Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com reporters Ed Eagle, Ian Browne, Mark Feinsand, Bill Ladson, Thomas Harding, Mike Scarr, T.R. Sullivan and MLB.com associate reporter Zachary Levine contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
SAN DIEGO -- Lost in the aftermath of Sunday's euphoria at PETCO Park, the day Trevor Hoffman recorded his 479th save to go into first place ahead of Lee Smith on the all-time list, was a short phone call of congratulations from Commissioner Bud Selig to the Padres right-hander. Selig watched the thrilling end of the 2-1 San Diego victory over Pittsburgh on television at his home in Milwaukee and was moved just like everyone else as Hoffman retired the side in the ninth inning to gain his place in history. "I've watched a lot of baseball in my lifetime," said Selig, when reached himself by phone on Monday at his office in Milwaukee. "But that was as emotional a ninth inning as I've ever seen. I got goose bumps. Sitting at home in Milwaukee, I got chills."
For those who may doubt the voracity of Hoffman's accomplishment, the Commissioner put what he's done so far in his nearly 14-year career into perspective. "I think his achievement is stunningly remarkable," Selig said. "You're looking at a pitcher with 479 saves. I remember when 300 saves was considered almost unreachable. Here's somebody with 479 who has conducted himself as well as anybody could. "I just told him how proud we were of him and what he's accomplished, what he's done both on and off the field." As far as Hoffman's credentials for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Selig, who is a member of the board of directors, couldn't have been any clearer. After all, Hoffman has saved 52 percent of the Padres' wins (86 of 165) during the past two seasons. "Trevor Hoffman is a Hall of Famer, in my opinion," he said. "So is Mariano Rivera. Look, Yogi Berra once said, 'If you ain't got relief pitching, you ain't got nothing.' So where in my mind do you think Trevor Hoffman figures? Relief pitchers are critical." At a press conference on Sunday, Hoffman began to choke up when he was asked about the emotional hug he gave his mother, Margaret, during the postgame celebration on the field. He answered questions about the milestone in his usual low-keyed and humble style. He also commented on his chat with Selig. "I had a chance to talk to the Commissioner and he sent his well-wishes and congratulations," Hoffman said. "He said he was truly moved by the fans of San Diego and me having the opportunity to make it happen here. He really enjoyed the moment with all the fanfare and my family being out there." Almost immediately, accolades came in from opponents and former teammates like Akinori Otsuka and Mark Loretta, who were there at one time in San Diego when Hoffman trotted in from the bullpen to the strains of the AC/DC rock anthem "Hells Bells." Loretta was the second baseman who played with Hoffman for three seasons from 2003-05, and is now in Boston. "It was fun to watch the highlights and just kind of put myself in that situation, knowing what the atmosphere was with the 'Hells Bells' and the sold out crowd," he said. "I was proud of him. He's really worked hard and really withstood the test of time with his work ethic. He's a great guy. He's at the top of his game at this age. I appreciated him a lot as a teammate. He was a good leader. He really cares about his peers and doesn't like the spotlight on him, so it's nice for him to get it." Otsuka, the Japanese right-hander who set up for Hoffman in 2004 and 2005, is now pitching for Texas. "I'm proud of him," said Otsuka. "The last two years he taught me everything. In the offseason I was training with him. I think about him as a friend and a brother. I have a lot of respect for him as a pitcher and a friend." Rivera, the Yankees closer who has the postseason resume and four World Series rings that Hoffman doesn't, said on Monday that Hoffman has been an unsung hero of sorts. Rivera, who missed most of the last month with a strained right elbow, has 413 career regular season saves -- 66 behind Hoffman at this point. But he also has an 0.81 earned run average, 34 saves and a 17-7 record in 72 postseason appearances, including a 1.16 ERA, nine saves and a 4-2 record in the World Series. "I think it's great," Rivera said. "He's worked hard to get there. If you ask me, he's been a little overlooked. He just broke the saves record and nobody says too much about him. Maybe that's better, because he can just do his job. He's not only great on the field, but off of it as well. He's a great guy." "He's amazing," said the Rockies' Jose Mesa, who has 320 saves in his 18th Major League season. "When you used to throw hard and you come back and throw 84 or 85 [mph], a lot of guys start to say, 'I might as well hang it up, because I don't have it anymore.' But he still does what he's always done." "That's a lot of saves," said Chad Cordero, who has had 75 saves closing the last two seasons for the Nationals. "That's a lot of hard work. For him to do that is awesome. I want to get as many saves as possible. If I get that many saves, that would be a cool thing. I met him in college. We were playing over at Arizona State. He talked to our team before the game. I thought that was pretty cool. Growing up, he was one of my favorites." "He's a master of what he's doing," said Houston's Brad Lidge. "He's one of the guys you hope to have half the career that he's had. He's been so good for so long. He's not just getting it done, he has something like a sub-two earned run average. He's one of those guys in the Roger Clemens-mold who never slows down." "I'm really happy for him," said Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez, who leads the Majors with 44 saves while Hoffman leads the National League with 43. "I hope he continues being healthy and continues putting up big numbers. People talk a lot about Mariano because of the postseason, but you have to put Hoffman right up there." As far as Hoffman's Hall of Fame credentials, Rodriguez offers the last word. "They have Hall of Fame numbers," he said about Hoffman and Rivera. "I was surprised to hear that Lee Smith was not in the Hall of Fame. But [these closers] are some of the best players to play the game and now the people who vote have to think about the closers because they should be in there. "[Dennis] Eckersley and soon Hoffman and Rivera. Those numbers are pretty impressive."