Until you’ve stood on a mound in the 9th inning, with the ball in your hand, and the charge of recording the final 3 outs for your team after they’ve just battled for 8 innings to get to this moment, it’s hard to fully appreciate the pressure that it takes to be an MLB closer.
The sense of responsibility that you feel for closing out the game to give your teammates, coaching staff, front office, and fans the victory that is waiting for them after 3 hours of heated play can be intense. It can be almost as overwhelming as the disappointment, frustration, anger, and embarrassment that can consume you if you don’t bring home that win. Either pressure, the sense of responsibility going in, or the lonely burden of culpability for a blown save, can and has ended many a budding closer’s career.
It’s been his ability to successfully perform physically and mentally under those pressures more times than any other player in the history of Major League Baseball that makes Trevor Hofffman one of the greats of the game, and a future hall of famer. While some try to argue that closers and the Save statistic are overrated, there is no arguing that teams that don’t have a consistent force anchoring the back end of their bullpen don’t win. The emotional drain on a team that loses a game in the 9th inning, after having outplayed the opponent for the previous 8, can be profound and long lasting.
For 18 seasons Hoffy has been slamming the door shut in the 9th, and assuring that his teammates hard work to get to that final out would be rewarded. He has the second highest saves percentage in history at 89.3% (second to Mariano Rivera at 89.5%), the most 30 saves seasons (14), and 40 saves seasons (9) in a career, and on September 7, 2010 recorded his MLB record 600th career save.
During my 20 year playing career, I witnessed many exciting moments and historic milestones, but few did I enjoy and respect as much as Hoffy’s 479th career save to take over from Lee Smith the all-time career saves record in MLB history.
While I respect Trevor for his accomplishments on the field, for his work ethic, and for his commitment to his teammates before himself, it is his class and humility with which he handles every situation in his life, on and off the field, that makes him one of may favorite players and people of the game.
Thank you, Trevor, for providing so many memorable accomplishments on the field, and for honoring the game with your sterling character. You are a first ballot Hall of Famer in baseball, and in life.