PHOENIX -- Sometimes life has a funny way of coming back around. Trevor Hoffman finally recorded his 600th save in Milwaukee on Tuesday night when Aaron Miles of the Cardinals hit a routine ground ball to short.
Meanwhile, Hoffman's protégée, Heath Bell, saved the game against the Dodgers in San Diego. And Hoffman's former Padres manager Bruce Bochy, now the Giants skipper, couldn't have been happier for the right-handed reliever as a he basked in a big win over the D-backs.
Three games in three cities thousands of miles apart all with something in common: Hoffman had touched the lives of so many people from California to Wisconsin.
"I've always said: I was fortunate to have had Trevor for most of my managerial career," Bochy said after the Giants won, 6-3, to remain one game behind the first-place Padres in the National League West race. "He did so much for me. Not just because of his talent and saving games, but who he is as a teammate and as a person. This is a mark that I believe very few pitchers will ever reach. I can't wait to talk to him and congratulate him."
Bochy managed the Padres from 1995 to 2006 and for every one of those seasons, Hoffman was his closer. Hoffman arrived in a 1993 trade with the Marlins that sent Gary Sheffield to Florida and was widely panned at the time. It was engineered by then general manager Randy Smith during a Padres fire sale and turned out to be one of the best in club history.
Hoffman recorded 552 of his 600 saves for the Padres, once a record for a reliever with a single team only recently surpassed by Mariano Rivera, who has saved 555 games as a Yankee. Hoffman has had 46 saves since he came to the Brewers as a free agent just prior to the 2009 season. The other two were with the Marlins.
Hoffman's nine saves this year could have been a point of contention when Hoffman was taken out of the closer's role. But it wasn't. Nobody had to give him a reason. At 42, he had blown five saves, helping put the Brewers in a deep hole they never were able to climb out of this season. Consider that he's only blown 48 saves in his entire 18-year career.
But like Hoffman did with Bell in 2008 as his time with the Padres began to wane, this season he mentored John Axford as his replacement. The lack of complaint and commitment to the team showed the Milwaukee hierarchy in great detail what Hoffman was made of.
Trevor Hoffman's milestone saves
vs. Colorado (first as a Padre)
vs. New York Mets
at St. Louis
vs. Pittsburgh (breaks Lee Smith's all-time record)
vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
vs. Pittsburgh (first as a Brewer)
vs. St. Louis
Two career saves with the Marlins, 552 saves with the Padres, 46 saves with the Brewers.
Mark Attanasio, the Brewers' principal owner, recently confided that he had never met a player as selfless as Hoffman. He could have talked to Bochy, who left the Padres in 2006.
On Tuesday night, Bochy reiterated what he's always felt: that Hoffman is the best player, teammate, friend and family man he's ever dealt with. And that's saying a lot considering that Bochy played with and managed Tony Gwynn, one of baseball's all-time great hitters and people.
"That's who he is," Bochy said about Hoffman. "I talked to Trevor after [the Brewers] took him out of that role. He said, 'I forced the issue. I wasn't getting the job done. I have a job and I'm going to do all I can to help out the team and help out the new closer.' That's what he's all about. That's part of the reason why this guy has had so much success. It's never been about himself. It's always been about the team. It's like the old adage: good things happen to good people."
Bochy said personal milestones are all well and good, but what he remembers most about Hoffman during their Padres years were the rare times he helped pitch the team into the playoffs. Unlike Rivera, who has been there just about every year since 1995 with the Yankees, Bochy and Hoffman only went to the postseason four times: 1996, '98, 2005 and '06.
During the Padres' pennant-winning season of 1998, Hoffman hit his zenith, recording 53 saves, four wins and a 1.48 ERA. Hoffman had a hand in 59 of the Padres' 98 wins. Imagine that. When the Padres won the NL pennant that year in Atlanta, Hoffman was on the mound in the ninth inning of a 5-0 win, closing it out.
"He was on the mound and we were going to the World Series," Bochy recalled. "Those are memories that you never forget. When I think of those things I always think of Trevor. He helped me. He helped me stay in this game, believe me, by helping our teams have success."
As Bochy reminisced, the last inning of the Padres-Dodgers game was on the flat screen TV in his office. Bell was on the mound dangling his right arm, huffing and puffing. The schedule and the race will take the Giants to PETCO Park next for a four-game series, beginning on Thursday night.
Life comes full cycle and Hoffman undoubtedly will be on his mind.