Tag Archives: Torii Hunter

Hall of Shame

This weekend the Twins will induct Michael Cuddyer (2001–2011) & Andy MacPhail (1984–1994) as the newest members of the club's Hall of Fame. This honor was first bestowed on five players—Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, & Kirby Puckett—and a former club owner in 2000.

MacPhail was the primary architect of the Twins' two World Championship teams, which had the potential to develop into a mini-dynasty had his boss Carl Pohlad given him slightly more latitude with payroll, particularly following the second trophy in 1991. MacPhail left the Twins in 1994 to take over the capsizing Cubs, and soon after Pohlad began issuing a string of threats to sell the team to an ownership group in a mediocre mid-Atlantic market (still without a team decades later), where it doubtless would have quickly withered in a minor-league ballpark under the heat from the Atlanta Braves dynasty to its south. True to form, a couple years later Pohlad conspired with his pal Bud Selig—so distraught over the loss of his beloved Milwaukee Braves that he hijaked the Seattle Pilots—to take a payout from MLB and contract the Twins. I doubt that is mentioned in his Twins Hall of Fame bio.

Apart from MacPhail and Pohlad, four other executives have been inducted, a somewhat restrained number given the franchise's Brezhnevesque fetishization of internal stability in its front office, to the point of systemic intellectual stagnation. These are:

Calvin Griffith, the owner who relocated the franchise to Minnesota, and whose considerable baseball savvy was only trumped by his racist grudges & motives.

George Brophy, general manager of the Minneapolis Millers until the club folded in advance of the Twins' arrival; he was promoted to the majors in Minnesota and eventually presided over the club's entire farm system, developing a prospect-rich pipeline that won it all two years after he retired.

Jim Rantz, who succeeded his mentor, Brophy, and ran the farm system through thick & thin for twenty-seven years.

Tom Mee, tridecennial PR man, uneven official scorer, and holder of various other titles, none more singular than "First Twins Employee*" (*non-player personnel, of course).

Cuddyer, the Twins' first round draft pick (9th overall) in 1997, will be the 20th player inducted by the Twins. He joins real some real Hall of Famers, some Very Good-ers who rightfully claim legendary status in Minnesota, and a couple guys with notable careers but dubious credentials. Unfortunately for Cuddyer, this last group describes his own Minnesota curriculum vitae. By position & rWAR with Minnesota, these players are:

C: Earl Battey
1b: Kent Hrbek
2b: Rod Carew
3b: Harmon Killebrew, Gary Gaetti
SS: Greg Gagne, Zoilo Versalles
LF: Bob Allison
CF: Kirby Puckett, Torii Hunter
RF: Tony Oliva
SP: Bert Blyleven, Brad Radke, Jim Kaat, Frank Viola, Jim Perry, Camilo Pascual
RP: Rick Aguilera, Eddie Guardado

The lone elected–but–uninducted player is Chuck Knoblauch, the brassy second baseman of the 1991 World Champions who has ridden his way into ignominy on waves of domestic assault, performance-enhancing drugs, and sewer-worthy social media activity. Twins fans pelted Knobby with hot dogs in 2001. The Twins disinvited him from the Hall of Fame in 2014.

We are fortunate to live at a time when public monuments to reprehensible conduct are being contested and removed. Knoblauch's anathematization suggests the Twins are willing to draw a line; the question becomes, should the club reconsider how it has celebrated:

Calvin Griffith, who was memorialized in bronze outside Gate 29 in 2010. This is the same Calvin Griffith who said of moving his club from the District of Columbia to Minnesota—"I'll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. ... We came here because you've got good, hardworking, white people here."—and drove away the best position player in franchise history with his potent combination of bigotry & parsimony in the same night. If the Twins are an organization with a conscience, Griffith's statue should be razed before the end of the season. I am not the first to point this out. Perhaps I could make the first suggestion for its replacement: Carlos Paula, a Cuban right fielder who broke the Washington Senators' color barrier in 1954 and played for the Minneapolis Millers in 1957.

Carlos Paula presents an opportunity to consider the status of Torii Hunter, the Twin Cities media darling whose brand of casual bigotry seems to be amenable to the Pohlads, Dave St. Peter, and the new Derek Falvey-Thad Levine front office regime that retained him. Hunter once slandered black Latino players like his then-teammate Vladimir Guerrero, pioneers like Carlos Paula, and the most beloved Twin of all time, Tony Oliva, as race "imposters." One wonders what he makes of Miguel Sanó, the Twins' emerging slugger and a Dominican of Haitian & Cocolo heritage. During the press conference celebrating his return to Minnesota, Hunter indulged himself by publicly branding a reporter a "prick" four times for asking him to reflect on his freely-professed anti-gay rhetoric. The Twins had expressly brought Hunter back to mentor its talented, ethnically diverse next generation.

Carl Pohlad was a multi-billionaire who, as a young bank official, foreclosed on mortgagees during the Depression and then, at the end of his life, bilked his community for the beautiful ballpark the Twins call home. His manipulative, naked avarice will likely be forgotten thanks to the Vikings' new monstrosity, and in any case his kids aren't about to remove the statue of their parents from the ballpark's grounds. Hopefully a future owner of the Twins will find a more suitable place for that statue, perhaps overlooking the HERC.

Finally, there's the thorny question of what to do about Kirby Puckett, a phosphorescent talent whose effervescent personality made him a hero of a generation of Twins fans, and who, after his forced retirement, fell hard from atop the improbable mountain he scaled out of Chicago's Robert Taylor Homes. Frank Deford's "The Rise and Fall of Kirby Puckett" read like the kind of hit piece someone as misanthropic as Deford would relish writing, but looking away from the accusations it detailed is not an option, no matter the apparent glee with which they were related. Over a decade after Puckett's early death, many of us remain deflated as the Metrodome he electrified, uncertain how to address a man who did much good in the community and failed to live up to that standard in his private life.

There are four other non-player members of the Twins' hall, disparate talents unified by indelible personalities:

Herb Carneal, always and forever the stentorian Voice of the Minnesota Twins.

Tom Kelly, laconic, fungo-weilding skipper of both World Series Champions.

Bob Casey, public address announcer whose quintdecennial gig in Minnesota's pro ballparks barely outlasted how long he held the second syllable of "Kirby."

John Gordon, everyone's loquacious radio uncle who, in his later years, could make guys like Jason Tyner sound like Babe Ruth.

The gap between the number of club executives and people who shaped the games on the field and in fans' minds suggests a couple areas where the Twins Hall of Fame neglects the club's history.

Rick Stelmaszek's two visits to Minneapolis this season following his pancreatic cancer diagnosis have been bittersweet. Stelly's firing in October 2012 after 32 years of coaching struck me as particularly cold-blooded. Stelmaszek was not the GM who assembled a bullpen corps that included Brian Duensing, Jeff Gray, Matt Capps, Tyler Robertson, and Anthony Swarzak. Stelmaszek was a notorious conditioning taskmaster for decades; unpreparedness and ambivalence would have been completely out of character. Twins players across generations seem to love the guy. For his critical role on two World Champions and his decades of relationship & player development, Rick Stelmaszek should be in the Twins Hall of Fame while he is still among the living.

Wayne Terwilliger's tenure with the Twins coincided with Andy MacPhail's, but it was neither his first experience in the organization nor his first Minnesota go-around in professional baseball. Twig might be the embodiment of both Minnie & Paul. He played for the St. Paul Saints in 1952 and the Minneapolis Millers from 1954–1957. In between, he played for the Senators from 1953–1954. Jackie Robinson's understudy on the '51 Dodgers, Twig appears to have been out with an injury when Carlos Paula broke the Senators' color barrier at home on 1 September; Twig & Paula saw action as replacements in the first game of a double-header in Detroit on 12 September. They both met again in Minneapolis as starters for the '57 Millers. Twig joined the Twins in 1986 and is one of a handful of on-field personnel on both the '87 & '91 teams. After leaving the Twins (why?), Twig managed the St. Paul Saints from 1995–2002. I don't know much about Twig's personal life other than his WWII tour with the Marines (including Saipan, Tinan, & Iwo Jima), but not many non-owners get to spend over sixty years in professional baseball if they're jerks. Somebody could go ask Willie Mays for a character reference—he & Twig were teammates on the Giants.

I am not ready for Sue Nelson to retire, but I hope that the Twins will see fit to celebrate a woman who has had as much influence on the soundscape of Twins baseball as any player to knock out a home run, or any broadcaster whose voice rises in anticipation, meshing with the fans shouting a hip-hooray as the ball soars out of the field. Sue would be a fantastic addition to the Twins Hall of Fame.

The last of these is Halsey Hall. Halsey's the namesake of the Minnesota SABR chapter, and he was inducted into the Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame nearly thirty years ago, so this should be a relatively easy. If more proof of his merit was necessary, his status as an Twins' original—and easily the all-time most colorful—broadcaster, his longtime affiliation with the Minneapolis Millers, and his post-retirement tour as pre-game emcee at the old Met would be sufficient. And yet, with every year it seems less likely that Halsey will be elected to the Twins Hall of Fame. He retired from broadcasting in 1972 and died in 1977, so the current voters and younger fans likely couldn't care less about a loveable nut calling baseball games on radio signals that are probably passing into interstellar space.

But that's still a shame for the Twins. It's just not a Hall without Halsey.

Game 83: Orioles 2, Twins 4 (in 10 innings)

Brian Dozier (.260/.332/.517) didn't make the MLB All-Star game off of the fan's ballot, but those of us in Minnesota know what he's meant to the team this year. Last night, with 1 on and 1 out in the 10th inning, he hit his 17th homer to left to walk-off the Orioles, helped the Twins to move to 44-39 (2nd WC spot), scored his league-leading* 63rd run, 41st & 42nd RBI (third place on the Twins roster) and improved his team-leading OPS to .849. Among Second Basemen in the American League, only Jason Kipnis has had a better offensive first half (.340/.416/.503). I'm hoping fans of Major League Baseball make the right choice and Dozier is voted in. It'll be tough, three of the other 4 options are from NY, Bos & Chi-town, and the Royals fans have shown their ability to get out the vote (Moustakas is the 4th option).

Vote here if you'd like to see Brian accompany Glen Perkins to Cincinnati.

Every run last night was scored via the long ball: Solo home runs from Manny Machado & Adam Jones for the Orioles and Torii Hunter & Aaron Hicks for the Twins, followed by the 2-Run shot from Dozier.

Trevor May, pitching out of the bullpen due to the reinstatement of Ervin Santana, racked up the win after throwing 16 pitches in the top-half of the 10th, giving up 1 hit and striking out 1. Tommy Hunter, in a similar spot for Baltimore, took the loss.

*Tied with Josh Donaldson

Photo: Brad Rempel, USA TODAY Sports

Game 57: Royals 3, Twins 1

We've known all year that the fellas wouldn't keep up the opportunistic scoring in bunches with men on base indefinitely, or even without interruption. Unfortunately, over the past 10 (5-5 record), they have averaged 3.2 runs per game, or just under 1.5 runs less than they averaged through the first 47 games.

Last night, the Twins scattered 8 hits over 9 innings, the lone run coming off a Rosario homerun in the 7th. Their best opportunity to score came with the bases loaded and one out in the 3rd after a couple of infield singles and a Hicks double. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens in baseball, the next batter - Hunter - hit into a double play and the inning was over.

In the 5th, Escobar made it as far as second before Dozier flew out and again in the 7th, Escobar was on second with two outs and Dozier struck out to end the home half.

This year, Dozier is hitting .091/.375/.091 with 2 out and RISP (not good) but Hunter is a much more robust .381/.480/1.048 in that spot and is slashing .500/.500/.750 with 1 out and the bases full.

Plouffe was 0-4 last night and is hitting .150/.171/.250 in his last 10 games.

Of the regulars,* only Dozier, Hunter & Plouffe have an OPS+ over 100 and only Dozier (.268 BA) has an OPS over .800. The team leader in RBI is Hunter with 36, with only 3 GDP in more than 200 AB's. As I noted, sometimes the GDP happens in baseball, but you'd like to think that one in the 3rd inning won't end your last, best chance to score.

On the mound, Hughes took his 6th loss of the year, despite pitching 7.2 innings and allowing only 3 earned runs on 7 hits. The last run charged to Phil resulted from Thompson giving up a single to Hosmer and allowing an inherited runner to score. The first runs charged to Hughes came courtesy of a Kendrys Morales bomb in the 2nd. Hughes allowed a lead off single to Hosmer after getting ahead 0-2, and then fell behind 3-1 to Kendrys before grooving a fastball which was promptly deposited in the upper deck in right center.  He settled in nicely after that, allowing only 5 hits in the next 21 at-bats.

All in all, it wasn't a bad outing from Hughes, he just didn't get any help from the offense.

End result, the Royals have moved in front of the Twins for 1st place in the Central by mere percentage points. They'll have 2 more games to take the top spot back. They still have the second most wins in the AL, behind only Houston.

*Minimum 45 games played and 150 at bats.

 

Bear Image Copyright: Gerald D. Tang

Game 30 Recap: Twins alot Cleveland not enough.

Mike Pelfrey was solid, Torii Hunter had his best day of the year at the plate, and the Twins continue to win more than they lose in a 9-3 romp over Cleveland.

I suppose this is a good night to have a discussion about Hunter. Most people, including me, did not like the signing. He is old, not a great defensive player, and threw players under the bus. He started off the season terribly, but has come on strong lately (batting avg up to .280 hitting more doubles and HRs). I am wondering if anyone has changed their opinion on Hunter? Or even softened their stance  to a grudging acceptance? I kind of fall into that camp. But then ii will take to Twitter and I just want him to go away.

Anyway, Hunter went 4-4 with 3 extra base hits (2 doubles and a HR) to lead the Twins offense.  He would have had 3 doubles but was thrown out by a good distance trying to stretch a single into a double.

Pelfrey had a wobbly start and Cleveland struck for 2 runs in the 3rd inning. but settled down and ended up going 7  innings. I'll take that from Pelf every start. Although the zero strikeouts are a bit worrying.

NOTES

-The Twins scored in 6 of the 9 innings.

- JR Graham finally got the Twins off the no strikeout schneid. The 1 team strikeout matches a season low, done two other times .

- The Twins had 6 doubles that is a season high.

- Every Twins batter had either a run scored, or an RBI

- Hunter now has 473 career doubles, tied for 74th all time with Carlos Delgado, Jimmy Rollins, Dwight Evans, and Ted Simmons.

- The Twins are 8-2 in the last 10 games. While Cleveland drops to a .367 win percentage, last place in the AL.

Game 26: Oakland 7, Minnesota 8

I was running errands last night and turned this on to a 4-0 Athletics lead. Thought to myself, "Wowsers, Hughes must have had a rough couple of innings." Then the hometown club comes to bat and I'm wondering how they fared the first time through the order, seeing as how Dozier's up. He leads off the home half with a double and I'm like, "Awesome. One run at a time is how you get back into a game." Only to hear Provus indicate that this was, in fact, the first at-bat for the Twins. Nothing like an opposition grand slam in the first inning to deflate the feelings of optimism built up by taking it to the woeful White Sox.
I continued to listen as I was still in the car, between purchasing dog food, furnace filters, softener salt and weed & pest control (side note: don't like to use chemicals, but I don't have time to pull weeds for weeks and I don't find groundhog/gopher/mole traps to be all that efficient) and low and behold, the hometown nine managed to get the game back under control, scoring four runs to tie it up after two innings!

I then tuned out for a while (set up wasp/hornet trap, smoke bombed those damn rodent tunnels, filled water softener with salt & changed out furnace filter) and turned the game back on with Jordan Schafer up to bat in the bottom of the 8th and the boys up 8-6. Awesome! Schafer takes a walk which puts runners on 1st & 2nd with nobody out and Danny Santana up to bat. This was great - he shows bunt three times and Bassitt won't/can't accommodate the guy; throws four straight balls for Santana's first walk of the year to load the bases. I'm thinking, "Insurance runs would be sweet. I'll take 'em, but I don't think Perk will need 'em." Dozier then has a good at-bat but ends up striking out, and ii follows it with a double play ball to end the threat. I asked the guys if they thought he could've been safe if he'd run hard because the throw from 2nd was bounced to first, bobbled, dropped and picked up by Davis, all before ii even entered the frame. Beau's response,

"That may have been his top speed."

This was confirmed in the top of the 9th as he "hustled" to catch a Billy Butler fly ball to short right field.

He almost didn't get that. In his youth, he could've run there from center.

-spookymilk

Perkins then gave up a double high off the wall in center to Stephen Vogt (he of the first inning Grand Slam) which was only about 10 ft shy of tying the game. With the tying run at 2nd (Sam Fuld pinch-running), Perkins had a pretty good battle with Craig Gentry before striking him out on a nasty back-foot slider.

Everyone was fawning over ii because, admittedly, he hit the three run homer in the 6th to give the Twins the lead. However, I'll contend that Schafer was the player of the game. He had a great night: 3-3, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 runs scored and a diving catch to end an Oakland threat in the top of the 8th.

Also, after the rough start, Phil Hughes managed to get his first win of the season (1-4) by completing 6 innings, giving up 5 ER on 9 hits and 2 BB. Fear not, he didn't have a great start to last year either, and look how that turned out.

Heard last night that the boys have not won four games in a row to start May in 13 years. Let's hope they keep it up.

Game 22 Recap: Twins 12, White Sox 2

That was a nice surprise.

I hadn't given up on the game or anything, but going in, I thought that if the Twins won it would have to be a low-scoring game, 2-1 or 3-2.  Like the Spanish Inquisition, no one expects to score nine runs off Chris Sale.  But the Twins did it, putting together a seven-run third inning helped by some poor White Sox defense and Brian Dozier's three-run homer.

Trevor May didn't pitch great, but he pitched well enough to get by.  He somehow managed to scatter ten hits and a walk so that only two runs scored on them in 5.2 innings.  He was helped by something else unexpected, good Twins defense.  This was especially true in the first inning, when a couple of White Sox runs could have changed the entire course of the game.  But Shane Robinson threw a runner out at the plate and Dozier made a good play on a ball that looked like a hit and the Sox were denied.

Joe Mauer got three more hits.  This raises his average to .318.  One of the hits was a double, so his slugging average is now up to .412.  His OBP is now .392.  None of those figures is as good as Mauer has been in his best years, but they're still good and they're moving in the right direction.  It appears that, when healthy, Joe Mauer is still good at baseball.

Torii Hunter got one hit.  This raises his average to .205.  His OBP is .244 and his slugging average .315.  Thos number are not good and they are not moving in the right direction.  Now, we're still only a month into the season.  It's only seventy-three at-bats.  Clearly, the Twins are not going to make any hasty decisions about him and I'm not suggesting that they should.  Still, those are number from someone who has batted in the middle or top of the order all season.  He's not the only one in the lineup who's been struggling, of course.  But he is the only one in the lineup who's going to turn forty this year.  Again, he's going to get more time to turn this around, and he should.  But if he doesn't have a May that's significantly better than his April, the Twins may have to make a decision that they don't want to make.

It was announced last night that May will stay in the rotation, and Tommy Milone will be the odd man out when Ricky Nolasco returns.  I don't really like that, but I can understand it.  It was going to be between Pelfrey, May, and Milone, and Milone has done the worst of the three so far.  My hesitancy about it is that I think Milone has a better future than Pelfrey and I'm not convinced that Pelfrey's improvement is real.  However, I can certainly see why Molitor wants to give Pelfrey a chance to prove that it is, and I can't say that's a bad decision.  That leaves it between May and Milone, and of the two, May deserves to stay in the rotation more than Milone does.  I suspect, however, that either injury or ineffectiveness will result in Milone being back in the rotation at some point during the season.

So tonight we try to make it two in a row.  Kyle Gibson, who has alternated good and bad starts this season, needs to break the pattern and make it two good starts in a row.  He's facing Jose Quintana, who has alternated good and bad starts and needs to keep the pattern intact and have a bad start.  We've started that season-ending one hundred-forty-one game winning streak!  We're still on track for 150-12!

Game 19: Tigers 5, Twins 4

Because the Twins signed you to be the OAFFOTF (once and future face of the franchise), all you really need to do to have a good night at the park is smile.

Because swinging for the fences when a hit to the outfield ties the game shows you're a leader.

Because your former team understands your value and therefore didn't make you an offer ... but your former, former, former team saw something that no one else saw: leadership.

More succinctly:

#VeteranLeader0-5hip

-Zack

Let's be honest, the real story tonight was the Tigers running themselves out of the game (Boyer being the lucky recipient), Joe Mauer hitting his 313th double to move past Kent Hrbek and into sole possession of third place on the Twins career list, the Twins defense playing solid and their offense putting together some decent at-bats and scoring a few runs to make things interesting in the bottom of the 9th. To be sure, Milone wasn't strong and Detroit jumped him early, but the boys kept playing and had a chance there at the end. Unfortunately, Danny Santana was asked to bunt and Dozier wasn't able to do anything against Soria either. ii with a chance to show us what for and failing miserably was just the proverbial icing on the cake.

Go Wild.