How was your Thanksgiving? Mine was great, except for the part when one of my favorite baseball players left my favorite team.
It’s not fair to say center fielder Torii Hunter "left" the Minnesota Twins for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-Orange County-California-West Coast-State that Borders Mexico. The Twins more or less abandoned their star Gold Glover, making little to no attempt to sign the 32-year-old.
Hunter, the best outfielder in the world and a pretty good hitter, signed a five-year deal worth $90 million with the Angels on Thursday. Hunter had at least a half-dozen teams (not including the Twins) pursuing him, but L.A. jumped in Wednesday night by making an offer it said would be on the table for one day only. Now the Pine Bluff, Ark., native will be sharing the sun-soaked California outfield grass with superstar Vladimir Guerrero, Garret Anderson and Gary Matthews Jr.
Hunter said Friday on Dan Barreiro’s KFAN radio show out of Minneapolis that before the 2007 season, he would have taken a three- or four-year extension from the Twins if they would have made an offer, and for far less than the $18 million per year the Angels gave him.
Dude didn’t want to leave, but he’s getting paid.
Major pro athletes are overpaid, there’s no doubt. But when guys like Torii Hunter get deals like this, I don’t mind. He’s a great player. Sure, he’s never going to hit 50 bombs and drive in 140 runs in a season, but he comes across as one of the nicest guys in sports, and I’m proud he was a Minnesota Twin. I always thought he’d be like Kirby Puckett, a guy who stays with one club his entire career. I think Hunter thought that, too. He was the Kirby Puckett of the 21st century, minus the shoving women into bathrooms part.
Hunter had the best season of his career in 2007. And 2008 should be a big year for him, especially hitting with Guerrero and Anderson in the lineup. But I’d be surprised if he goes David Ortiz and turns into a can’t-miss Hall of Fame-quality superstar. So in a way, I can understand why the Twins didn’t want to pay Hunter $14 million to $16 million at age 37. That’s fine, but then why wasn’t he traded last season? Get something for Hunter instead of keeping him and sitting on your hands when he was a free agent.
Minnesota doesn’t need to put itself in fire-sale position just yet. They have former MVP Justin Morneau, former batting champ Joe Mauer, stud pitchers Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano, closer Joe Nathan and outfielders Michael Cuddyer and Craig Monroe. The Twins need to build around what they have and make an effort to contend now. Minnesota should take the money it saved on Hunter and spend it for a player who will help in 2008. Enough of this planning-for-the-future garbage. What’s going to happen then? You get good players in six years, get to the playoffs, then give everyone away again and start over?
I will miss seeing Hunter in a Twins uniform. He said on Barreiro’s show that Twins fans are still No. 1 in his heart, and that if he even got a sniff at the Hall of Fame some day he’d go in as a Twin.
I will always root for Torii Hunter.
Photo by A.J. Olmscheid / Associated Press