trevor hoffman padres

Hoffman: 300 saves is like 3000 hits


Trevor Hoffman is all over the news today, having given his farewell press conference and all of that stuff.  He was asked about the role of the closer today too, and to comment on what makes an elite one. His comments:

“The 300 (save) mark hasn’t been done by a lot of people,” says Hoffman, who retired Wednesday as the only man with twice that figure — plus one. Though Hoffman, 43, warned of the difficulty of comparing closers from different eras, he says, “The role probably isn’t going to get tweaked much more so 300 probably is a good number.”

Hoffman compared 300 saves — a number 21 pitchers have reached — to 300 victories and 3,000 hits.

I think this is less misguided due to the cutoff than it is due to the metric.

As far as cutoff goes, what else could Hoffman say?  If you say that 400 is some magic number you leave off Eckersley and Sutter and Rollie Fingers. Plus, you’re only saying that five guys are truly elite, as only he, Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith, John Franco and Billy Wagner are elite. Seems a bit, well, elitist. Truth is that there is no satisfying number.

The problem is saves themselves. We all know its limitations as a stat. It’s a function of opportunity and chance and manager’s whim, not true excellence. All of the big, globally-recognized stats have that problem. But saves are way worse in even roughly approximating greatness. Hits aren’t the be-all, end-all, of course, but are there any truly blah players who got 3000 of them?  Then realize that Francisco Cordero will join the 300 save club before the All-Star break next year. I don’t think anyone is comfortable including him in some best-of-the-best club.

Thankfully it seems that no one is all that impressed with save totals in and of themselves when it comes to assigning greatness to relief pitchers. John Franco just got next to no Hall of Fame support, after all. Still, I wonder if Hoffman’s comments won’t be thought of as instructive by anyone going forward.  Hope not.

Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga to throw out first pitches in Games 1 and 2

CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 05:  Kenny Lofton #7 of the Cleveland Indians runs to first base against the New York Yankees during Game Two of the American League Divisional Series at Jacobs Field on October 5, 2007 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Major League Baseball just announced the details for the ceremonial and off-field stuff in connection with Games 1 and 2 of the World Series. The one most people were wondering about was the ceremonial first pitch. Sorry, Charlie Sheen fans. Sorry fans of “Major League” in general. Two real baseball stars are handing first pitch duties: Kenny Lofton before Game 1, Carlos Baerga for Game 2.

Lofton needs no introduction. He should be a Hall of Famer but is criminally overlooked, perhaps because he bounced around to a lot of different clubs. He made his name in Cleveland, however, doing three separate tours with the Indians, leading the AL in stolen bases for five straight years early in his career and putting up a line of .300/.375/.426 in ten seasons on the shores of Lake Erie.

Baerga played for the Tribe between 1990 and 1996 and was, for a time, quite the superstar, even if people don’t talk about him much anymore. His career fell off pretty quickly in that way that often happens for second basemen and/or stars who end up on the Mets, but there was a time when he was perhaps the biggest star on some excellent Indians teams. People had “will Carlos Baerga be a Hall of Famer?” conversations and stuff. The mid-90s were a special time.

Beyond the first pitches, the National Anthem will be sung by Rachel Platten before Game 1 and by the group Locash before Game 2. As I am an old man out of touch with most things, I have no idea who they are, but I am sure their fans are passionate and their renditions of the Anthem will be fine and non-controversial. Fox, MLB and the folks at major record labels are pretty good about that sort of thing and everyone will be especially vigilant in light of what happened with that Canadian tenors group at the All-Star Game. If nothing else, I bet you pick up the check for the Anthem performance after the song, and not before these days.

I guess the White Sox don’t count

CHICAGO - APRIL 04: General Manager Ken Williams of the Chicago White Sox shows off his World Series Championship ring during ceremonies prior to the start of a game against the Cleveland Indians on April 4, 2006 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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I realize everyone is super excited about the Cubs being in the World Series for the first time since 1945, with the chance to win it for the first time since 1908. But you’d think folks would remember that it’s just the Cubs — and not Chicago as a whole — who have been away from the Fall Classic for so long.

I know their recent struggles makes it seem like a long, long time ago, but the White Sox won the World Series in 2005. They were in the World Series in 1959 too. You wouldn’t know that, though, if you looked at some prominent media outlets:





I understand the impulse to tell the “a whole city is coming together!” story every time stuff like this happens, but there are a lot of White Sox fans in Chicago. A good number of them don’t give a crap about the Cubs. Many even resent them for being the glory franchise in the city in the eyes of many. They certainly don’t feel like there’s a championship drought afoot, and I imagine they’re somewhat cranky about having their team’s glory plastered over like this.