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Saturday Notebook: 4000 Hits, Beating The Shift, On The Move, Taming Puig, Mike Ehrman-trout & More

Today's Saturday Notebook looks at Torii Hunter's latest controversy, Ichiro Suzuki reaching 4000 combined hits in his MLB and NPB careers, Adam Dunn learning to beat the exaggerated infield shift, David DeJesus being on three teams within one week, calming down over Yasiel Puig's recklessness, and my creation of new baseball player Mike Ehrman-trout.

Dioner Navarro must have known that David DeJesus would be a National for only 3 games.
Dioner Navarro must have known that David DeJesus would be a National for only 3 games.
Brian Kersey

As time goes by, it becomes harder and harder for me to like Torii Hunter.

Back when he was with the Twins, he was a beloved figure. He won multiple Gold Gloves, teamed with Justin Morneau in 2006 to become the first Twins to hit 30 HR in a season in what felt like forever, and had an infectious smile and attitude. Save for a minor blip on the radar when he was upset at Justin Morneau for not playing through injuries which culminated with him taking a swing at Morneau and hitting Nick Punto instead, Hunter had been considered as the face of the franchise and a consummate teammate.

Then came the 2007-2008 offseason where the Twins decided that they wanted Hunter back, but at a reasonable price. They offered Hunter a 3-year, $45 million contract, but Hunter chose instead to take the far more lucrative 5-year, $90 million offer from the Los Angeles Angels. Ever since, it feels like one controversy after another from Torii.

I've touched on this before, including last week when I wrote about Hunter indirectly revealing that his Tigers teammate Prince Fielder was going through a divorce that was the cause of Fielder's struggles this season. There was accusing Lew Ford (whose name is now omitted from the story) of refusing to pinch-hit against Mariano Rivera, a fact that is most likely false. There was his admission that he'd be uncomfortable playing with a gay teammate and then the claim that two separate comments were spliced together (never mind they still sounded pretty bad when split apart). Or what about when he said Dominican baseball players were black imposters? And now, it sounds like he's back to fighting with teammates.

According to Scott Miller of CBS Sports, Hunter attempted to fight Albert Pujols while both were with the Angels last season. In the midst of a frustrating year, Hunter and C.J. Wilson got into an argument in the dugout after Wilson started giving hitting tips to the position players. The two settled their issues, but in a later players-only meeting, Pujols brought up the argument again. Hunter became enraged that Pujols didn't have his facts straight, and allegedly rushed Pujols who told Hunter to "shut up." However, before he could fight with Pujols, he was restrained by LaTroy Hawkins and Vernon Wells.

Hunter was a favorite of many while with the Twins because of his outgoing personality and positive attitude, but it seems like his extroverted attitude has been getting him in trouble more often lately. As the years go by, it really feels that he's become less Magnitude and more Leonard Rodriguez, and that's not just because Albert Pujols said "Shut up, Leonard Torii!"

I think no matter what, this still hasn't ruined Torii's legacy. He's built up far too much good credit in the public's collective eyes for that to happen. Nevertheless, I think I'm finally done with him as one of my favorite Twins. Nick Punto may have been irritating on the field, but at least he never picked fights or threw his teammates under the bus.

Edit: Yeah, it's a little weird that I put an edit on here before this thing was posted in the first place. It's just because I was discussing this thing with future brother-in-law and former Twinkie Town commenter TheBlackFreighter on Facebook while writing this and he made a great point that I completely agree with, and it contradicts a lot of what I wrote above.

You need character guys like Torii on your squad. He's super competitive and stirs the pot a little. You wonder why the Twins haven't won a playoff series since 2002 ... we have a bunch of brittle players with no mental mettle. And who cares if he's against a gay teammate. I completely disagree with him 100%, but at least he's giving you his honest opinion. His personality and voice is more refreshing than any soundbite that has come from any and all Twins players in the last 5 years.

For a long time I've desired having Nick Swisher as a Twin. Yes, I understand that many people are irritated by how he acts, but he's long been a person that is unafraid to say whatever is on his mind, and for his reputation he's actually stayed out of trouble his entire career. Tack on a career in which he's never had a season under 1.2 WAR and he's a great fit that could shake up a stale Twins clubhouse. Of course, I'm about 85% sure that his personality is the exact reason why the Twins front office would avoid him.

  • Congratulations to Ichiro Suzuki as he tallied his 4000th professional hit earlier this week with an opposite-field single off R.A. Dickey of the Blue Jays. As of Friday night, he now has 2723 hits in MLB and 1278 in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), but despite the achievement, there are plenty of fans that believe that Ichiro's milestone deserves an asterisk. After all, it did come in two separate leagues, and the competition level of MLB is far higher than the NPB's. In fact, even Ichiro himself dismissed the idea that he should be spoken in the same breath as Pete Rose and Ty Cobb - the only other men that have reached 4000 hits - as his total is a combination of his MLB and NPB career. Being extremely humble, he actually admitted that he did not want a celebration, but nonetheless his Yankee teammates congratulated him at first base and Blue Jays shortstop and fellow Japan native Munenori Kawasaki applauded him from across the infield. Assuming that Ichiro has two more healthy years in him, he conceivably could reach 3000 MLB hits in his career, and could possibly have his combined MLB and NPB career hit total surpass Rose's record of 4256.
  • You may notice with lefty sluggers that the defense puts on an exaggerated shift. Jim Thome, Mark Teixeira, even Justin Morneau have faced defensive alignments that have put three infielders on the right side of second base to combat the frequent ground balls that are hit in that area as the hitter attempts to drive the ball to right field. You can count Adam Dunn in that group as well, but it looks like that tactic is starting to fade as Dunn has started using a new strategy at the plate. Instead of beating the shift by attempting to muscle the ball over everyone's heads, Dunn started taking what the defense gave him by hitting the ball to the opposite field. It was a bit of a slow start for him, but then he hit a 2 week stretch from early June to early August where he hit over .300 with 14 home runs. Due to a horrid start Dunn is still only batting .237/.339/.466, but those numbers are the highest they've been since 2010 (excluding his SLG which is only .002 less than what he had in 2012) and he's striking out in 28.7% of his plate appearances, which is still awful but represents his lowest strikeout rate since 2009. His recent success with his new approach has led to opposing defenses playing him straight up once more, which may encourage him to go back to pulling everything, but as far as I'm concerned - even when discussing a player on a rival team - he should stick to what's been working.
  • It's been an odd August for David DeJesus. He started the month with the Chicago Cubs, but with their expected poor showing in the NL Central, they've been wheeling and dealing just about anyone they can this season. DeJesus became the latest casualty when he was claimed and subsequently traded to the Washington Nationals for a player to be named later. However, the oddities started when the Nationals immediately put DeJesus back on waivers, essentially signaling that they didn't want DeJesus in the first place. As it turned out, DeJesus was a National for only 3 games as he was then traded to the Tampa Bay Rays, again for a player to be named later or cash. There has been speculation as to if the Nationals accidentally claimed DeJesus (which doesn't make sense when they worked out a trade to acquire him) or they blocked him from going to another team (odd since the Nationals are 13 games behind the first place Braves in the NL East and 8.5 games behind in the wild card race). Although the three teams in a week scenario might have been a bit hard for DeJesus, I'm sure he's completely fine with moving from the last-place Cubs to the playoff-contending Rays.
  • Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk has a great opinion piece about the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig, who has certainly been a polarizing figure this season with his impressive raw talent but unpolished play. For example, batting .342/.401/.551 for nearly half a season - but he aggressively tried to score on a wild pitch that bounced 10 feet from home plate, only to be ruled a hit-by-pitch anyway. He hits a pinch-hit home runand throws out a runner trying for 3rd base on the fly, but he also shows up late for games and is throwing punches in bench-clearing brawls. Through this all, there have been reporters suggesting that Puig needs to tone down his arrogance and learn how to play the game the right way, which feels like their way of saying that they don't like how Puig carries himself on the field. Calcaterra points out that if Puig spoke English and could conduct interviews with many of these reporters, perhaps the constant complaints of his recklessness would dissipate, and that a similar American player would probably not get the same treatment as Puig. Well, Bryce Harper did, as Calcaterra mentions, but now the popular opinion is that Harper is a guy that always gives 100% and is constantly looking to help out his team. It really appears as though we misunderstand Latino players simply because their culture is so different from ours, and we refuse to accept that things just aren't the same across the border and the Caribbean. Perhaps the stories about Puig will change by the time next year comes around. Just please don't replicate this one.
Finally, we have arrived at the Lightning Round, which features the GIFs you've come to know and love, and we even have a surprise visit from a Vine today.
  1. If HORSE existed in baseball, Charlie Blackmon bunted a ball which stuck under the umpire's mask. I'm pretty sure that would be awfully difficult to replicate.
  2. Ryan Dempster attempted to hit Alex Rodriguez with the first pitch of the at-bat, threw two more inside and then finally beaned A-Rod. This led to manager Joe Girardi yelling some NSFW words at Dempster before Girardi was ejected from the game. And finally, A-Rod gets his revenge by homering off Dempster later in the game, and then gives Dempster a stare-down as he circles the bases.
  3. Carlos Villanueva lobs a 57 MPH curveball to Jayson Werth, who does nothing but freeze for a couple seconds at home plate.
  4. Walkoff celebrations are getting more and more violent as Leonys Martin drags teammate Elvis Andrus by his jersey through the infield.
  5. It appears as though Rajai Davis' hat fell off his head while he was running, only to hit some sort of invisible trampoline and come flying back over his shoulder and in front of his face. As Deadspin put it, we would find religion had the hat landed back on Davis' head.
  6. And lastly, I present to you Mike Ehrman-trout, a conglomeration of Breaking Bad's Mike Ehrmantraut and the Angels' Mike Trout. In case you're wondering, he's a designated hitter and also appears in the clean-up spot.