Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith pregame interview
Padres closer discusses breaking the record held by Smith
Lee, how did you feel when Trevor passed the record? You knew that day was coming and then it came.
LEE SMITH: I'll tell you what, it was like me getting another interview and the guys knew I was the all-time lead. I told him a little while ago, thanks for all the publicity. It's great to see someone get to that level. I thought when I was doing this, it went by so fast. I mean, you think you're the all-time leader, and then you think of things you've done.
But I'll tell you what, the season, the career goes by really fast. To see someone get there in that length of time is a really good feeling, but to have that come back as publicity for myself is really a good feeling.
The talk had been that Trevor was approaching, approaching this big record. What were you thinking as it was happening leading up to this, seeing him hit these milestones before the big day?
LEE SMITH: Well, one thing I wanted him to do was hold off for another year. Let me like bask in that glory for a little longer.
But you know what? I knew it was going to happen. Because these guys now, in situations where they have to go out, you look at the things you see they've done, you look at this team, wins 80, 85 games, and he's always -- it has to do with over half of the game it's letting someone else know how tough a job it is. And I can attest that the situation is not easy. But it was like him getting closer and things like that. I was thinking about, sort of watching more the San Diego Padres. (Laughter)
Lee, is this going to hurt or help your own Hall of Fame bid? Actually both of you can answer that.
LEE SMITH: For myself, I hope it's going to help, because you see of any team in the last ten years, if they don't have a good closer, they don't go anywhere. But you look at San Diego. You look at the Yankees and Cardinals, and all the teams like that Anaheim and Detroit, at certain times if they don't have a good closer, they don't go anywhere. It let's people in baseball know how tough a job it is and how important I think the closer role is, because if I had a team -- if I was going to start a ball club, I think I would start with a closer and go back if you don't have someone that holds that lead in the eighth or ninth inning, early in the game, as you know.
But most teams, they'll try to look for a closer because, like I said, if you don't have someone to hold that lead, it's not going to be a good season for you.
TREVOR HOFFMAN: I think it's a great question. Fortunately I got a good opportunity to talk here. He's done a good job here. Dual press conference here. I talk about the number that took so long to reach. Lee did an unbelievable job grinding it out as long as he did. I don't think there's enough credit given to the closer, let alone the number he threw out there for us to chase. Truly remarkable. And I'm sure that with all this stuff going on, it's going to bring a lot more attention to the closer role which is a vital part of any ball club.
Depending on how long you play, Mariano Rivera is going to take a run at your record some day. How would you feel about that?
TREVOR HOFFMAN: Records are made to be broken, that's for sure. But it's a situation where if you've got a few years younger than I am, which he is, he might get more opportunities than I. Anybody's goal that has an opportunity to finish ball clubs for their club is more worried about the wins for the club than they are for the save. He's done a great job for his club over the years, and I'm sure he'll look forward to continuing to do that.
Trevor, you had a couple of looks for the guy, the closer for the other team in this series now. What are your impressions of him as a -- Wainwright as a young guy doing his job? What are your recollections of when you finished -- started doing the job and how tough that adjustment and that job is when you started?
TREVOR HOFFMAN: I'm not too quick about forgetting about Izzy. I know he's the guy that helped that ball club get to the post-season. Wainwright has done a great job and had the opportunity the other day. It's all about what you're doing when you're given the ball. Great stuff, back off. Gotta be the aggressor out there. It's the start of many forms.
Curious what you see from Trevor and what got you to be such a great closer.
LEE SMITH: We talked about that earlier in the hallway. He found at an early age that he wasn't a good hitter. (Laughter)
LEE SMITH: That helped him make the decision to go to the mound. But the thing is you find so many pitchers I think really good setup men, and they don't make good closers. It's just something about that 27th hour that scares a lot of guys, and you -- if I go out there in a situation and I see a guy that's a good setup man but he can't do the job, it's because I think mentally they say I got this guy behind me.
If I get in a jam in the eighth inning, I know Trevor is going to come and get me out of this. It's not the last man standing, not -- before I felt like being that confidence, all that cornerstone for the team. Knowing that, hey, I can't wait until Smitty come in the game or Trev come in the game because it's going to be we have a win. So that's the one thing I felt really good about. I see that in him. You can see that team get comfortable when he come in the game.
That's the one thing, I always loved to have that, not when closer come in the game. Hey, man, what's going to happen now? They have the confidence. Hey, man, we have this game in hand because we got this guy on the mound.
How about in terms of work ethic and preparation because you don't, Trevor doesn't accomplish what he does without having done what he's done for these -- every day for all these years?
LEE SMITH: A lot of things go unnoticed. For myself, I would go as far as watching the umpires and situational hitting, and I went to hitters' meetings, listen to things like that. But the preparation, no matter how well you are prepared, the game of baseball is unpredictable. You see a situation or game today that may not happen again. But the thing is when you go between the lines -- I was a fast-ball pitcher. If a guy is a good fast-ball pitcher, I'm not going to change my aspect when -- what I do, when I go out there.
That's what I see in Trev. You don't go out there day in, day out, try to pitch to the situation. You gotta go out there. My game is what it is. I can't change that because that's what got you there.
Trevor you alluded to this. I would like to ask you both this question. The last year considered the Hall of Fame. You have the career record and there's talk of Cy Young possibility here for Trevor. I'm wondering about the appreciation of the closer. How it's grown, maybe even in the last 12 months, and what's next for that position? What else has to be, you know, what else would you like to see as far as the popularity or the appreciation towards that position?
TREVOR HOFFMAN: Well, I think that just the fact that your name is mentioned with all the other greats is a fantastic thing. But where it can grow is yet to be seen. It's wherever you guys decide to take it, to be honest with you. We're appreciated by the guys that make up those lineup cards. We're appreciated, as Lee said, by teammates that feel comfortable when you come into a ball game, and there's nothing that you can take away from that is bad.
I mean, you're breeding confidence into a ball club to prepare to shorten the ball game, and I think if you have that opportunity to do that, that's great. But the people that are in the clubhouse understand the importance of our role. That's where it's at.
LEE SMITH: For later on, I think it's only going to be better for the same guys like sooner, and you can't forget Dennis Eckersley and guys like that. But you look what they do to the ball clubs, I'm thinking later on the guy's going to get a little more credit. Because we talked about it. He called me a couple weeks ago. I had to pull over on the side of the road and talk to this man, something I have to get off my chest. Like an easy save. You never saw one, easy save. I don't see guys donating out there.
I talked to one of the greatest hitters in baseball, Billy Williams, and he said the most embarrassing moment with him was when he made that last out, to be out there on the field with that other team high-fiving, he said that was the worst feeling that a hitter could have. And those guys, that 27th out is hard to get. Not many guys you can throw in that situation and that want to be in that situation.
You actually sort of touched on this talking about no easy saves, but during the course of the time that you did the job, it sort of transitioned in terms of the number of outs that guys were asked to get and the ways that guys were used. How much different do you think the job is now from when you started doing it, or is it not that much different because the 27th out is such a tough one?
LEE SMITH: I think the guys have really took the game a little farther than when back when I played. But that was my left-handed specialist and my setup man. But also I played for the Cubs. So that is probably the answer to that question. But also, you know, when you go out, you look at that situation, those guys coming in, I think it makes the closer a little more fresh later on, other than a guy coming into the playoff throwing 120 innings as opposed to a guy throwing 60 innings. I think it helps out in situations for that guy to be fresher in the playoffs because now they've got the central and all the other, especially the playoffs, so it could go a lot longer.
So I think it helps the organization and that team itself to keep that guy fresh.
So both of you, in all of this Hall of Fame talk, how much -- do you think too much emphasis is being put on post-season success for closers rather than regular season success, and is that a factor in your mind?
TREVOR HOFFMAN: I think they're two animals that are inter second in many ways but are completely different. You could be a guy that helps your ball club get to the post-season and do the things that you know are responsible for that long haul, and then you understand the microscope is on you when playoffs hit. Every pitch is huge. Every at-bat is huge. And situations are just that. And I think the experience having been in the post-season, you understand that these factors are involved and, therefore, you have to turn the page. It's great. You did what you're able to do someplace else, but now you need to make yourself shine.
So I definitely think there's an importance on what you do in the post-season, especially under this role.
LEE SMITH: Yeah, man. I tell you that's exactly how I feel about that situation, because what he's done in the regular season, book a close on that. That doesn't matter. What you've done now from what you've done right now, it's not what you've done from the past, you gotta go out there and show that team, because you're going to play guys that you know that everything is elevated now. I mean, everything has like got that microscope on it and stuff like that. Then when you get to the American League, we didn't have the inner league play when I played so we didn't get a chance to see these other guys, so you have on-the-job learning. What's going on in that situation for myself, you can't go out there and change the way he's going to pitch because we're playing somebody from the American League. You just go out there. What you feel comfortable doing and what has got you here is going to keep taking you if you have the confidence in yourself.
Is this last pitch that Lee throws to you today, does that count as a save?
TREVOR HOFFMAN: All closer throws strikes. Get a strike to get an out.
LEE SMITH: It wasn't a hook.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.