Friday, November 30, 2007

Don't Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out, Torii

Since I'm loathe to preview the men's basketball tilt between the Gophers and UC Riverside tomorrow, I'm going to turn my attention, if only briefly, to the Minnesota Twins. If you haven't noticed, the Twins are front-and-center in Hot Stove Action. And while I might eventually breakdown any trade involving Johan Santana, I want to comment today on the Twins' former center fielder.

As you know, the Twins let quote-a-minute Torri Hunter leave via free agency. Not only do I not blame the Twins for letting Hunter go, I'm pleased to see the development. I could rant about Torii's lack of patience at the plate or the fact that he's lost a step or two in the outfield. He's 32 years old, after all, and for the Twins to offer him 5 years for $90 million like the Halos did would have been insane.

And while I'll never forget him ramming through the Chicago White Sox catcher or stealing an All-Star Game homerun from Barry Bonds, Hunter never earned up to the nickname Kirby Puckett gave him many spring trainings ago: Little Puck. With his me-first public persona, Hunter has proved that the Puckett comparisons ended with the position they played.

It's possible that in my eyes no one could ever live up to the Puck, for on the field behavior and locker room leadership. But time and again, Torii's self-promotional attitude rubbed me the wrong way. Just last summer, during the season, Torii was on PTI, and asked about his contract. He said, with a big smile that has convinced so many to love him, "Pay Me." Torii, it takes more than a great smile to be the leader and sports icon Puck was.

And then in print articles, he talked about how Johan Santana would love to be in New York. Maybe it's just me, but I'd think Torii ought to speak for himself and not a Hall of Fame pitcher.

More recently, Torii has said that no free agents or stars ever will want to play in Minnesota without a roof on the new stadium. Torii might believe this, and it could be true, but it strikes me as incredibly arrogant for him to run his mouth about something he's no longer part of. And just the other day, as the Star Tribune's excellent fan blogger Howard Sinker points out, Hunter ran his mouth again. Here's what Torii said to the Los Angeles Times, as relayed by Sinker:

“I would have signed for less,” said Hunter, who had five-year offers, ranging from $70 million to $75 million, from the White Sox, Rangers and Royals, and the day before the Angels offer dined with Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks.

What if the Angels offered less than those other teams?

“I still would have taken it!” Hunter said. “Arte [Moreno, Angels owner], he didn’t want to negotiate. It was like, ‘Wham, take it or leave it.’ I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s nice.’ They gave me 24 hours, and I gave them [my decision] in five hours. There was really no thinking, because that’s the team I wanted to be with.”
It's funny that Torii would say that, because, well, a few days prior he'd been quoted as saying the Angels weren't on his radar. He'd also previously said "Pay Me" to a national television audience and in other instances played up his role as "Little Puck," in those instances opining about how he wants to stay in Minnesota, where he's always been etc ...

In the end, I don't blame Hunter for taking the dollars. But I'll be pleased next season when I read Twins coverage and I don't see endless self-serving quotes (read: lies) from Hunter.

I want to make one more point, concerning the treatment of Hunter in the media, before I wrap this up. The Star Tribune has two great baseball writers in LaVelle E. Neal III and Joe Christensen. And Jim Souhan, now a columnist, did a fantastic job of covering baseball no matter what some popular Twins bloggers might have you believe. But I have one small gripe with LEN3 and JoeC. Their coverage of Torii has always been incredibly one-sided. When he got in a little spat with Justin Morneau, it was the Candadian who was the bad guy. When Hunter questioned Joe Mauer's ability/desire to play with injuries, there were no stories about Torii causing clubhouse anxiety. And the favoritism towards Torii went beyond that.

There is a rule in sports press boxes about cheering: It isn't allowed. And while it's natural to develop working relationships with those you cover, when it gets to a point, like it has at times with LEN3 and Torii, where the reporter can't be objective about his source, it's time to cover something/someone else.

Again, I think LEN3 and Joe C. do a tremendous job. But in this one instance I believe they have shown incredible favortism towards Torii.

Thankfully, I'll no longer have to see Torii's ego being stroked in the Star Tribune. Goodbye Torii, and for the sake of all Los Angeles-area sportswriters, here's hoping you keep running your mouth.


GopherNation said...

once again you essentially nailed it. I like Hunter and he was a valuable member of the Twins. But I would have been more upset had we spent $90 mill on him over 5 years. If we are going to spend crazy money we should at least get someone who can hit in the clutch and give quality at bats.

With that said, we are in trouble because we have NOBODY to play CF in 08.

Gopher Nation

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of what you saiy about Torii, but the Twinkies are going to miss him both at the plate and in center. Even with Delmon Young the Twins have no one to replace his glove in center.