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Torii Hunter and the Minnesota Twins: The Reunion Tour?

December 1, 2014

I like the Minnesota Twins. If you’ve seen any of the comments I generally post here when I’m in a sports-minded mood that’s obvious. As a Twins fan I’ve put up with a lot and I’ve endured a lot. On the field I’ve seen bad trades and bad, or more often than not, nonexistent, free agent signings. On the bench I’ve seen unsuccessful managing and coaching strategies that have continued for far too long along with a too-often willingness to stick with the status quo rather than make changes when changes were needed. In the front office I’ve seen a stingy, bigoted, owner named Calvin Griffith who wanted to win baseball games but refused to adapt to the change in the game brought on by free agency and ultimately threatened to move the team to Florida and who finally sold the team only to leave us with a just-as-stingy owner named Carl Pohlad who used coercion, lies and threats of moving the team to North Carolina to get Minnesota taxpayers to build him a stadium and, failing that, offered to kill off the team by allowing it to be contracted for the lump sum payment of $150 million*. Despite all that, or in spite of all that, I’ve persevered and remained a Twins fan.

There have been some good times (AL West titles in 1969 and 1970 (I was too young to remember the 1965 World Series) ) and some great times (World Series titles in 1987 and 1991) but for the most part it’s been a bunch of mediocre to poor baseball and a lot of “Wait until next year”. Regardless, I love baseball and I love the Twins and I continue to stick around.

Now we sit shivering in the off-season and with the off-season comes the 2015 free agent speculation. Enter an ex-Twin named Torii Hunter. Hunter was a great outfielder and an average hitter. He left Minnesota in 2007, after turning down a three-year, $45 million contract to sign a five-year, $90 million contract with the Anaheim Angels. “I didn’t want to leave the Twins,” Hunter said at the time. He blamed his leaving on the Twins who, he felt, had given up on him and at 32 years old believed he was too old to sign to a five-year contract. I agreed with the Twins. However, Major League Baseball is a sport for, at least for the most part, spendthrift multimillionaire owners and Hunter became very wealthy and wound up playing five years for Anaheim. He became a free agent again in 2012 and signed a two-year deal worth $26 million with the Detroit Tigers. Now Hunter, who will turn 40 next July, is looking for a new home and Minnesota, along with Texas, Baltimore and Seattle, are the four teams he’s looking at.

Is Hunter a free agent worth considering for the Twins? I don’t think so. While he’s still an average hitter and would certainly provide a much-needed spark to the top of the line-up, age has taken its toll and Hunter is now one of the worst outfielders in the game and is a big reason why the Detroit Tigers outfield was one of the worst in baseball last year. I think putting Hunter back in a Twins uniform would be nothing more than stunt to deceive fans into thinking that the team is trying to complete. Sure, they could use him only as a DH, and he’d certainly have value in that role, not to mention the experience he’d bring to the clubhouse, but I don’t think either of those roles would carry enough value to offset the amount of payroll he’d demand or the amount of playing time he’d take away from a younger player who needs that valuable experience.

We’ve already been told that 2015 will be a rebuilding year so let’s rebuild with our young talent and prospects and not with a sentimental, high-priced free agent signing.

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I said earlier that as a Twins fan I’ve put up with a lot, and while it’d be easy to sit here and issue ultimatums like I’m Carl Pohlad demanding a new stadium or else, I could say that if the Twins pursue and sign Hunter I won’t follow the team but that’s not me. With or without Torii Hunter I’ll still wear my Twins gear and I’ll still listen to Twins games and read box scores and enjoy second guessing just about every managerial decision Paul Molitor makes (Translation: I’ll enjoy following the team and the games), but it’ll be with that decades-old – and all too familiar – feeling of betrayal and tired sense of propagandistic false hope.

* Estimated. I’m not sure the actual amount Mr. Pohlad wanted from Major League Baseball to dissolve the franchise was ever disclosed.

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