Trevor Hoffman's quest to reach 600 career saves has become somewhat of a hot topic in recent days in Milwaukee.
Hoffman, the all-time saves leader, has blown two save situations already for the Brewers (4-4) this season.
For Hoffman, the Brewers announced this spring that Miller Park would feature a saves countdown in left field on the scoreboard. Fans can see a large banner of Hoffman, followed by a tracking of Hoffman's historic milestone save by save.
Hoffman originally approved of the addition to the ballpark, thinking it would be a fitting countdown and addition to the already great fan atmosphere at Miller Park. However, he has been having second thoughts about the banner and countdown.
"I don't want to add any extra enthusiasm for the other side of the field," Hoffman said prior to the series finale against Colorado. "It's not a situation where anybody is trying to put it in anybody's face. But I guarantee you they're saying, 'Hey, let's not let him click over a number on us.'"
While Hoffman might be worried the opponents are getting extra motivation from the banner in left-center, he should be more concerned about his performance as of late.
Hoffman didn't blow his second save until mid June for the Brewers last season, one of his most consistent seasons as a major leaguer. He's given up three home runs this short season, more than the two he allowed during his 37-save campaign in 2009.
Is the pressure of the looming No. 600 getting to Hoffman? His location has been spotty this season, and for the Brewers to get Hoffman his 600th save, he'll need to step up the consistency with his fastball and locate his change-ups better.
Hoffman may be the all-time saves leader in MLB history, but for now, he's taking it one game at a time.
"In this role you can't look one save in front of you,'' Hoffman said. "They are not that easy to get. Nine saves away doesn't seem that large of a number, but it depends on so many things that you can't get caught overlooking today and preparing for tomorrow. There are no certainties.''
No certainties indeed, Mr. Hoffman—no certainties indeed.
Save No. 600 may be the elephant in the clubhouse for Hoffman, and as much as he'd like to say it doesn't have an effect on him, it simply has to. Barry Bonds, the career leader in home runs, said his charge to the top to pass Hank Aaron with No. 756 took longevity and skill. A little more than that, Barry, but for the sake of brevity, let's move on.
Is Hoffman really struggling because of a banner and countdown in left-center? Doubtful. Is Father Time catching up to him? More likely.
While a lot is made about a player's drop-off at age X, Hoffman and Bonds and numerous other greats have found a way to hold back the wrinkles of time and keep their skills on the diamond sharp. At this point, it's yet to be determined if Hoffman will return to Milwaukee for a third season as the Brewers' closer.
Hoffman's career crowning achievement will be No. 600, and subsequently each one after will further his mark in the MLB record books. It would be different if he were to pass someone's record, but reaching a milestone that a player may never reach again is quite the accomplishment in and of itself.