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Trevor Hoffman elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

Dennis Lin, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Baseball

Trevor Hoffman, as synonymous with the Padres and San Diego as anyone since Tony Gwynn, on Wednesday was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame.

The former closer gained entrance to Cooperstown in his third year on the ballot, receiving 79.9 percent of the votes cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Hoffman will join Gwynn and Dave Winfield as the only players enshrined wearing Padres caps. This year's induction ceremony will take place July 29.

The 2018 class is among the largest in history. Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero and Jim Thome also will head to Cooperstown this summer. Alan Trammell and Jack Morris were elected last month by the Modern Baseball Era Committee.

Hoffman becomes the sixth member of the Hall of Fame who spent most of his career as a reliever. Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter and Hoyt Wilhelm already have been inducted.

Even after they played, those pitchers hailed from an era in which their achievements were not as intensely scrutinized. Hoffman did not appear on 75 percent of ballots in the previous two elections, finishing five votes shy in 2017. Modern observers have often dissected his candidacy through the lens of analytics.

But to many, his late-game credentials remain unparalleled by anyone outside of Mariano Rivera, almost certainly a first-ballot inductee in 2019.

Hoffman, a converted shortstop, debuted with the Padres in June 1993, after he was acquired in a trade with the Marlins. He spent the next 151/2 seasons carving a legacy in San Diego, flustering batters despite middling velocity, and compiling numbers only Rivera has surpassed.

The right-hander was the first reliever to reach the 500- and 600-save threshold, and he retired in 2010 with 601, then a record (later broken by Rivera, who retired with 652). Hoffman ranks first, second and fifth all-time among relievers in strikeouts per nine innings, saves and ERA. He went to seven All-Star Games and twice finished as the runner-up for a Cy Young Award.

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No other reliever rivals Hoffman and Rivera, who have lent their names to the majors' annual top-reliever awards, in terms of success over a sustained period of time.

Hoffman's change-up was one of the iconic pitches in the sport. He learned the grip in 1994, after a shoulder injury diminished a once-formidable fastball.

That the pitch would take the ex-position player to Cooperstown rates among the most striking developments in major league history. Hoffman's conversion is the most successful since Hall of Famer Bob Lemon switched to the mound in 1946.

Hoffman's coronation also stands as a testament to his work ethic, a thing of legend in San Diego and other circles he occupied throughout an 18-year career.

"I don't think anyone's going to remember if he got in the second year or the third year or whatever," former Padres general manager Randy Smith, who traded for Hoffman more than two decades ago, said recently. "But they will know he's a Hall of Famer."

(c)2018 The San Diego Union-Tribune

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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