Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Torii Hunter and the Skipping Record of The Good Ol' Days.

Is it just me or is this like the fifth time we've read this story. I think it's probably the fifth time we've written about this too, but I just couldn't resist. It's my weakness. And throw in the fact that it's written by "Poo-han" (Hey if he gets to use lame humor and overwrought metaphors, I get to say Poo-han), makes it all the more tasty.

Here's a few of my favorites:

He has lived a lifetime in Twins pinstripes, has become the face of the franchise that nurtured him, and will play out his existing contract this year. You would think the prospect of playing elsewhere would be repugnant. You would be wrong. Why? Look at it from Hunter's perspective. Four years after a proud, young lineup took the Twins to the playoffs for the first time since 1991, Hunter is the only regular of that 2002 lineup remaining.

Ahh, a lifetime indeed. There's so many memories, so many. I know it's arguable, but if Hunter is the "face" of this team, I have serious doubts if anyone will ever remember anything about this team during his tenure here. And here we go again. It's time for this month's installment of "Remember When". I'm sick of looking at it, "from Hunter's perspective." Because it isn't perspective. It's short-sighted and lacks any semblance of leadership that the "face" of a team is supposed to show. Oh and there's more.

When Hunter got together with friends to watch basketball on Friday night, he did not join Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. He visited the house of Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez, along with Twins second baseman Luis Castillo, and Mike Lowell and Gabe Kapler of the Red Sox. Had he not been playing in the World Baseball Classic, David Ortiz, a member of the 2002 Twins, would have attended.

None of those players have remained with one franchise.

None of Hunter's position-playing peers remain with the Twins.

Okay now it's Shakespeare's time to shine. It's nice to know Jim is plugged in to the social agenda of Torii, but does he honestly think it's important to the story to bring up the fact that he spent time with players from other teams? How many players in this day in age DO stay with one team for their entire career? I'd argue it's less than 10% for sure. So Jim's hard hitting commentary on this seemingly wayward group of vagabonds getting together to watch some hoop is lost on me. Oh and apparently we're supposed to feel sorry for Torii that his position-playing peers are all gone. Cuz, you know there were some great ones in that bunch.

And now Hunter is witnessing the departure of the biggest stars on the Twin Cities sports scene.

Kirby Puckett is no longer with us. Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss have been dispatched. Kevin Garnett is the subject of trade speculation. And this could be -- probably will be -- the last year in Minnesota for Hunter, Twins starter Brad Radke and left fielder Shannon Stewart.

Puckett was a legend, but hadn't played a game in ten years. Garnett isn't gone and I have yet to hear one legitimate trade rumor. Moss needed to go, Culpepper forced his way out, he was not dispatched. And losing Hunter and Stewart is simply a matter of performance versus price, while Radke has become more and more ambivalent about his baseball career over the last couple years.

"I've been hearing rumors about Kevin Garnett," Hunter said. "Daunte is gone, Moss is gone. I thought Moss would be there forever. Kirby passed.

Torii Hunter is not a great football mind.

Does the modern ballplayer covet a one-team career?

Ugg! Do horrible sports writers covet a one-paper career?

One popular theory holds that a new stadium would allow the Twins to keep their high-priced players. "Think about this, though," Hunter said. "I'm 30. A stadium takes three or four years to build. I'm gone by then. The stadium has nothing to do with me. It has something to do with Mauer, Morneau, Jason Bartlett, the younger guys.

When did we anoint Hunter the status of an elite player? One that deserves to be re-signed no matter how large the contract? I'm glad Torii knows the stadium has nothing to do with him, he's right. He knows he's gone, he knows it. If I'm a general manager with half a brain, I look at how much I owe Hunter next year ($13 million), shake his hand and thank him for his 13 years of service. Boy we'll always remember those Gold Gloves, oh and the DQ commercials, and the time you punched Morneau, and how much you bitched every time one of your pals got dealt or signed away.

We think of ballplayers according to the laundry they wear, but ballplayers think of themselves as a large, fluid fraternity of nomadic athletes.

And again I say UGG!

Hunter has been a model ballplayer. He's talented, hard-working, engaging, team-oriented, honest to a fault.

Let's break this down a little. Hunter is a great fielder with mediocre to good numbers at the plate. Does that translate into "talented", yeah I suppose so. Hard-working? Couldn't tell ya. Engaging? To certain people. Team-oriented? Like I said, we've read this story more than once. Honest to a fault? I'm not sure how that defines a model ballplayer, but whatever, fine.

But will the Twins spend about $10 million a year on a great defensive center fielder who runs into walls and hits 20-plus homers a season? Will Hunter accept a lower offer from the Twins than he could get from, say, the Red Sox or Angels?

Probably not.

"Conjunction junction, what's yo' function...", and Shakespeare levels us again.

No no they won't. I get the feeling Jim thinks they should. Sorry but great defensive centerfielders are exciting but not worth big bucks. And 20 plus homers? No, still not worth $10 million, $3 million less than he is actually due to receive. I have had my beefs with Terry Ryan's M.O., but one thing I due admire is his unwillingness to over-pay for players. He knows Hunter will hit the market and get courted and snatched up by a large market team, maybe either NY team, maybe Boston, maybe St. Louis. And they'll overpay and give him big market money and he'll give them exactly what he gave the Twins.

Hunter didn't even realize he was the last position player from the 2002 Twins until someone mentioned it this spring. "Amazing, huh?" he said. "It's strange. When I walked into the clubhouse for the first time this year, it was different. There were a lot of young guys in here. I felt a little out of place for a minute.

"It was a different feeling in the clubhouse. You couldn't joke around with these guys, because you didn't know how they would take it. But it all came back."

Let's face it: Hunter probably won't.

I don't buy that he didn't know this at all. Why? Because this point has been made in one form or another is each of the other five times this story has been written. Why do people seem to be so enamored with this guy? EVERY time he has a chance to talk about how different things are, he does it. EVERY TIME. I don't know how many times we're gonna have to read this story, but hopefully the next time we read it Hunter will be making his way to Fenway or Shea and we'll finally be able to write and be "amazed" by the fact the no position players remain from the 2002 Twins.