SAN DIEGO - Trevor Hoffman’s record-setting run as San Diego Padres closer is almost certainly over after the team withdrew its contract offer for 2009.
Hoffman, baseball’s career saves leader and the face of the franchise since Tony Gwynn retired following the 2001 season, was upset with the abrupt, impersonal way the club ended contract talks, agent Rick Thurman said Tuesday.
Thurman doubts negotiations can be rekindled.
“I would say because of the way it was handled, it appears as though he’s done as a Padre,” Thurman said.
Hoffman’s appearances out of the bullpen were announced by the ominous gongs from AC/DC’s “Hells Bells.” The Padres apparently rang out the Hoffman era when they pulled their offer of $4 million for 2009 and a $4 million club option for 2010. Thurman said the club also refused the closer’s request for a meeting with top executives, who appear to be slashing salary because of owner John Moores’ difficult divorce.
The 41-year-old Hoffman has 554 career saves. He was in Puerto Rico on a Nike tour and wasn’t available for comment, Thurman said.
“Trevor’s unhappy with the way they’ve dealt with the situation,” Thurman said. “I think if they didn’t want him back, they should have just said they want to go a different direction, go younger, or, ‘Listen, we’re going to cut payroll,’ and sit down and have a man-to-man, face-to-face talk with him. I think he deserves that respect. Any player deserves it, but this is Trevor Hoffman. He’s meant a lot to that organization.”
General manager Kevin Towers confirmed in a text message Monday night that the club had pulled the offer to Hoffman.
He wouldn’t say if it definitely meant the end of Hoffman’s time with the Padres.
“No further comment,” Towers said in another text message.
Club CEO Sandy Alderson didn’t return a phone call seeking comment, and Moores didn’t respond to an e-mail.
Hoffman and Alderson are thought to have an icy relationship stemming from contract talks three years ago.
Thurman said Towers told him Saturday that the Padres were withdrawing their offer. The Padres sent Thurman a letter on Monday formally notifying him of their decision.
Thurman said Towers told him there were “some unhappy people in the organization” because details of the Padres’ offer were reported in the media.
“I said, ’This is an excuse. You guys never wanted to re-sign him in the first place,”’ Thurman said.
Hoffman had requested a meeting with Towers, Alderson and Moores to discuss his future and the club’s direction after it lost 99 games and finished last in the NL West this season.
“I said, ’What happened with the meeting with the three of you guys?’ And he said, ’Well, when I told Sandy you guys wanted to have a meeting, he said no.’ I said, ’Oh really, so you guys have been sitting on this for two weeks then?”’
Thurman expects other clubs to be interested in Hoffman, who had 30 saves in 34 chances and a 3.77 ERA this season. It was the 13th time Hoffman saved at least 30 games, extending his own big league record.
Then an unknown rookie with two saves, Hoffman joined the Padres in the midst of their infamous fire sale in 1993, coming over in a then-unpopular deal that sent Gary Sheffield to the Florida Marlins.
With Moores reportedly selling 49 percent of the team due to his divorce, the Padres appear to be once again dumping salary. They’re trying to trade ace Jake Peavy less than a year after giving him a $52 million, three-year contract extension.
Although Hoffman has had his struggles in recent seasons, his home save opportunities were always lively because “Hells Bells” began blaring from the sound system the instant he started jogging in from the bullpen.
Known for his high leg kick, menacing glare and deceptive changeup, Hoffman became the career saves leader when he notched No. 479 at home on Sept. 24, 2006, breaking the previous mark of 478 by Lee Smith. The following June, Hoffman reached 500, also at home and against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.
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