One of the more amazing stories of this baseball season (and one of the least heralded) is Trevor Hoffman's pursuit of the career saves record. The Padres' closer needs just three more saves to tie Lee Smith's all-time mark of 478. Not bad for a guy who blew out his arm long ago and came to rely on the changeup as his ninth inning weapon of choice.
Discounting the 2003 season, which Hoffman lost to the second major injury of his career, these are his save totals over the past 11 seasons: 31, 42, 37, 53, 40, 43, 43, 38, 41, 43 and 39. Only twice during that 11-year stretch has Hoffman's ERA exceeded 3.00.
Hoffman's entrance into a home game is truly a sight to behold. With the pulsating sounds of AC/DC's "Hell's Bells" resounding in the background, the menacing Hoffman trots in. Nearly every time, his presence is fatal to the opposition.
Hoffman has pitched in the playoffs three times (1996, 1998 and 2005), and looks to be headed back again this season. He is a rare modern superstar who has spent (almost) all of his career with one team (Hoffman pitched in 28 games for Florida as a rookie in 1993 and has been a Padre ever since).
Unfortunately, I'm afraid that Hoffman's accomplishments have been diminished a bit by the fact that he has spent so much time as a closer in San Diego. His greatness has usually unfolded long after most of the nation is asleep, and he has seen only limited postseason action. Compare that to the ubiquitous exposure -- on television and in the postseason -- of Mariano Rivera, another future Hall of Fame closer. Here's hoping that those two meet in the World Series this season, and that this time, the spotlight shines on Hoffman.