Wednesday, January 10, 2006
Love for Torii
Good morning everyone! Congratulations to Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn on their Hall of Fame election today. Both a highly deserving of the honor. Goose Gossage got almost 72% of the vote. He falls short, but if he does not make it next year, I would be shocked. It was very disappointing to see that Bert Blyleven's vote total actually decreased from 53.3% to just 47.7% this year. But with a lesser class eligible next year, that number could jump quite a bit next year. I can hope, right? Mark McGwire not surprisingly was only voted for on about 23% of the ballots. That is really unfortunate, especially when you consider that Jose Canseco and Ken Caminiti received votes. I was surprised and somewhat disappointed that Orel Hershiser, Albert Belle and Bret Saberhagen did not receive the necessary 5% to stay on the ballot. I was also disappointed that Harold Baines barely remains on the ballot. The Hall of Fame vote is always interesting and a source of much discussion!
Today, I thought it would be nice of me to clarify a common misconception.
On this site over the last two years or so, I have frequently been tough on Torii Hunter. When I hear that he is still the "Face of the Team" it annoys me. When I read about the great leadership that he shows, I can't help but think about the punch that he took at a teammate a year ago after he had left the team after his injury. I think about how he mocked the swings of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. I think about how how when Joe Vavra was hired as the team's new hitting coach, Torii basically said that he couldn't learn anything from him because he wasn't a big leaguer.
I think we have all had our moments of frustration with his plate discipline and overall approach at the plate. Sometimes his aggressiveness leads to good things. Many times, it leads to bad swings at bad pitches or tailor-made 4-6-3 double plays.
I frequently said that the Twins would be wise to trade Hunter for a few reasons. First, I thought that the overall perception of the type of player that Hunter is was overvalued by people around the league. I thought that if the Twins could acquire a few prospects for Hunter, it would make a lot of sense. Second, Hunter is now on the wrong side of 30 meaning that we have likely seen the best of him. That certainly showed with his defense last year. Third, the ankle/foot injuries that he has had the last two years can only add to the injury risk that he continues to be, particularly playing on the Metrodome's surface.
Finally, and most importantly, the fact that his option year of 2007 will pay him $12 million. I have been consistent in saying that I thought that was just too much for a low-budget team like the Twins to afford. I mean, he is going to account for approximately 17% of the Twins overall payroll in 2007. That is my primary argument. Adding to that, he was arguably the Twins sixth best player in 2006.
And then the Twins picked up his 2007 option at $12 million, and honestly, by then, I was thinking that it was OK because it was just one more year. But then came this wild and crazy free-spending free agent season, and Hunter's $12 million salary does not seem quite so bad. Sure, he still will account for about 17% of the Twins payroll, but at least the $12 million is fair market value for him. Imagine what he could have commanded had he become a free agent? 4 years, $60-65 million? Doesn't seem out of the question.
So anyway, as I look at it, 2007 will be the final season that Torii Hunter will spend in a Minnesota Twins uniform. I have to admit that although frustrating, Hunter is at his best when he is being aggressive as a hitter. I truly believe that from about 2000 to 2004, Hunter was the best defensive centerfielder in baseball. He could literally outrun baseballs, leap any wall, and had a rocket for an arm. He has a very intriguing power/speed combination that not many centerfielders have.
As Bert Blyleven likes to tell us, Torii Hunter is a 'streak-type hitter'. I joked that he usually was good for one hot stretch each season. In 2006, he had two such stretches including September when he was a huge part of the Twins stretch run.
Torii Hunter, if he was the face of the franchise, it was in part because he was a great quote and cameras loved him. The average Twins fan in the late '90s through today love him because he is great for the kids, and with the media. He has done a lot for the community. He has followed in the mold of Kirby Puckett and Kevin Garnett as great community people.
In other words, I have an incredible amount of respect for what Torii Hunter has done in his career. When you take a look at his numbers, and compare them to others throughout the history of the Minnesota Twins, he ranks highly in most categories. When his time in Minnesota is done, I absolutely believe that he belongs in the Twins Hall of Fame and have no doubt that he will be there in time.
Speaking of the numbers, I thought it would be fun to see where he ranks on the Twins all-time lists. I will note where he ranks now, and where he could rank after one more season. I think it really puts what he has done in his Twins career into perspective.
Sure, his .269 career batting average ranks tied (with Bobby Kielty and Jimmie Hall) for 48th overall. Maybe we won't mention that his career .323 On-Base Percentage ranks tied (with Jim Lemon and Greg Myers) for 71st overall (Note - Joe Mauer is at #1, just ahead of Rod Carew). His Slugging Percentage of .463 ranks 12th, tied with Corey Koskie (behind Joe Mauer).
Games Played: Hunter ranks 12th with 1,074. If he were to play in 162 games this year, he would pass Cesar Tovar (1,090), Greg Gagne (1,140), Roy Smalley (1,148), Randy Bush (1,219) and he would tie Bob Allison at 1,236. It is likely that he will finish in 8th or 9th place.
Games Started: Hunter ranks 10th with 1,034. This year, he should pass Zoilo Versailles (1,043) and Bob Allison (1,084) to finish in eighth place.
At Bats: Hunter is currently ranked 12th with 3,892. During the season, he should pass Bob Allison (3,926), Chuck Knoblauch (3,939), Roy Smalley (3,997), Cesar Tovar (4,142) and Zoilo Versailles (4,148) to end up in seventh place.
Hits: Hunter's 1,046 hits are tied with Roy Smalley and Zoilo Versailles for 9th overall. During the season, he should pass Cesar Tovar (1,164) and Chuck Knoblauch (1,197) to move into 7th place.
Doubles: Hunter ranks seventh with 214 doubles. He has a shot to pass both Harmon Killebrew (232) and Gary Gaetti (252) with a great season.
Home Runs: Hunter ranks seventh with 164 home runs. With 37 home runs, he could pass Gary Gaetti (201), and if he managed to hit an unlikely 43, he would match Kirby Puckett at 207.
RBI: With 604, Hunter ranks eighth in RBI. He will pass Bob Allison (641), but he would need to drive in 129 runs to tie Rod Carew at 733.
Runs Scored: Hunter ranks 10th overall in runs scored. With 71 runs scored, he would pass Cesar Tovar (646), Gary Gaetti (646) and Bob Allison (648).
Stolen Bases: Hunter's 108 SB rank sixth. With his ninth stolen base, he will pass Dan Gladden. If he is able to steal 27 bases, he would pass Kirby Puckett for fourth place.
Caught Stealing: He has been caught stealing 51 times which ranks 5th on the list. With four CSs, he will pass Cristian Guzman (52), Tony Oliva (55) and Greg Gagne (55).
HBP: If he is hit six times this season, he would pass Pat Meares, Matt Lawton, Randy Bush and Corey Koskie to be in fifth place.
Walks: Hunter is tied for 18th with 279 walks. With 50 walks this year, he would pass Cesar Tovar, Doug Mientkiewicz and Earl Battey.
Strikeouts: His 769 Ks rank sixth in the Twins' history. This year, he could pass Kent Hrbek (798), Bob Allison (841) and Gary Gaetti (877).
Special Note - a special thanks to David Pinto of Baseball Musings and his work on reading all of baseball's box scores back to the '50s and providing such a great search engine for any sort of search you might be looking for. It's called the Day by Day Database. It is really an amazing site!
So there you have it. Torii Hunter is in the Top 10 in most offensive categories. Add in the fact that he has now won six consecutive Gold Glove Awards, and Hunter has had a very impressive Minnesota Twins career. It is one worthy of the respect of all of us. And I think it is one worthy of a place in the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame.
I don't know if all of this will spark any comments. But I do believe that longevity is a good thing. I think that with the Hall of Fame elections of Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn it is great to see players stay with one team throughout their career. For that to happen with Hunter, he will have to take a deal from the Twins for well under his potential market value, maybe something in the 4 year, $30 million range.
Back in 2000, the Twins organization was in shambles. It had been a loser, but you could see that group of players coming together and improving. The "contraction" talk had just started. And Brad Radke made the decision to take a little less money to stay with the Twins. He did the same after his remarkable 2004 season. I thought that Radke was a great example and allowed the Twins to retain several of their other players at that time.
I think that Torii Hunter could have the same type of effect on the Twins after next season. If he makes a statement and takes a lesser deal to stay with the Twins, maybe that will be a great model for Johan Santana, but also for other high caliber players who could be in line for monster contracts (like Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan and Michael Cuddyer) to take less to stay and do something special in the Twins uniform.
A guy can dream, right?!
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