|Hell’s Bells - He’s Going to Make It||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on August 30, 2010
Trevor Hoffman isn't getting a lot of save chances these days, but the Brewers didn't give him $7.5 million to pitch in middle relief. They wanted him to notch historic save number 600 in a Brew Crew uniform. He's had a rough season, especially the first part where, to put it mildly, he was miserable. So for most of the season he's watched rookie John Axford grab the majority of save chances.
So the Brewers have been slowly mixing Hoffman back into the ninth inning role and giving him chances to reach the unheard of mark of 600 saves. He's notched three of his eight saves this season in his last nine appearances over the last three weeks, although he hasn't displaced John Axford as the team's primary closer.
With just over a month left in the season and the Brewers having absolutely nothing but pride left to play for it's inevitable that Hoffman will be given enough chances to reach 600 so that the Brewers and their fans can have a couple of celebrations -- the first being the night he achieves that lofty mark, and the second, being a Trevor Hoffman salute night when they can give him with accolades and gifts in front of a full house who've come to see the most accomplished closer of all time.
No that's not cynicism in my tone. It's logic. Hoffman's record would be the greatest accomplishment of any closer of all time. It's a record that could stand for a long time if Mariano Rivera chooses to retire in without playing at least two more seasons. Because after Mariano, who currently has 552 saves, the next closest active player in saves is Billy Wagner, who's notched 415 in his long career and plans to retire at season's end.
And there is reason to think that Hoffman's record will stand for a while. After all Mariano has already discussed retirement, and he's got nothing at all to prove. Like Hoffman, Mariano is already a lock for a first ballot hall of fame induction. He's set enough records in both the regular and post season that the need to break Hoffman's mark might just not be enough incentive, no matter how effective he has been this year.
No, if Mariano chooses to go out on a high note, rather than risk falling off a cliff like Trevor Hoffman did this season, it wouldn't in any way taint Mariano's legacy as the greatest closer of all time -- no matter how many saves he finishes with.
That could leave Hoffman as the holder of the next "unbreakable" record, akin to that of Babe Ruth's all time home run record which lasted until Henry Aaron showed up, or the single season home run record held by Ruth, then by Maris, which was only spirited away by some steroid enhanced freaks.
There may never be another Hoffman, or another Rivera, the two best closers not just of this generation, but of all time. In the end the numbers only matter in the record books. Mariano has his rings and a legend that will long outlive him, while Hoffman will only have this record due to his toiling in the underwhelming markets in which he played his career.
He hasn't been brilliant in Milwaukee, but you can be assured that the night the photo is taken of the first, and possibly last man to reach 600 saves, that man will be wearing a Brewers cap. After that, perhaps Hoffman will retire and go out in a blaze of glory, or perhaps the Brewers will try to let him pad that number a tiny bit more, but either way the man who charges onto the field to AC/DC's Hell's Bells is unlikely to be forgotten any time soon.