Posts Tagged ‘Lee Smith’

It’s always a sad thing when a once-elite baseball player who is headed to the Hall of Fame hangs on just a season too long.

No, were not talking about the Seattle Mariners’ sleeping swinger in Ken Griffey (besides, Griffey has hung on three years too long). We’re talking about Trevor Hoffman, one of the top all-time closers in baseball history.

The former shutdown bullpen ace of the San Diego Padres now pitches batting practice in the ninth inning of baseball games. That’s a really bad thing since the Milwaukee Brewers somehow continue to send him to the mound in games they are leading.

The Brewers have the second-worst record in the National League and Hoffman blew his fifth save of the season on Tuesday afternoon as he single-handedly let a 4-2 lead turn into a 5-4 loss to the red-hot Cincinnati Reds.

Hoffman faced five batters and didn’t retire any of them as his earned-run average rose to 13.15. Yes, not 3.15 or even a porous 5.15, but a sickening-high 13.15.

You can’t last in a Sunday beer-drinking softball league with those numbers but somehow Milwaukee keeps calling on Hoffman to protect leads when it’s clear the soon-to-be 43-year-old hurler has nothing left in the tank.

Since Milwaukee manager Ken Macha doesn’t seem to want to put an end to this mess, perhaps it’s time for Hoffman to put an end to it by announcing his retirement.

Milwaukee is going nowhere at 15-24 and Hoffman has no trade value so why prolong this type of agony for another four-plus months?

Trevor Time needs to end now.

Hoffman is just four saves away from becoming the first pitcher in baseball history to record 600 career saves and it would have been nice to have seen him reach that total. It seemed like a given two short months ago when you factor in that he had an outstanding season last year – a 1.83 ERA and 37 saves.

But there are a lot of innings in that arm of his and pitchers in their 40s don’t always have a slow decline. Hoffman’s fastball isn’t so fast and the slower it gets, the less difference in speed between the fastball and Hoffman’s once-devastating change-up.

His 2010 stats are so uncharacteristic of his career norms. Opposing hitters are batting .356 against Hoffman – his career mark is .210 – and he’s allowed seven homers already this season after giving up just two all of last season.

Overall, he’s allowed 19 earned runs and 21 hits in 13 innings this season. Did I already say batting practice?

This is a guy that once allowed just 41 hits all season in 73 innings for the Padres. That was Hoffman’s epic 1998 season when he had a microscopic 1.48 ERA and saved 53 games in 54 opportunities for only the second San Diego squad to reach the World Series.

Hoffman got shafted out of the National League Cy Young Award that season because some of the baseball writers who vote on the award didn’t feel the honor should go to a reliever and left him off their ballots. Hoffman finished second behind Atlanta Braves left-hander Tom Glavine despite receiving more first-place votes (13 to 11) than Glavine.

Hoffman has always been a class guy with a heavy amount of respect for the game of baseball. He is revered in San Diego for both the type of player and person he is and rightfully so.

He has accomplished a lot and shouldn’t have to sweat out a Hall of Fame honor like Lee Smith (478 saves) is currently doing or like Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter had to do. Hoffman and New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera are Hall of Fame locks.

But in May of 2010, the once-brilliant closer who excited crowds in San Diego with his entrance to AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” needs to do some bell-ringing of his own.

It is time for Trevor Hoffman to call it a career – before the Milwaukee Brewers eventually have to do it for him.

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The 2010 baseball Hall of Fame class will be announced on Jan. 6 and one player is taking the proactive approach to his candidacy.

Pitcher Bert Blyleven is in his 13th year of eligibility and has become increasingly frustrated that he’s not a member of the Hall of Fame. He makes some interesting points in his behalf and doesn’t dodge the negative (example — he points out he also lost the 10th most games of all-time, 250).

Blyleven won 287 games. which means he fell 13 victories short of the so-called magic number for pitchers in terms of easily being inducted. He ranks fifth in career strikeouts (3,701) and ninth in shutouts (60).

The shutouts resonate the most with me in that you usually have to pitch a full nine innings to get a shutout. Many of today’s big-money pitchers won’t even throw 60 complete games in their careers, let alone toss 60 shutouts.

Also, Blyleven may have won 300 career games if he didn’t play for some really bad Minnesota Twins teams during part of his career. And he’s right when he points out the hardest thing for a starting pitcher to control is victories.

Anyway, here is a link to Blyleven making his case for the Hall of Fame: (http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/34599423/ns/sports-baseball//)

To be elected, a player must be named on 75 percent of the ballots. Last year, Blyleven received 62.7 percent of the vote, second among people who didn’t get elected behind outfielder Andre Dawson (67.0 percent).

Competition for election will come from some candidates eligible for the first time — second baseman Roberto Alomar, shortstop Barry Larkin, first baseman Fred McGriff and designated hitter Edgar Martinez.

Coincidentally, Alomar and McGriff were once part of the same trade when the San Diego Padres sent Alomar and Joe Carter to the Toronto Blue Jays for McGriff and Tony Fernandez.

Oh yeah, Mark McGwire remains on the ballot but the baseball poster boy for steroids has about as good a chance of being elected as my brother Danny, who last played on a hardball team in 1988. Danny’s only steroid use involved Nasacort, a nasal spray that is legal when prescribed.

McGwire, of course, has never come clean about his alleged steroids use and baseball writers are working in collusion to keep him out of the Hall of Fame until he steps up to the plate about the subject.

Lee Smith, a top-notch closer, and Jack Morris, a pitching ace, also are among the holdovers on the ballot.

If you’re a longtime fan of the San Diego Padres or just an avid baseball fan that likes to view historical shows, the MLB Network hits a grand slam with a special one-hour show on the 1984 Padres.

“Triumph and Tragedy: The 1984 San Diego Padres” is a recently-produced show on the Padres first-ever World Series team (they’ve only had two; the other was in 1998) and is must-see viewing for any Padres’ fan of that era.

The episode covers all the key storylines of the season, including a great segment on the famous beanbrawl day in Atlanta when manager Dick Williams ordered everybody on the pitching staff to throw at Atlanta Braves pitcher Pascual Perez until he was hit by a pitch. One of the most memorable brawls in baseball history occurred that Sunday afternoon but it was one of the things that brought the team together to make its big two-month final push to the postseason.

The Padres’ run to the World Series is portrayed nicely and accurately, complete with scenes of the thousands of fans who went to the stadium (then known as Jack Murphy Stadium) to welcome back the Padres after they were beaten apart by the Chicago Cubs in the first two games of the National League Championship Series. There’s even some rare video of Patrick Henry High alumnus Nick Magro  — also known as the Pa Shrink — cheering on the players as they got off the bus.

As any Padres’ fan knows, that crazy scene began the amazing streak of the Padres winning the next three games to beat the Cubs. Normally quiet Garry Templeton waved his hat frantically at the fans during the Game 3 lineup introductions and the sweep was on. Steve Garvey hit the famous game-winning homer off Lee Smith to win Game 4 and Tim Flannery’s harmless ground ball to first base that went through the legs of Leon Durham started a Game 5 comeback that ended with a ground ball to Graig Nettles, who threw to second baseman Alan Wiggins for the forceout and final out.

The best part of the World Series portion of the show — the powerful Detroit Tigers beat the Padres in five games — was when Williams ordered closer Goose Gossage to intentionally walk Kirk Gibson with first base open and Gossage refused. Williams comes to the mound and they play the conversation and they also show Tigers manager Sparky Anderson yelling out to Gibson in disbelief: “They don’t want to walk you!”

About the time Williams reaches the dugout, Gibson blasts a towering three-run homer off the Goose to finish off the Padres. 

Also, this isn’t just a feel-good piece where hard-line issues and the truth are glossed over. The show goes in-depth on the troubles of two deceased Padres — Wiggins and pitcher Eric Show — and the battle pitcher Dave Dravecky faced with cancer in his left arm, which led to an amputation when his arm broke while pitching for the San Francisco Giants. 

Three people associated with that team are enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown — Gossage, Williams and right fielder Tony Gwynn.

I found an online article that gives a synopsis of the program (http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20091027&content_id=7559192&vkey=&fext=.jsp). I reiterate that it was a well-done special worthy of an hour of any baseball fan’s time.

Hard to believe 25 years have passed since Oct. 7, 1984 — the biggest day in San Diego Padres’ history.

On that Sunday afternoon, the Padres completed their comeback from a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-5 NL playoff series against the big, bad, overrated Chicago Cubs team that was supposed to cruise into the World Series.

The Cubs won the first two games of the series in Wrigley Field before heading west to San Diego for the final three games. The Padres breezed in Game 3, won in the bottom of the ninth of Game 4 on Steve Garvey’s famous home run off Lee Smith (I can still see Henry Cotto desperately climbing the right-center field fence) and then smacked the supposedly unbeatable Rick Sutcliffe (16-1 in the regular season) around in the decisive Game 5.

The noise level during that 6-3 victory by the Padres has seldom been matched since at a San Diego sporting event. It was a party time at The Murph (the stadium’s nickname at the time) as the Padres stunned the nation by winning the series.

I recall that things didn’t start well — the Padres starting pitchers were horrible throughout the series — and Chicago was up 3-0 in the second inning and Padres manager Dick Williams was already pulling Eric Show. Yet the San Diego bullpen was unhittable as Andy Hawkins, Dave Dravecky and Craig Lefferts combined for 5 2/3 hitless innings.

The stellar relief outings kept the Padres in sight of the Cubs, a good thing since Sutcliffe allowed just two hits over the first five innings. But in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Padres loaded the bases with none out — Alan Wiggins’ leadoff bunt single was the instigator — and plated two runs on sacrifice flies by Graig Nettles and Terry Kennedy.

Then came the bottom of the seventh, the most exciting half-inning in Padres’ annals. Carmelo Martinez was on second base with one out when pinch-hitter Tim Flannery hit a routine groundball toward Cubs first baseman Leon Durham. But instead of an easy second out, the ball went right through Durham’s legs and Martinez scored the tying run.

Meanwhile, Sutcliffe was tiring on the hot October afternoon and the already-frenzied crowd somehow made more noise. Wiggins followed with another single and then Tony Gwynn put the Padres ahead with the hard-hit, bad-bounce double that almost took off the head of Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg. Two runs scored and the Padres knocked Sutcliffe out of the game when Garvey singled in Gwynn with a liner to center.

The Padres brought in closer Goose Gossage in the eighth inning (yeah, closers weren’t babied all the time 25 years ago) and the Cubs had two on with two out before Gossage stuck out Gary Matthews to end the threat. In the ninth, the Cubs got a man on base and Jody Davis came up with two outs and hit a one-hopper to Nettles at third, who threw to Wiggins at second for the force .

Radio announcer Jerry Coleman let fly with one of the loudest Oh, Doctors! of his long broadcasting career while Padres’ fans deliriously sung the song “Cub Busters” (written to the tune of Ghostbusters) over and over again.

Most of the nation seemed stunned at the Padres’ dramatic comeback (the Chicago columnists took homerism to a new level, particularly the hated Mike Royko) and were saddened that the dominant Detroit Tigers would be playing the Padres in the 1984 World Series.

Not surprisingly, the Tigers won the World Series in five games (Detroit would have pounded the Cubs in similar fashion — the Tigers were a team for the ages) but it really wasn’t that big of a disappointment to Padres’ fans. And the ’84 Padres are still talked about fondly and viewed as the most favorite team in the franchise’s not-so-gloriously history.

Hard to believe that 25 years have passed since Oct. 7, 1984. And perhaps that afternoon isn’t remembered at all if Leon Durham doesn’t let an easy five-hop grounder go right through his legs. Durham’s error opened the floodgates and allowed the Padres to win their first NL pennant.

The Padres have made only one other World Series appearance (swept in 1998 by the New York Yankees) but you always remember your first more than your second, no matter what the topic or the memory.

That’s why Oct. 7, 1984 remains the most memorable day in franchise history.