Fingers touts Hoffman's Hall credentials

Fingers touts Hoffman's Hall credentials

SAN DIEGO -- Rollie Fingers has a point.

"I do believe that Trevor Hoffman is a Hall of Famer,'' he said.

Fingers should know. He's among five relievers to make it to Cooperstown.

The Padres are hopeful Hoffman will eventually join Fingers in the Hall of Fame. Hoffman just missed on his first year of eligibility, which still baffles Fingers, the first pitcher to be enshrined (1992) who was exclusively a reliever. 

"I really don't know what the criteria is, who the heck does?'' Fingers asked. "I don't know what the sportswriters are thinking. I was surprised Trevor didn't make it on the first ballot, but there are a lot of guys I think should be in like Lee Smith and Al Oliver. But who knows what those sportswriters are thinking about?''

Fingers was in town playing in the Marshall Faulk Celebrity Golf Classic. He keeps tabs on his former team, where he enjoyed success (1977-80) after being a star on the A's three World Series championship teams.

"When I was in San Diego those were probably the three best years [1977-78, 1980] I had in the big leagues,'' Fingers said. "But I didn't get along with [general manager] Jack McKeon and [president] Ballard Smith. I got tired of dealing with them so I asked to be traded, and it was to St. Louis for three days and then on to Milwaukee.''

Fingers won the American League Cy Young Award and MVP with the Brewers in 1981.

"I hated leaving San Diego because that is a great place,'' said Fingers, a seven-time All-Star. "But they never put a winner on the field. I had a good time playing down there but I was used to going to the playoffs for five or six years. You come down there and every year you are out of it by the first of September.''

Hoffman was on the outside looking in regarding last year's Hall of Fame tally.

"I think Trevor certainly deserves to get in,'' said Fingers, who had 341 saves in an era when relievers worked more than one inning.

Fingers doesn't get a vote -- that's in the hands of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. But Hoffman, with 601 saves, is second only to Mariano Rivera (652).

"I mean 600 saves,'' Fingers said. "Those are some great years and great numbers. I would think 600 is like a magical number.''

There was plenty of mystery in Hoffman's right arm. While most closers are power pitches, Hoffman basically retired batters with a series of paper cuts. Everyone knew Hoffman's tantalizing changeup was coming and they still couldn't hit his slow tumbler.

Doesn't matter to Fingers, 69, how Hoffman collected outs. It's that he was able to produce time and again which warrants Fingers' praise

"It's his longevity, where he was able to do it year after year after year,'' Fingers said. "Some of these guys have great years and get 50 saves, then get 20 saves and then the next year and they are out of the game.

"Staying healthy as a closer, that's the hardest part -- keeping your arm in shape so you can go out there. And when you looked at Trevor, he did it for like what, 13, 14, 15 years?''

Make it 18 thrilling seasons for Hoffman and just maybe next year he takes his place alongside Fingers in the Hall of Fame.

Jay Paris is a contributor to MLB.com based in San Diego. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.