All-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman retires
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Baseball’s all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman has thrown his final changeup, deciding at age 43 to retire and return to the San Diego Padres in a front office job.
Known for his high leg kick, menacing glare and deceptive changeup, Hoffman recorded 601 saves in 18 seasons, 15 1/2 of them with the Padres.
“It was a little bit of self-reflection, trying to be honest with where I was at in my career skill-wise, and realizing that it was a time for a change, a change in venue, in a sense,” Hoffman told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “It’s turning the page, a new chapter in my life.”
Hoffman had a difficult 2010 season with the Milwaukee Brewers, losing his job as closer. Still, he said he didn’t want to rush to a decision about his future.
“It was a tough year, and I didn’t want to make it off how things turned out,” he said. “I wanted to see how it played out in the offseason. The new year is the time to crank it up and get ready for the new season.”
He felt he could still pitch. Knowing that West Coast teams were set, he didn’t want to pitch too far away from his family.
“I definitely could have pitched in the big leagues, but that was part of the self-reflection part: Do I have enough in the tank to be a closer and help get the team to the postseason?” he said. “There’s a certain level of play I wanted to play at, but if I couldn’t match what I’d done in the past, I wouldn’t be doing another team justice.”
Hoffman, who was converted from shortstop to pitcher in the minor leagues, knows people will always talk about his stats.
“What I’ll take away from it is I’ll have no regrets,” he said. “I went at the game 100 percent and didn’t leave myself with any questions. I got the most out of what I was given.”
Hoffman was acquired as a rookie from the Florida Marlins in 1993 during the Padres’ infamous “Fire Sale” that stripped away most of their high-paid veterans. He left San Diego as a free agent following the 2008 season after contract talks abruptly ended, and pitched with the Milwaukee for two seasons.
Padres co-owner Jeff Moorad said Hoffman will spend the next year familiarizing himself with several departments, including baseball operations, and then the two sides will determine what area is best for him.
“Clearly, Trevor is one of the most significant players that the organization has ever had and we felt it only appropriate for him to return to the Padres family,” Moorad told the AP. “We’re thrilled that he was agreeable with coming back.”
Hoffman said he’ll “help out where I can, be a jack-of-all-trades. I’ll learn the sides of the game I haven’t been exposed to.”
Moorad said the sides decided against having Hoffman return to the team for one day before retiring.
“Given the seriousness with which Trevor is approaching his next stage of his life, I don’t think he or we cared to focus on the theatrics,” Moorad said.
The Padres will discuss Hoffman’s job at a news conference at Petco Park on Wednesday morning.
The Padres abruptly pulled a contract offer off the table following the 2008 season, leading to a less-than-amicable parting for a player who had become the face of the franchise after Tony Gwynn retired following the 2001 season. The front office has changed dramatically since then.
Although Hoffman struggled toward the end of his Padres tenure, his home save opportunities were always lively because AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” began blaring from the sound system the instant he started jogging in from the bullpen.
He became the career saves leader when he notched No. 479 at home on Sept. 24, 2006, breaking the previous mark of 478 by Lee Smith. The following June, Hoffman reached 500, also at home and against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.
He had 552 saves with the Padres.
Then an unknown rookie, Hoffman had two saves for Florida in 1993 before being acquired by the Padres on June 24, 1993, along with two other players for Gary Sheffield and Rich Rodriguez. Then-general manager Randy Smith said the Padres received “value for value” in the deal. But fans, steamed at the exodus of talent, booed Hoffman during his first several appearances. As he grew into the closer’s role, it was clear Smith had indeed traded for a valuable player.
Hoffman was brilliant in his first season in Milwaukee, converting 37 of 41 save opportunities with a 1.83 ERA.
He also relished his role of no longer being a vocal leader or face of a franchise like he was all those years in San Diego. He organized conditioning drills and games of football for the relievers before that night’s contest and enjoyed riding into Miller Park on a skateboard that he picked up in Wisconsin.
But after signing a new contract to stay in Milwaukee, last season became a struggle. Hoffman blew five of his first 10 save opportunities and was passed over by rookie John Axford while his ERA ballooned to 13.15 early in the season.
Hoffman eventually returned to a setup role, but only got sporadic save opportunities – including No. 600 on Sept. 7, the most memorable moment of a forgettable season for the Brewers.
MLB.com first reported Hoffman’s retirement.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press