The Pirates lost today, 2-1, and Trevor Hoffman broke Lee Smith's save record by recording number 479. Congratulations to Hoffman. Saves are a silly statistic, but it's hard not to admire a guy who ends up breaking the record for saves despite not getting to the big leagues until age 25, and not closing much until age 26. (Smith broke in at 22 and was closing by 24.)
Smith had a pretty amazing career, by the way - from 1982 until about 1991 he was spectacular. With a few exceptions, Hoffman has been used throughout most of his career as a one-inning guy - pitch to a few batters, get your saves, and rack up about 60 innings a year. Not Smith, who, until the end of his career, often pitched multi-inning stretches and threw 80 to 100 innings a year. The closer's role is different now than it was when Smith pitched - it's more of a specialist thing, and it's probably easier. With some exceptions, like Keith Foulke, closers today are mostly one-inning guys. If that trend persists, I suspect someone - maybe Francisco Rodriguez? - will break Hoffman's record in the next 20 years or so. Unless Mariano Rivera does it, though, I don't think it'll happen any time soon.
Regarding the game, I'm glad Jim Tracy is giving some of his often-used relievers a break, but maybe it isn't wise to bring Juan Perez in with the game tied. Was Damaso Marte not available? Or how about a righty? Josh Bard is killing righties this year, but he never has before that. I'd take a good righty with the game on the line over Juan Perez any day.