Hoffman hopes for best for fellow closer

Hoffman hopes for best for fellow closer

SAN DIEGO -- There was no relief for Rich Gossage on Tuesday, none of the goosebumps that visited former San Diego Padres teammate Tony Gwynn when the Hall of Fame balloting results were released.

Gossage once again fell short, this time by a mere 21 votes among 545 ballots cast. With 388 votes, Gossage was third, behind Cal Ripken Jr. and Gwynn, with 71.2 percent -- just shy of the 75 percent requirement.

"I think the process is coming along," said Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, who eclipsed Lee Smith as baseball's all-time saves king in 2006. "We gained momentum last year with Bruce Sutter [making the Hall of Fame], and even though it would have been fabulous for Goose to go in with Tony and Ripken, he did very well.

"I think Goose has a great shot at getting in next year, with a thinner ballot. This year, you had two locks with Tony and Cal, and you also had the Mark McGwire controversy. There wasn't any focus on Goose, and he still did really well, coming that close.

"I'm sure there's some disappointment, but I think he should be extremely excited he got so close -- and I think ultimately he will get in. Hopefully, it will happen next year."

Smith was seventh in the voting with 39.8 percent. His 478 saves stood as the record until Hoffman surpassed it in the final week of last season, finishing with 482.

"The [closer] role isn't as embraced and as easily defined as 3,000 hits, 300 wins," Hoffman said. "There are so many variations in the role.

"In the early days, guys pitched longer. In my era, it's been defined by [Dennis] Eckersley, a one-inning guy. In time, it will clear up."

Gwynn repeatedly expressed a measure of "guilt" over getting the call when so many others he deemed excellent candidates -- Gossage, Jim Rice, Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris, McGwire, Tommy John, Steve Garvey -- fell short.

"I feel humble," Gwynn said. "I would have loved it if Goose had made it -- he came so close. At the same time, what I'm going to say doesn't matter.

"For Goose, so many guys on that list not to get in ... the guilt is kind of hard to take. I really feel for those guys. They've been trying so hard to get in.

"But to stand with Cal Ripken as the only guys going in ... you have to feel good about that."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.