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  • Two Eyes on Torii Hunter

    Although he hasn't had a great series, Torii Hunter's Detroit Tigers are headed to a decisive Game 5 against the Oakland Athletics after a huge win on Tuesday night.

    This is Hunter's seventh trip to the postseason -- a pretty impressive accomplishment when you think about it. You don't see too many players reaching the playoffs seven times in their career, let alone as part of three different clubs. Part of it is that Hunter has been fortunate enough to play almost exclusively on good teams, but certainly another part of it is that he has legitimately helped those teams get it done.

    Hunter has been a great player, one whose contributions in Minnesota I may have under-appreciated to some degree in retrospect.

    While I've always admired Hunter's game, I haven't always loved him. He's notoriously opinionated and occasionally has things to say that I just don't care for. Then again, you can't fault a guy for speaking his mind, and based on the way he's viewed by teammates and media, it seems safe to say that overall he's an amiable guy and a clubhouse asset. Fans are drawn to his effervescent nature on the field, not to mention his constantly high levels of energy and effort.

    Is he a Hall of Famer? I would say no. He has never truly been one of the greatest players in the league and to me that's a prerequisite. But Hunter has a better case than you might suspect. He has hit 314 home runs while spending most of his career as an elite defensive center fielder (nine Gold Gloves). And boy, has he been consistent. From 2001 through 2011, he hit 20-plus homers every year (with the exception of 2005, when he missed almost half the season due to a broken ankle), and while his power has waned somewhat in his late 30s, he has still posted an .800+ OPS in each of the past two campaigns.

    When you look back at those scrappy Twins teams that largely reigned over the AL Central from 2002 through his departure in 2007, it's difficult not to see Hunter as the steady beating heart. Other players came and went, had their ups and downs, but Hunter was good every year, providing middle-of-the-lineup offense along with legendary defense at a crucially important position.

    There's no question that, these days, the Twins are missing many of the things Hunter brought to the table. That leads to another thought: Could a return to Minnesota ever be in the cards for the veteran outfielder?

    Hunter has one more season remaining on his two-year, $26 million contract with the Tigers. He'll be a free agent again next year, at age 39, when the Twins may be looking to add some extra pieces to a roster that will (hopefully) be shaping up as a contender driven by young stars.

    Acquiring players who are verging on 40 can be dangerous, but the Twins had great success in a similar situation with Jim Thome and it appears that Hunter has taken phenomenal care of his body because he's showing few signs of age.

    Might the Twins consider bringing him back for one last go? Should they? It's a fun talking point as the Hunter gears up for one of the biggest games of his life.
    This article was originally published in blog: Two Eyes on Torii Hunter started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 28 Comments
    1. Bark's Lounge's Avatar
      Bark's Lounge -
      The Rule of thumb for me is that once the Twins are eliminated from Postseason contention or from the post season - I will never root for an AL Central Team to win, after the AL Central is out of the equation, all my focus goes towards rooting for the Senior Circuit to take the WS Championship.

      As for Hunter's postseason dreams, I hope his club loses the series to the A's. Putting my disdain for our fellow AL Central opponents aside, as a fan, the A's pique my interest a bit more and I hope they make it to the World Series... to ultimately lose of course, but they are a fun team and a club that is easy root for.

      I cannot see Hunter returning to the Twins as a player after his contract with the Tigers expires, but stranger things have happened. I'd like to say we have too many OF prospects who should be playing full-time by then to entertain bringing Hunter back in 2015, but after watching this past season... All Bets are Off - I no longer rely on the hope of such notions. If Hunter did return to the Twins to close out his career, I believe that most Twins fans would be pretty happy about that. Hunter has his MN detractors, but overall, I think he is beloved amongst most Twins Fans.

      I think he talks too much for his own good, but like you said in your article, team mates seem to love him. No matter anyone's opinion on Hunter, he is a leader. Leave it or take it.

      Unless he is with the Twins - I have no interest in seeing T-Hunt win a World Championship.
    1. Ultima Ratio's Avatar
      Ultima Ratio -
      Can he pitch?
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Said it before, I'll say it again...one of my favorite Twins of all time. A good player, and he would run through a wall (or a catcher) to win a game.

      The Twins could use some of that.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      There's no I in team... but there are two I's in Torii.

      I like that he has fun on the field. He's certainly a guy who isn't afraid of a microphone and saying controversial things, which is why media types love him. He's been a very good player for a long time.

      I'm just not a fan, and it goes back to that 2005 season. Remember how much he bashed Mauer for not playing. Well, Hunter missed as many or more games with his injury as well. Also, when Hunter got hurt, did he stick around the team? Nope, he went home. Oh sure, he showed up for a day or two a couple months later. But then he mocked and ridiculed Mauer and Morneau's hitting styles. And, then he tried to punch Morneau, missed and hit Punto. Oh, and then he left the next day for the rest of the season. Nice.

      But, he gives a good interview, I guess.
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      I would be happy to see Torii get a ring.
      Cheering for the NL seems an odd thing. The Braves play over there, don't they?

      I do cheer for the NL team if the Yankees are in the WS.
      I wouldn't cheer for the Yankees if they were playing Al Qaeda.

      For this year, go Justin! Go Pirates!
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      Torii Hunter was the heart and soul, and the clubhouse leader. He was the franchise player, and never skipped a beat, and was embraced and a leader with the Angels and Tigers as well. Two i's in his name, eh? He is funny, gregarious, and just keeps on playing well, giving his all, and inspiring his teammates. The Twins have been in desperate need of a personality like Torii's since they decided to make Joe the face of the franchise. In the end, it is the spirit that makes winners, even when the talent is there. Talent without that spirit still doesn't win.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      And, then he tried to punch Morneau, missed and hit Punto.
      And this is a bad thing?
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      I agree with Seth. Hunter prioritized his relationships with the media over his teammates. It helped make him more popular with the casual fan, but the idea he was this great clubhouse leader was totally manufactured.

      He's been a fine player, and his defense actually matched the reputation back in his Twins days, but his best days are long gone and unless he's willing to sign a relatively cheap deal (highly unlikely) it's fairly likely he won't live up to his next contract. but the reality is, he's not the guy I'd want mentoring the young OFs we have coming up through the system. I can't see him being a guy who would yield playing time to younger players happily.
    1. Dman's Avatar
      Dman -
      I always liked Hunter but never felt he was elite and wasn't that upset when the Twins let him go. In Hindsight I really didn't appreciate everything he brought to the table and when with the Twins he seemed to get hurt so I figured his career was in decline. As usual I couldn't have been more wrong. As for his love of the media and saying controversial things it never really bothered me much as it seemed he got along with teammates just fine and that is what mattered to me. If he was clubhouse cancer that would be a different thing.
    1. D. Hocking's Avatar
      D. Hocking -
      I would not mind him getting a ring at some point, but I would rather see the Tigers lose.

      I think the Twins could use a more extroverted personality, and I think on a good team, Hunter would greatly contribute to a spirited atmosphere. At this point, I am not sure how much he would contribute to a team struggling to regain relevance. When things aren't going well for him he can get a little moody and passive-aggressive. I think he understandably felt under-appreciated in 2007, but it got old reading every away game interview where he was telling the opposing team reporter how their team/city is one of the few he could see himself playing. Even his criticisms of teammates seemed to be largely to get the sound byte than to improve the team. I thought I remembered an interview of Morneau the next year where he implied Torii never spoke to Joe directly about his issues with him.

      I actually do like Torii, but I don't think he would be the tonic for an ailing team (although he might be a boost for a team on the rise), and at this point of his career would he even want to be part of a rebuilding process. Plus, as someone mentioned earlier, he can't pitch.
    1. ltwedt's Avatar
      ltwedt -
      He left US! He's the enemy - Get over it!

      Signed -

      Not a Torii fan -
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      I used to like Torii until he made that boneheaded dive in the 2006 ALDS.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Quote Originally Posted by Bark's Lounge View Post
      The Rule of thumb for me is that once the Twins are eliminated from Postseason contention or from the post season - I will never root for an AL Central Team to win, after the AL Central is out of the equation, all my focus goes towards rooting for the Senior Circuit to take the WS Championship.
      I am exactly the opposite. I go on rooting for AL Central teams to win (including the White Sox) and I often end up rooting for an AL team to win the series (except for the Yankees or the Rangers). This year, though, I'm rooting for the Pirates but if the Pirates and Tigers would somehow end up in the Series, I'd consider that win-win.

      I don't know if Torii is the right piece to add back in but I definitely think the Twins need to add in some veteran leadership with a bit more personality than we've seen recently. And I found it very telling that Gardenhire thinks the same thing about needing a clubhouse leader (at least according to Howard Sinker's tweet on the 10/1 season ticket holder conference call).

      Gardenhire is probably thinking more of a Nick Punto, Michael Cuddyer or Jim Thome type of player so it's time to peruse the free agent lists to see who might fill that need.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      Said it before, I'll say it again...one of my favorite Twins of all time. A good player, and he would run through a wall (or a catcher) to win a game.

      The Twins could use some of that.
      Amen!! One of my 3 favorite Twins.

      The Twins could use a lot of Torii's spirit. I think he has a lot to teach the kids (Arcia, Buxton and Hicks). Will he sign for that role--I doubt it--but it is worth a shot.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      I'd definately like his personality back in the clubhouse.

      I mean to say I would like someone with a personality in the clubhouse.

      I think the Morneau dust-up was overblown. Hunter was calling out Morneau to be a better teammate and Morneau credits the incident with changing him in just that way. Those two mended fences long ago. I think Hunter's guts to call out teammates that may be undermining the team is a positive trait, just not one that is common or appreciated in the midwest.

      If his leadership is manufactured, it's been manufactured pretty well, both of his former managers loved the guy and went out of their way to praise him and lobby for him every chance they got. We damn well know Ron Gardenhire doesn't suffer any Prima Donnas.
    1. best game in the world's Avatar
      best game in the world -
      From a fans prospective, Torii was awesome. Great attitude at the ballpark, happy to say hi during batting practice. And as others have talked about, Justin might just have needed a clubhouse flair to spark his career development? I would like to see him playing for the Twins again.
    1. Bad_News_Bears's Avatar
      Bad_News_Bears -
      Quote Originally Posted by Boom Boom View Post
      I used to like Torii until he made that boneheaded dive in the 2006 ALDS.
      The two memories of Torii that jump to mind are 1) Robbing Barry Bonds of a homerun in the 2002 All-Star game, and 2) his botched dive to lose to the A's in the 2006 ALDS.

      Which, now that I think about it, perfectly encapsulates both the flair for the spectacular and the stupidity throughout his career.
    1. frightwig's Avatar
      frightwig -
      You know, Kirby Puckett was worth 50.8 rWAR in his 12 seasons with the Twins, from age 24-35. Torii Hunter has been worth 50.1 rWAR in his career, all but 0.6 of it in the 13 seasons from age 25-37. Kirby was the better hitter (124 OPS+ vs. 111 OPS+, although that's skewed somewhat by the time Torii spent developing in the majors from age 22-24), but in terms of overall value Torii isn't far below Kirby's mark.

      Anyway, he has had a very good career, and still going strong at age 37 (.304/.334/.465, 114 OPS+, 2.1 rWAR this year). But I can't see him wanting to come back to Minnesota to finish his career with a rebuilding project, unless his skills have deteriorated so much by 2015-16 that nobody else really wants him. As long as Detroit wants to keep him, why would he leave except to sign for more money elsewhere? And if money becomes an issue with him, I can't see the Twins making an offer that satisfies him on that point, either.
    1. Hosken Bombo Disco's Avatar
      Hosken Bombo Disco -
      Torii was fantastic. We could have used some of that edginess and outwardness (and the big smile) in the '08-'10 years.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      This guy has come out AGAINST the Twins and Twins players. And there are some who want him back??? This is totally insane. Torii hates this organization and the "clubhouse" aspect is always overrated garbage. Again, he hates the Twins. Coming back here? No. For good reasons from the Twins.
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