No, Torii, Don’t Swi – …. Nevermind!

First, let me say I love having Torii Hunter on the Twins and I’m happy they signed him to a big contract. I love watching him go over the wall to bring back home runs or make diving catches to prevent doubles, and noooobody tries to take an extra base on him. If you put Andruw Jones in left field and Hunter in right, I could play centerfield – riding a Segway. We’d never let a ball drop.

My problem is that for all his years of experience the man has the patience of a mayfly at the plate. In recent years there were two articles we could always count on seeing every season in a Minnesota sports page: one talking about Randy Moss’s new maturity and leadership and the second about Hunter’s new commitment to plate discipline. The latter article usually included something about what a positive influence Shannon Stewart is, but it appears the effect works only if they both bat in the same inning.

Normally I wouldn’t create a post just to restate the obvious, but today seems like a good time to do so after last night’s 6-2 Twins win, highlighted by a heaping helping of everything that Torii does that makes him Torii – including the following from the Strib’s account:

The Twins trailed 2-0 with the bases loaded and one out in the third inning when Hunter came up. Lefthander Cliff Lee tried to get ahead with a curve ball, expecting Hunter to be sitting on a fastball.

Truth is, Lee was right. But the pitch hung a little, and…

“My hands said, ‘Yes,'” Hunter said. “Most people don’t swing at a first-pitch curve ball. I don’t know why I did. … I didn’t think I was going to swing at it. It was just a reaction.”

Let’s make this clear: NOBODY swings at a first-pitch curve ball with bases loaded. I suppose there’s just something about seeing a ball in motion that sends Hunter over walls after homers … and swinging at balls almost as high.

Oh well, like summer in Minnesota, you’ve got to love him despite the minor annoyances. And I’m not like some friends of mine who used to insist that Tom Brunansky never hit a homerun that did the Twins any good. In fact, if you go over to Craig Westover’s blog he has a method for calculating the average number of at-bats a player needs to produce a run (he calls it the ABR). You’ll have to read his explanation for how this works, but the key is that the lower the number is, the better. Using Craig’s tool you see that Kirby Puckett had a career ABR of 3.46. Torii Hunter’s career ABR is 3.47 – exactly the same as the career ABRs of Tony Oliva and Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente.

While in the Strib’s sports section I read Sid Hartman’s column where he revealed the following scoop:

Williams Arena was completed in 1928, and the training room has had some great Gophers basketball players spend time there.

But now the women’s basketball team is going to take over the men’s training room as its locker room. The men’s training room will be wrecked and a new one will be built down the hall past the visiting men’s locker room. So when the men get taped before a game, they will have to walk a good long distance past the visiting men’s locker room. The training room will be used by the women’s and men’s teams…

… So now, in a three-year period, the men have lost exclusive practice time at Williams Arena, exclusive scheduling of games and now a training room with great historic tradition that should have been preserved.

I’m predicting several late fourth quarter folds by the men’s team this winter, brought on by the lads being tired out from the extra energy expended getting taped. And how can you measure the effect of all the tradition in that training room? Did you know that when you were in there, if you were lucky, you might get to see the very razor they used to use to shave Randy Breuer’s back?

At least the mens’ teams will never have to worry about having to share Sid’s exclusive attention with the women.

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