Siberian Baseball

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hunter didn't sign for more money - He left

Say what you will about Torii Hunter, but the guy seems to be pretty honest. In interviews I've heard with Hunter when I was living in the Twin Cities, he towed that line between being straight with the fans and getting himself in hot water for saying things he probably shouldn't have.

I guess there's no reason to expect any less now that he's packing up his things and getting ready for next year in California.

According to Sid Hartman in the Star-Tribune Sunday, Hunter could see the writing on the wall and made his decision partially based on his perception that the Twins weren't gearing up to be a contender.

This is a major problem for the franchise, as Johan Santana has voiced similar concerns this summer following the trade of Luis Castillo to the Mets.

(As a short sidenote, in the first start for Santana after the trade and minor controversy that followed, Castillo's replacement, Alexi Casilla had a rough game behind the pitcher. At one point a cutoff throw from the outfield hit Casilla in the chest. I was paying attention to those next few starts and it seemed like Casilla's jitters came into play when Santana was the starter. That probably didn't help matters and certainly can't be helping now.)

Hunter had a few choice words on the subject when talking to Hartman (which, of course, are subject to backpeddaling to start the week because of the exclusive nature of the interview):

"Sometimes you're going to ask for a raise or whatever. And it just so happened that in major league baseball the market is up, it's way up." he said. "So, I was going to get what I was going to get. I just wanted to make sure that I was with a team that wants to win, that's going to try to win day in and day out. Whatever pieces to the puzzle that they need, they were going to go out and get it. I just didn't feel the Twins were that ballclub."

I just had this conversation last night with a few White Sox fans I went out with. When the topic turned to the Twins and exactly what was going on up north, it was pretty much word-for-word with Hunter's assessment.

You take away Hunter, you plan on Santana jumping ship before Spring Training and there's not much left on that team for next year. Sure, the Twins appear to be stocked with good young arms from the farm system, but why would you gamble away one of the best pitchers of this generation?

Assuming that the exodus continues, Minnesota will be hurting for star power in March.

There is a very real possibility that Joe Mauer, Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau will be the only bankable stars on the roster in the near future. On it's own, this isn't the end of the world, but Hunter also raised a point that has been kicked around here as well - the new stadium on the horizon.

The simple facts remain that the Twins need to fill that new stadium and the best way to do that would be to stock it with proven commodities like Hunter and Santana. So much for that.

The strongest Plan B would be to sign a new crop of stars to build a buzz around the team, but with Hunter being the first I've seen to publicly question the decision to leave the ballpark without a roof, this doesn't look good.

Now you have the perception that Minnesota is a team that doesn't value its stars, refuses to pay them market value (or negotiate with them at all) and prospective players will spend time freezing their tails off when the weather turns.

Again, quoting Hartman's column:
"People aren't even thinking about [the open air stadium]," he said. "I wouldn't play in Minnesota unless my career was at an end and I had to go to Minnesota to play the game. ... People think that's not true -- that's 100 percent accurate. This is coming from a player, so I'm telling you."

Whether or not Hunter is correct remains to be seen, but there's a lot to be said for perception. People perceive Minnesota to be a very cold place to live and that can't be very appealing to Latino, California- or Florida-bred players.

Think of the problems the Green Bay Packers had signing free agents before they shocked the football world and signed Reggie White. This situation has the possibility to be just as bad.

With the image problems brewing from a fan and a player perspective, it could shape up to be an ugly winter for the Twins. And no amount of small-town charm is going to fix that.

(Image from:

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