the man play it was an emotional experience. Those emotions are indelibly etched in my memory and its near impossible to talk (or type) about Trevor Hoffman without replaying in my mind so many thrilling moments and a very few deflating moments I experienced while watching him pitch.
Its hard to explain to non San Diegans how emotional it was to experience Trevor Time.
The lights dimming in the stadium, the crowd coming to their feet as if drawn up by some invisible force, the strains of Hells Bells starting, the roar as one of the crowd as he began his jog from the bullpen, the signs flashing Trevor Time ...
It was an all encompassing emotional experience whether he saved the game or, god forbid, he blew the save and the Padres lost. It was elation or devastation. No in between. No "well its just another game". And it was a shared emotion. 30-40-even 60+ thousand other people were feeling the same way.
You could tell they felt the same as I did. You could see it in their faces, hear it in their voices and feel it hanging palpably in the post event air.
Watching Trevor pitch was emotional and that is how I have been since hearing of his retirement.
So now that some time has passed I wanted to express my heartfelt gratitude that I had the opportunity to watch this man play the game of baseball.
I experienced much joy and a little devastation watching him play.
The joy of watching Trevor close the game to give the Padres the Padres NL title in Atlanta in 1998. The joy of watching Trevor notch his 300th save, 400th save, 479th save and 500th save. All in a Padres uniform.
The devastation of watching Trevor blow the save in game 162 to the junior Gwynn. Then watching him blow his 2nd straight save to the Rockies (No, Holliday never touched the plate, but that is another story).
Over the years the elation far exceeded the downs as Trevor saved 89% of the games he came into with a save on the line.
Mariano Rivera may eventually pass Trevor for the most saves, but no one will ever pass Trevor for the excitement he brought to Padres fans. No one will ever be the first to record 500 and then 600 saves. There is also a good chance that no one will ever have 9 seasons of 40 or more saves or 14 seasons of 30 or more saves.
If not for the 2003 season lost to injury, there would be no serious argument or doubt that Trevor was the best ever as he would likely be an unsurmountable 80 ++ saves ahead of Rivera and undoubtedly would have recorded 15 straight seasons with 30 or more saves.
Regardless of any debate, in my heart and mind Trevor Hoffman will remain the greatest reliever I have seen pitch since Goose Gossage retired and arguably the greatest closer ever.
Thank you Trevor for all you did to make the game more enjoyable for me and for baseball fans everywhere.