Torii Hunter Sounds Off on the Twins...Again

Even when I disagree with Torii Hunter, there's a part of what he says that's truthful. Earlier this weekend Jim Souhan had Torii with him for a brief interview, and as always Torii had some exceptionally interesting things. to say. Here's what I found the most intriguing.

His free agent status, Michael Cuddyer's free agent status

Hunter said he would have stayed with the Twins had he been offered a four- or five-year deal. Smith offered three. Recently, the Twins offered Cuddyer a two-year contract worth $16 million, even though Cuddyer is making $10.5 million this season and has been the Twins' best player.

Hunter said the Twins made an offer to him ''just to show people that I turned it down, to make me look bad. Same thing here. Cuddyer is going to make less, as a free agent? I told him before, 'They'll make an offer and people will say, 'You turned down the money, you could have stayed, you're money-hungry.' "

I do think that, had the Twins offered Torii what he considered to be a "fair deal", that he would have stayed in Minnesota. While the Angels literally blew away the competition with their five-year, $90 million offer, I'm sure that had the Twins done four for $60 or five for $75, then Torii might have stuck around. But the Twins only offered three and $45. (Read that article by the way, it's Jon doing a great job of rehashing the Hunter negotiations just after he signed with LA.)

A lot more after the jump.

The Twins certainly could have handled the situation with Hunter better, and Jon's idea was a very good one, but the Twins weren't willing to give Torii the guaranteed years and dollars he wanted and that's a decision I agree with. Taking that kind of a risk on a player of that age with that stat history just wasn't a good idea.

Of course, Torii went on to have three very good years to kick off that contract, finding an offensive consistency he lacked for most of his career in MInnesota. In his mind, of course he was always capable of that kind of production. To an objective evaluator, that wouldn't have been the case.

If the Twins had signed Hunter, with the new stadium still two seasons away they would have had trouble doing the following:

  • Extending Joe Nathan
  • Extending Justin Morneau
  • Extending Michael Cuddyer
  • Finding space in the outfield for Denard Span

Alternatively, signing Hunter may have stopped the Twins from taking a center-fielder based package from the Mets, and may have stopped Smith from dealing Matt Garza (plus) for Delmon Young (plus)...but that doesn't make the above points untrue. Again, hindsight is 20/20.

Hopefully the Twins take a similar stance with Cuddyer as they did with Torii. On a multi-year deal, it's not responsible to give him a raise off the $10.5 million he's making this year. As far as we know, Minnesota has offered him a two-year, $16 million dollar extension. For a guy with his history, $8 million for each of his age 33 and age 34 seasons is a very fair deal. If Cuddyer feels it's worth it to go somewhere else so he can sign for more years for a few million more dollars, I'm not going to hold it against him. Just like I didn't hold it against Torii that he left.

Obviously Torii still holds something against Minnesota. Hopefully Cuddyer wouldn't feel the same if that scenario came to pass. I don't think he would.

Playing Hurt

''I always tell people, I'm old school," Hunter said. ''I have an old soul. I play hard no matter what. I play hurt no matter what. I feel if I'm out there my presence will help my team. I didn't put up great numbers, but at least I was in there ...

''I wanted to be the guy who stayed in the lineup. Because I know how to play hurt."

Guys play through pain. Everyone does. The fact that some players think they're a good judge of pain for someone else is laughable, but I respect Torii for wanting to be on the field. But here are a few facts.

  • Torii Hunter does not play hurt "no matter what". Contrary to his belief, he's actually missed time in his career due to being hurt.
  • How does a player "know how to play hurt"? Can Torii use the mojo of his mind to erect protective tissue around his ribs, or to reduce the pain in his knees?
  • Wanting to be on the field is great, but by his own admission says he didn't "put up great numbers". That's not helping the team, Torii. As Aaron Gleeman pointed out: "Michael Cuddyer is now 12-for-69 (.174) with zero homers and 15 strikeouts in his last 20 games. But at least he plays hurt, right?"

On Bill Smith

Hunter described Smith as cold.

''He had no heart, no compassion, no nothing," Hunter said. ''Because he wasn't the one who brought me in. [Former GM] Terry Ryan brought me in. Terry Ryan was my dad, my guy. When Bill Smith took over and we had a conversation, I wasn't feeling it. There was no chemistry, nothing between us. It was like I had never played with the Twins."

I have no doubts that all of this is true. At the very least, true in Hunter's eyes. Smith is not a talent evaluator, where Ryan was, so that may have played a difference because Smith is a bit more "business" and a bit less "baseball". And the biggest issue of all: the Hunter negotiations were the very first thing on Smith's agenda.

That was a franchise-altering process, no matter how it shook out. Smith was probably tentative, because it was a very big deal, and no doubt he wanted to establish a hard line with the organization by taking a stance with Hunter and sticking to it. Maybe he wanted to set an example.

So, I don't doubt that Hunter saw Smith as cold. There are probably a few reasons for that, not the least of which would be Torii's attitude with the media which has been put to good use with the media, particularly since his departure from Minnesota.

Conclusion

I love Torii. I still do. For what he did for the team while he was here, for his personality, and yeah, for the fact that he was sometimes a controversial quotesmith for the media.

But sometimes the guy needs a bit of a reality check.

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