Hoffman awaits Hall of Fame vote

Former closer needs 75 percent support to be enshrined

Hoffman awaits Hall of Fame vote

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

The final ballots in the 2016 Hall of Fame are being cast this week. The results will be announced Jan. 18.

Will Trevor Hoffman get the call this year? Or will the Padres closer have to wait another year?

It will be close.

Hoffman eventually will be in the Hall of Fame.

Last year, he received 67.3 percent of the vote in his first year on the ballot. No player who has received that percentage in their first season of eligibility has failed to eventually be voted into the Hall of Fame.

Players need to be named on 75 percent of the ballots to gain entry.

It is going to be close for Hoffman in his second of 10 possible years on the ballot. Unofficial projections show that Hoffman will garner between 72 and 77 percent this year.

How can Hoffman, who is already in the Padres' Hall of Fame, be on the bubble? After all, he was the first closer to 500 and 600 saves and was the all-time leader in saves until he was passed by the Yankees' Mariano Rivera.

First, this year's ballot is packed with potential Hall of Famers.

The first-year players on the ballot include catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez and outfielders Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez.

Second, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will likely receive a bigger share of the votes than they have in the past.

Third, the two holdovers receiving more votes than Hoffman last year -- first baseman Jeff Bagwell and outfielder Tim Raines -- are favorites to be elected this season. Particularly Raines, who is in his final year on the ballot. Were Raines not elected this season, his name would go to New Era Committee for consideration.

And, fourth, there is still reluctance among voters to cast votes for closers and designated hitters. Those specialty positions have become a major part of the game only over the past two decades.

Will Hoffman get in this year? Honestly, too close to call. Some voters have said there are 13 players on this year's ballot worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.

Hoffman says he is honored to be considered.

"It's pretty crazy to think about," Hoffman said recently. "My record is what it was. To think I might share a spot with baseball's all-time greats is in itself quite an honor.

"I understand mine is a specialty role that gets picked apart. Like I said, I'm honored to be in the argument and under consideration. It's not that easy to get into the Hall of Fame.

"As one Hall of Famer recently told me, "It is not the Hall of the Very Good, it is the Hall of the Great."

And Hoffman was one of the two greatest closers of all time.

He completed his career with 601 saves, 552 of which were with the Padres. He was baseball's all-time saves leader from when he passed Lee Smith with No. 479 in 2006 until Hoffman was passed by Rivera in 2011.

Although Rivera broke six Major League records held by Hoffman, the Padres great still holds or shares three Major League and two National League records in addition to seven Padres records.

Hoffman had nine seasons with 40 or more saves, including four straight. His 9.36 strikeouts per nine innings remains a Major League record. And his 601 saves and 902 games pitched for the Padres are National League records.

Hoffman successfully converted 88.8 percent of his save opportunities in his 18-season Major League career.

In addition, Hoffman was a seven-time All-Star. Twice he finished second in the National League Cy Young Award voting. Two other times he finished among the top six. And he twice finished among the top 10 in the National League Most Valuable Player voting.

Hall of Fame worthy? Absolutely.

Looking back upon his career, Hoffman recently said:

"I enjoyed the daily grind of it all. If it comes through and I make the Hall of Fame, it's certainly not an individual thing. Hopefully, if I get a chance to speak it will come out that way. Baseball is a team game and nothing I've done came outside that concept."