Today is a good day. Despite what the critics think or have to say, today is one of those days you can never take away from Padres fans. It’s a day we don’t get very often and we may never get again.
One of our own is in the Hall of Fame.
In his sixteen seasons with the San Diego Padres Trevor Hoffman did something so few had done before him and only one has done since – he became a star, and the best in the league at his position while wearing a Padre uniform. This is not an easy feat as Major League Baseball usually likes to ignore the grand ol’ game in America’s Finest City. Sometimes we’re a laughing-stock, sometimes we’re almost relevant, but most of the time we’re considered fodder for the Dodgers and Giants.
However, from 1995-2008 in the ninth inning of a close game, Hoffman singlehandedly erased those opinions.
You may think that the position of Closer is dumb or useless or completely overrated, and those are all arguments you could make, and aren’t you so cute and smart for making them. But, to me and fans of Baseball in San Diego none of those arguments matter when it comes to Hoffman.
When I was a kid I loved Baseball. I would go to games all summer long at The Murph with my mom and grandpa. I’d watch the sky show, the Chicken, and The Beach Boys play after that one day game in July. I’d watch Tony Gwynn and Bip Roberts with constant delight. It was pure joy. Then in 1994 the strike happened and as a 14-year old kid who loved Bad Religion and hated “the system” I walked away from Baseball as the millionaires fought with the billionaires and the fans lost.
Only something completely improbable could bring me back.
Then something completely improbable brought me back. Somehow the Padres made it to the World Series in 1998. I didn’t watch one playoff game. I wanted to. But, I didn’t. The strike was still too fresh. By chance I was at a friend’s house during Game 1 of the World Series. They had the game on, and despite my best efforts I started watching. I was glued to the screen. I couldn’t turn away. I watched every pitch, every out, every at-bat. It was embarrassing. It was hard to watch. It was my Padres. I can’t really blame the Friars for being completely outclassed that Series. The 1998 Yankees squad is considered by many to be one of the greatest to ever play the game.
But, that World Series did two things:
1) It introduced the world to the modern-day dominant Closer, featuring the absolute best in both leagues – Hoffman for the Padres and Mariano Rivera for the Yankees.
2) It reignited my love for the game of Baseball.
First off, it’s difficult to argue that Hoffman wasn’t the greatest Closer in the history of the National League. With 601 career saves, and a career ERA under 3, a tip of the cap for being the best in an entire league at one position is more than necessary.
But Hoffman, and what he did that summer, and the following ten in San Diego, go beyond numbers and arguments of Cooperstown worthiness.
Hoffman gave us hope that it wasn’t always gonna just be Tony. Hoffman gave us a chance to be in the conversation. Hoffman made walking to the mound the coolest single act in the game – something Mariano and the Yankees desperately tried to steal and miraculously failed at doing. Hoffman turned the changeup into excitement.
Hoffman gave an entire city an excuse to standup wherever they were for three outs.
Those are the stats Keith Law and the rest of the seamheads can’t compile. It’s like Robin Williams’ speech to Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting: You can tell me why this is supposed to matter, or that it shouldn’t matter, and you can quantify why something should be considered good or bad, but you can’t tell me what it’s like to experience it.
Unfortunately, the reason why we care about sports to begin with is the fact that we at some point enjoyed experiencing it. However, those statheads have decided to forget or at least forgo their joyful experiences to hopefully appear like the smartest guy in the room. The guy who ‘really gets it’. And, maybe they are. But, I’ll forgo being the guy who can tell you why ERA never mattered in the first place in favor of the guy who buys ya a hot dog and a beer and enjoys watching greatness happen.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate those who study the game, and marvel at their calculations, but if that’s the only way you can digest sports, then I believe you’re missing the point. It’s like making the greatest cake of all time and never having a piece. And, I love cake.
We put our arms around each other and celebrated. We high-fived. We cheered. We came together. He brought me back to the game.
For long tortured San Diego Padres fans Trevor Hoffman was always a Hall of Famer. Now, it’s official.
For more expert sports stuff, and things you probably won’t care about, follow me on Twitter @dallas_mc