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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. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Also, why is any old veteran on the horizon at all?
    1. Hosken Bombo Disco's Avatar
      Hosken Bombo Disco -
      Agree that there's no chance he's coming back, as both Torii and the Twins were ready to part ways after 2007. Disagree with your clubhouse comment - we need one or two of our younger outgoing guys to fill the leadership vacuum next year. Torii was one of those guys when he was here.
    1. Bark's Lounge's Avatar
      Bark's Lounge -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      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.
      The clubhouse aspect might be overrated, but I believe it is immensely important to have a fiery leader on a ballclub. A individual that can lift up the spirits of his fellow teammates, make some promises he cannot keep, but sometimes does performance wise, and if not shrug it off.

      I have to face the truths that are in my face. The present day Twins are super vanilla and I do not see a player who can uplift a team when it is in a gutter. I have seen a little passion from Deduno and Arcia, but for the most part this team seems soulless. I am a Joe Mauer fan, but this is not a role will ever suit him. Sure, you can have the most talented team and win a World Championship without a pure leader, but the Twins will never have the most talented team in MLB... they need a leading player and a driving force.

      I do not want Hunter to play for the Twins again, but I do recognize what he brings to the table of passion and leadership.

      I hope the Twins can find a guy to fit this role.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      I appreciated his passion and his relentlessness during games. But as awesome as that Torri could be on the field, he was even more spectacularly despicable off it. The guy was a loudmouth faux-leader. I'd like an actual leader - one with a sense of accountability and less hypocrisy. So pass for me on this one.
    1. KGB's Avatar
      KGB -
      Torii missed games after crashing into walls - who on this team would crash into a wall to make a play? This team has packed it in 3 September's in a row and their club house leadership has not shown a lot of heart to get out and play. I doubt Hunter would consider coming back, why sign with a team that is going to lose 90 games?

      But the Twins need some players who will run through a wall, or call out teammates if they are not giving 100%.
    1. Longdistancetwins's Avatar
      Longdistancetwins -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      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.
      Me, too, I guess because I relate to people here in NYC who root for these out-of-town teams. I pull for Cleveland, Detroit, and the White Sox (but have no feeling at all for KC) when the Twins are out of it. The last four-game series against Cleveland was painful, but, on some level, I did want the Indians to get in. The Pirates have always been my favorite NL team, so it is a sad day.
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      Torii is well-liked and respected. He plays hard between the lines and does what he can to win games and titles. Torii has never gotten in trouble so I would cut him some slack. Hunter likes to hear himself talk and does put his foot in his mouth pretty often.

      On balance, I'll take what Hunter has to offer and discount or ignore some of his nonsense off the field. In many respects, he is a better player now than he ever was with the Twins.
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      For the whole "fiery clubhouse leader" bit to have a positive impact, the rest of the team needs to know that guy has their back. Torii would sell out any player on the team for a soundbite on KFAN. From a talent standpoint, he'd be a decent addition to the team (at the right price) because he can still hit and play decent defense in one of the corners. But I doubt he'll come at a good price and I can't see him as a good mentor for young players.

      I'd rather guys like Hicks & Arcia not get the idea that trying to make the spectacular play over the smart play is a good idea (yes, I remember him diving for those balls in the playoffs too and screwing the team)
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