When Torii Hunter launched his first home run of the season yesterday, his first as a member of the Minnesota Twins since September 8, 2007, it gave him 193 with the organization in his career. Overall he's hit 333, which is impressive in its own right for a guy who didn't start showing off his power until he was 25.
His total of 193 sees him in eighth place for the franchise all-time. In front of him are Gary Gaetti (201), Kirby Puckett (207), Tony Oliva (220), and Justin Morneau (221). Perhaps if Hunter plays again in 2016 he might have a chance to catch Morneau or Oliva, but for this year his best chance to climb the ladder would be to top Gaetti and, if he has a good year, Kirby.
But how else could we measure Hunter's legacy with the Twins? With 1,227 hits he'll never catch Ossie Bluege at 1,751 to climb into the top ten. He owns 261 doubles, meaning he might catch Goose Goslin and Justin Morneau at 289 if he plays through 2016. With 717 RBI he doesn't seem likely to catch, again, Bluege, at 848. Games played, slugging percentage, wins above replacement...they're out of his reach.
All of which seems to indicate that if you were to put together a list of the ten greatest position players in Twins history, that list might not include Hunter. Certainly you could rattle a few names off without thinking: Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett, Joe Mauer, Tony Oliva, and Kent Hrbek all come to mind. But then you start getting into a slightly murkier area. Would you rate Bob Allison ahead of Hunter? Morneau? And none of this even brings into question players like Sam Rice or the aforementioned Goslin, who were some of the greatest players ever to don a Washington Senators uniform.
Hunter has been a two-time All-Star for the Twins. You can add two more with the Angels and a fifth with the Tigers, but they won't count towards his legacy in Minnesota. What will count are the seven consecutive Gold Gloves he won from 2001 through 2007. The only player in the organization's history to win more is Jim Kaat, who won 11 from 1962-1972. Puckett won six. Gaetti won four. Mauer and Earl Battey have each won three.
Perhaps one of the final feathers for Torii's cap are the four division titles he helped the team to win in five years between 2002 and 2006. Hunter will forever be remembered as a core and integral piece of the teams that turned the Twins from a laughing stock in the late 90s to a perennial contender for the AL Central title in the 2000s.
There are some reasons for which people will choose to dock Hunter. Maybe because he never led the team to a World Series or because Gold Gloves are such a subjective measure of a standard of play. Maybe his decision to take the money and run, or his propensity for sticking his foot in his mouth makes a difference for you.
But Hunter did choose to return to Minnesota in the twilight of his career, and it wasn't for a lack of other offers. His legacy as a player will remain years after he's left the field, and that clearly had an impact on his decision making. He wants to be here, he wants to leave something behind, and that means something. How much is up to you, of course, regardless of how much he's able to pad his stats as a Twin over the next year or two.
It's not in doubt that Torii Hunter has had a very, very good career. 333 home runs, nine Gold Gloves, five All-Star appearances, two Silver Sluggers, and MVP votes in five separate seasons play their part in what has, so far, been a career that has spanned 19 years. He's respected in the game for a number of reasons.
My question to you is: would you consider Hunter one of the ten best position players in the organization's history? If he's not, he's certainly close; for me personally, I think I'd have to say he makes the cut. Cast your vote and let me know your thoughts in the comments.