Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I Suppose 600 Saves is a Big Deal

I think it's safe to say that this Milwaukee Brewers season hasn't really gone the way that a lot of us planned it to go. I'm sure many of us thought that now in the first week of September we'd be at least rooting for a Wild Card birth, but the truth of it is most of us stopped watching the Brewers about a month and a half ago. Even though this season was all but a waste, one positive did come out of the Brewers 2010 campaign - Trevor Hoffman got to celebrate his 600th save in front of the home crowd in Milwaukee. It's a milestone that really couldn't have happened to a better guy, and something I'm pretty sure we'll never see again in baseball.

The thing is though, this was supposed to happen about three or four months ago. Hoffman was supposed to be a lockdown closer all season. The Brewers were supposed to be in a pennant race, at least in the race longer than they ended up being this year. We were never supposed to hear about John Axford, much less race to get him for cheap saves in our fantasy league. But that's not how baseball works. In baseball, rarely do things happen they way that they are supposed to happen. It's part of what makes the game so great. In the case of Trevor Hoffman and his quest to 600, the fact that the Brewers are terrible this year only made the 600th save of his career look more important.

I guess what I'm saying is that the fact that Hoffman got number 600 in September for a disappointing club makes the 600th save a hell of a lot more of a big deal then if he would have done it back in May. I mean, yeah, it would have been a big deal back then as well, because 600 saves is probably something we'll never speak of again. I mean it took the guy 17 years to accomplish. But if he did it May, there would not have been the big post game ceremony, there would not have been shirts marking the occasion flying off of the racks after the game, and he may not even have accomplished the feat in Miller Park. It would have been a neat event, we would have felt good for him, and we would have moved on, focusing instead on where we were in the standings than the fact he just hit 600.

But, things went a bit different this season. The Brewers haven't done anything relevant since the beginning of summer, Hoffman struggled so bad that he was pushed to mop up duty normally reserved for the Jeff Suppans of the world, and Brewers fans were become extremely apathetic towards the club. All of those things happening are actually what made 600 that more of a big deal. With that struggle, we would have never seen Hoffman earn his way back to save situations. More importantly though, we as Brewers fans and the Brewers organization wouldn't have been as desperate to see him accomplish that feat, if only to give us something to cheer for. Hoffman getting 600 became our playoff chase, it was why we were watching the games and why we were checking the box scores. We didn't do that to see where we were in the Wild Card race. Instead, we were looking to see how much closer Hoffman got to that mark.

If you think about it, 600 really isn't that big of a deal at this point, besides the fact that it's a round number. Hoffman has been breaking the all-time save record with every save for the last two years now, so every game that he recorded another one could have been looked at as a big deal. But because 600 was something that seemed so unreachable, it became a benchmark we were all rooting for. A lot of the hype though was fabricated, because at this point, 600 is no different than 590 or 610, at least not in my opinion. Sure, I get the significance of it, but the celebration after the game seemed as if Trevor Hoffman just pitched a no-hitter to win the final game of the World Series three hours after he announced he'd be retiring. It was a big celebration, and while Hoffman definitely deserved it for his career, I'm not sure if he deserved it for the actual save. In this case, 600 is just a number, it was just another save.

What I'm not trying to do here is take away from his accomplishment. I realize that this save meant a lot to him, and I realize why it was a big deal to his family and to us as fans. What I'm saying is that this moment means a lot more to us in September than it would have meant in May, and if he did this at the beginning of the year it would not have received the celebration that it did Tuesday night. Brewers fans needed something to celebrate, they needed a reason to feel like this season was played for a reason. Hoffman provided that on Tuesday night, so we responded in kind. I'm insanely happy for the guy, he deserves all the praise that he receives, but this was the situation of a bad club reacting to the one positive thing that happened to them this year more than it was a good player receiving the attention he deserved.


Jonk said...

600 saves is probably something we'll never speak of again
At least until early 2012 when Mariano Rivera (555) does it.

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