"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."