Sometimes it's hard to know on which side of a line you should fall. The issue of Torii Hunter is a classic case in that he splits fandom right down the middle. In one corner you have a guy who spent at least a part of 11 seasons with the Minnesota Twins, another four if you include his minor league career, becoming one of the most popular players in the state and one of the most recognizable personalities in baseball. He helped the team to four division titles and an ALCS appearance, hitting in the middle of the order and collecting the first seven of nine consecutive Gold Glove awards.
In the other corner you have the guy who couldn't keep his mouth shut when that might have been the best course of action. He called out teammates, questioned commitment, and generally became a mouthpiece whose candor was only topped by his inability to filter his thoughts. Outside of the clubhouse he was looked to for leadership, but the style he provided was brash and sometimes missed the mark.
Yesterday Jon Paul Morosi spoke with Hunter about his future, specifically with the Angels. That five-year, $90 million dollar contract he signed after the '07 season expires this year and, turning 37 yesterday, the number of years ahead of him are a question mark.
Hunter said he loves the Angels and they will always be his number one preference, but:
"If my time is up here, then you think about Minnesota, think about Texas."
Of course this seems to be a long way from "I ain't going back to the Twins", but that's quite easily chalked up to the aforementioned lack of a filter. Torii says what Torii wants when Torii thinks he knows what people want Torii to say. And this is coming from me, a guy who is an unapologetic Hunter apologist.
More after the jump, where we get a great sample of Hunter's ability to say what he thinks people want to hear.
The exact same day, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times has a very similar piece on Hunter...where Torii says this:
If Hunter doesn't return to the Angels, he said he'd consider playing for three other teams, the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers or Dodgers. Otherwise, he will retire.
"If I don't get offers from one of those four," Hunter said, "then it's, 'See ya!' It's about winning."
This coming winter, Hunter will be a free agent for the second time in his career. He could go back to Los Angeles and finish his career with the Angels. But you know that, for whatever he's said in the past, he would consider a return to Minnesota.
He's batting .272/.333/.426 this season; the first two match his career averages but the power (in spite of the ten home runs) hasn't been there. Still, nobody would sign him expecting him to carry the offensive load he once able to carry.
If the opportunity is there, would you want to see Hunter return to the Twins for the last days of his career?