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Barry M. Bloom

Comfortably retired, Hoffman reflects on career

Padres great enjoying post-playing days with club with Hall eligibility on horizon

Comfortably retired, Hoffman reflects on career

SAN DIEGO -- Trevor Hoffman has always felt comfortable with his own persona, whether as one of Major League Baseball's top all-time closers or in his most recent role with the Padres as a special assistant to the president.

The 45-year-old right-hander, who is second in MLB history behind Yankees great Mariano Rivera with 601 regular-season saves, will be eligible for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the Class of 2016. No. 51 is really a Hall of Famer right now as a player, teammate, friend and family man.

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Putting his wife and three young sons first at this point, the veteran of 18 seasons -- 16 of them with the Padres -- told MLB.com recently in an expansive interview that he's satisfied with his current position helping the club's baseball operations on and off the field.

"I'm not looking for any expansion of my role in any particular area," said Hoffman, whose number is one of five retired by the Padres. "I like what I'm doing. It might not be a lot, but I have the ability to have input. It allows me the flexibility to be around my family. It works for what my desires are, which is just to be around the game.

"It's not an impulse of mine yet to seek something out differently. I'm not jonesing to be a manager. I'm not jonesing to be a pitching coach, yet. To say never? Nobody can ever do that. I live in San Diego. It provides me access to an organization I deeply care about, and I'm comfortable with that role."

MLB.com: This is your third year out of baseball. How have you adjusted to that?

Hoffman: I was ready Day 1. It wasn't a huge transition. I was OK with it. I was comfortable with the decision. It was pretty easy to transition into it.

MLB.com: Why was that?

Hoffman: I think I understood what I wanted out of my career. I wasn't going to be able to match my level of accomplishment. It wasn't a matter of willing it, let's put it that way. I always said it would end quickly in that role. I felt like I always wanted to have that opportunity to be that elite closer and be able to carry a team to the postseason and have success. And I didn't feel like I was capable of doing that. I didn't want to be that lower-tier, middle-of-the-road closer.

MLB.com: Are you still a little disappointed that your career ended in Milwaukee and not in San Diego?

Hoffman: No, it wasn't really important to me to finish my career back in San Diego. I didn't start with the Padres. Having been in the Minor Leagues with the Reds and then going to Florida, it wasn't like I was drafted, developed and had a long career in only the Padres' system. Then it would have been difficult. It wasn't like I was matching what Tony Gwynn did, start to finish. I went to Milwaukee because the door shut here. Again, I was pretty happy with the decision.

MLB.com: You were a shortstop in the Minor Leagues for the Reds. How did you wind up being a pitcher?

Hoffman: Hitting .210 and having 30 errors at the break, but showing a good arm from deep short. They said, "He's not fielding, he's not hitting, let's see if that arm can translate to the mound."

MLB.com: Had you ever pitched before that?

Hoffman: Nah, my dad wouldn't let me pitch after Little League. My college coaches didn't find a need for me to go to the hill.

MLB.com: And your dad didn't let you pitch for what reason?

Hoffman: At 13, you go from a Little League field to most likely a regulation-size diamond. He felt it was too fast a transition for a young body type to go from that 40 feet to 60 feet and pitch. He didn't want to run into some overzealous coach that would overuse me. He said it was an opportunity to play the infield position, hit and your arm will be somewhat rested if you need to use it when you're older.

MLB.com: Coming over to San Diego from the Marlins in 1993, you were the hidden element in the fire-sale deal that sent Gary Sheffield to Florida. No one knew anything about you.

Hoffman: You'd have to talk to [then-Padres general manager] Randy Smith about how that did break down, but I was the only piece that did go to the big leagues right away when Sheff and Rich Rodriguez left to go to Florida. The other guys that came to San Diego were also pitchers: Jose Martinez and Andres Berumen, who both eventually played a little bit for the Padres.

MLB.com: Randy, who is still in baseball ops with the Padres, was the guy who took criticism from the media about that deal at the time when he called it "value for value." It turned out to be the best deal in Padres history.

Hoffman: I love it! He stood his ground, man.

MLB.com: He still stands his ground.

Hoffman: It was my job to make that value stand out. It turned out to be a great trade. Sheffield won the World Series with the Marlins in Miami [1997] and had a great career. He bounced around.

MLB.com: So what are the highlights of your years pitching for the Padres?

Hoffman: I don't know. Probably being part of the turnaround of the organization as a whole. We were kind of considered to be the doormat of the National League West for a long time. To come out of that shadow and be an annual contender. We gained a lot of respect for the players that we had and the way we played the game. It was pretty cool. I just appreciated being part of all that.

MLB.com: Particularly the 1998 team that was swept by the Yankees in that World Series?

Hoffman: It's easy to point to that. I just enjoyed the process. I've always enjoyed the process of each particular season and there were highlights of any season. Obviously, there were more losses and less wins in others. I enjoyed being a big league ballplayer. I enjoyed putting the uniform on every day. I think you always have to evaluate yourself based on what you win -- the win-loss game. But if you get too consumed by that, I think you lose sight of the process, the journey that you go on.

MLB.com: What made you so good at bouncing back from failure? Because closing is such a high-stakes job.

Hoffman: I think just being able to compartmentalize each outing. Not to underreact or overreact. There's the old adage: never get too high or too low. When I did have a good outing, I was that close to having a bad outing, and when I had a bad outing, I was that close to a good outing. I had a routine. I found a routine early in my career. It seemed to work. I learned to trust that. I found that at the end of the day, if I did it enough times, I was going to come out on the right end of stuff.

MLB.com: Do you think that think the era of the long-term career closer -- you and Rivera, Lee Smith, Goose Gossage and Billy Wagner -- is at an end because of so many injuries to this current group? Guys like Brian Wilson, Joakim Soria and Ryan Madson are all out after Tommy John surgery, some of it repeated.

Hoffman: The other part of it is that you have pretty dominant closers forced into the starting rotation, like Neftali Feliz, who ended up having arm issues, and the Reds have considered taking Aroldis Chapman out of the closer's role. I don't know if you're going to get a guy who's just going to be left alone. Craig Kimbrel in Atlanta has been pretty good, pretty early. If he stays healthy and they leave him alone, he can be in that role for a long, long time. When Billy Wagner retired, we talked about Kimbrel, and he said that this kid is the real deal. I wouldn't say that across the board there won't be guys who can't do it. Throughout history, despite the guys who have made a career of it, there have been a lot of others who didn't do it that long. You'll have guys who will stand out.

MLB.com: So you don't think the role has changed much?

Hoffman: I don't know if the leash is as long as when I came up. I had enough early success that they became comfortable with me in that role. It allowed me to understand the role. It allowed me to have failures and not worry about being taken out of that role. Now, with the advent of the Wild Card, they can't ride through those longer periods of time without having success. That's pretty much what happened to me my last season in Milwaukee. That's the common thread across the game. The patience within that role is not going to be there.

MLB.com: What did you think of the Hall of Fame vote this year?

Hoffman: I thought it was interesting. I thought the writers had an opportunity to have a voice about that particular era. They certainly weren't comfortable picking and choosing and being the moral police. That being said, next year there are plenty of guys I don't think are under any suspicion. A guy like a Greg Maddux and the numbers he was able to put up. I don't think there's any suspicion of Doggie being involved in any PED talk. Tony Gwynn mentioned something on the Mighty 1090 recently that regardless of whether you did it or not, you're tainted by the era.

That's unfortunate, especially coming from a guy who tried to do it the right way, didn't look for shortcuts and didn't get involved in that. I'm sure I will be somewhat affected by all of that. We all struggled throughout the season with health. You rely on your training staff to help you get on the field preventatively and rehabilitative-wise. That was the mindset I had. Finding that shortcut was never really a mindset of mine.

MLB.com: In my mind, you and Rivera are first-ballot no-brainers. But he's still playing, so obviously you will come up first.

Hoffman: Well, I appreciate that. It's a specialty role. You know how specialty roles are viewed. It's not always the right thing or wrong thing. Mariano is incredible. He's still doing it at 43, even after his knee injury. Will it be a helpful thing for me to ride his coattail a little bit? Absolutely. And if that helps my cause, I'm all in.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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