The Torii Hunter Quandary

The Torii Hunter Quandary

Twins

The Torii Hunter Quandary

By

Baseball is a different game in Minnesota than it was in the 80’s. It’s a different game than it was in the 90’s. In the 80’s and the early 90’s, you had the two main guys, Puckett and Hrbek, and they were surrounded by some hired guns and role players, depending on the season, it could have been Steve Lombardozzi or Shane Mack or Tim Laudner or Chili Davis. It was always Kirby and Herbie at the center. Two characters that kept the game fun.
Then Hrbek and Puckett left the game, and we were left with a bunch of rubes. The Twins would go out and sign a Dave Winfield, or a Paul Molitor or Terry Steinbach to keep the fans interested. It would give them a local hero to cheer for, like when Hrbek was still playing. Although we knew in the back of our minds we could never replace Puck, we, the Twins and the Fans tried. We looked to Matt Lawton and Ron Coomer to provide the clutch, exuberant player that Kirby had been. Of course, they weren’t.
Then something happened in 2001. We got a batch of youngsters that competed in 2001, made it to the playoffs 3 years in a row, including a trip to the ALCS in ’02. The Twins were a fun team again, and this time around, it was the entire team that was fun. They were the sum of their parts, rather than the nucleus and it’s satellites. The Twins were fun in a new way, one that didn’t follow the previous mold.
But then some of those parts left. The Twins started to lose their swagger and eventually, last year, they lost out to the White Sox for the division pennant. The fun was gone. The Twins now are trying to rework the formula that was successful in the 80’s and early 90’s, since the lightning in a bottle that was the chemistry of a few years ago is gone forever. They already have their hometown hero headlining things in Joe Mauer. So are things looking up for the Twins?
Maybe.
For the past several years, the Twins and Minnesotans have tacitly been looking to Torii Hunter to be our new Kirby. He was a gifted, outspoken centerfielder, just like Puck. The problem was that Torii wasn’t clutch. He didn’t get hits in big spots, and very often, doesn’t hit in small spots. Even worse, as the teammates he came up with, like Jacque Jones and Matt Lawton were being pared from the team, and Hunter was and is buckling under the pressure of being the life of the team.
Now that Puckett has passed, and you begin to read the reports of how he touched so many lives, and what calming influence he was, not to mention his ability to come through in big spots, you see the weight that is on Torii Hunter’s shoulders. Whether or not anyone has said it, he knows that this is what Twins fans expect of him. Puckett was more than a friend to Hunter, more than a hero, he was a mentor, a father figure. It’s difficult to foresee how Torii will react this year, whether he will “carry the Twins on his back” or if he will continue his emotional breakdown, and have more incidents like the one with Justin Morneau last season.
The damage is already done. If the fans realize that replacing Kirby Puckett is impossible, or that Johan Santana may be as close to a replacement as they get, Hunter will feel as though his support is gone, that he has failed his fans. If we still continue to pressure him, he may collapse under the weight. The best thing for Hunter may just be a trade out of Minnesota.
Or maybe not. As his mentor would have instructed him, maybe he should loosen up and go out there and have fun. – Ryan

More Sports

11hr

    1. Anthony Smith: I’m not sure if another title shot is in Lionheart’s future, but that makes three wins in a (…)

More Twins