The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Torii Hunter: Thug and Fool

So the Twins won round one of the three game set with the Sox this week.  For the most part, the game was uneventful.  The Twins won easily, 6 – 2, it rained a little, and not much happened.  Well, one exciting thing did happen. 

In the eighth inning, Twins centerfielder Torii Hunter barreled into Sox catcher Jamie Burke after tagging up from third on Henry Blanco’s sacrifice fly.  After the fact, Hunter alleged that he was merely trying to ensure that he was able to score the run.  Video replays showed that Burke was not blocking Hunter’s path to the plate and also appeared to show (albeit not perfectly clearly or unquestionably) that Hunter changed his path immediately before reaching home plate so that he could be sure to collide with Burke. 

Before getting into my take on things, I have to say that right before Hunter batted in the 8th, the Sox video team (which was the feed for last night’s game on my cable package) showed Hunter in the on deck circle and I thought to myself that, even though he is a Twin, I very much like Torii Hunter and his style of play.  Even when he’s slumping, Hunter seems to be laughing and having a good time.  And, along with Jim Edmonds and Andruw Jones, Hunter is truly a pleasure to watch in the field.

Also before I get into my take I things (and because some commenters are prone to bring up my childhood), I will freely admit that during a little league game (I think I was 11) I barreled into the opposing catcher in an attempt to break up a force play (after a bases loaded dribbler back to the pitcher).  Not only did I knock the ball loose from the catcher, I also broke the catcher’s arm in the process (or the force of the act or whatever).  Now, I’m not saying this because I’m proud of it or anything (I’m not), but just to relate that I’ve lived through something similar to this before (albeit at a much different level than Mr. Hunter).  At the time, I felt like I was in the right, but my actions didn’t change the outcome (I was out) and resulted in someone being injured.  In reality what I did was wrong and misguided, although my intentions were not to injure anyone, but only to try to be safe.  Hunter’s actions yesterday could have (may have) done the same – they certainly didn’t change the outcome and they may have caused an injury.

What Hunter did was wrong and unnecessary.  It accomplished nothing.  He would have been safe no matter what, and as he was charging down the line he could have easily assessed this by judging Burke’s actions.  The throw was clearly going to arrive after Hunter.  For those of you who disagree or think that such a judgement cannot be made between third and home, I’d suggest that it’s been too long since you played the game.  Players of Hunter’s skill must take the catcher’s positioning into account when they are attempting to score like Hunter was last night.  That’s how they know to go head first, feet first, use a hook slide, or go in standing up.  This also allows them to know if they need to step to the left or right to avoid a tag.  To assert that what Hunter did was unavoidable is ludicrous.  He was trying to be a tough guy and to “send a message.” 

Well, he accomplished that I suppose.  He sent a message loud and clear.  He’s a punk.  It’s not enough for him to let the score talk or to let his team’s division titles talk.  He, apparently, needs to talk by taking action that’s not part of baseball – hitting a catcher who’s not going to make a play on him.  I’m disappointed in happy-go-lucky Torii Hunter and I lost a lot of respect for him last night.

It also sent the message that Hunter is not the brightest bulb in the box.  By barreling into Burke, Hunter did put himself at risk for injury, an injury the Twins (or any other team) could not afford to sustain.  He also, although I’m sure this is of less concern to the Twins – but Hunter did express sympathy afterwards, put Jamie Burke at risk for a serious injury.  The extent of Burke’s injuries is not presently known, but he was taken to the hospital last night.  Had a Sox player run into Twins catcher and uber-prospect Joe Mauer (assuming he was healthy and on the field), every self-righteous Twins fan would be calling for the suspension of the aggressive Sox player today.  For some reason, that just seems to be how Twins fans are – it’s almost like a bit of a Napoleon complex for fans of the team from Minneapolis, as they try to prove their supremacy over their big brothers in the big city of Chicago.  I would be curious to hear the reactions from Twins fans today had Hunter separated his shoulder in the collision with Burke and his catcher's gear.  I suppose the blame would, wrongly, be placed on Burke for obstructing Hunter's path to the plate.

There are also allegations that a fan at the game last night took the booing and catcalling too far and threatened Hunter's life.  This is obviously taking things way too far and is inexcusable.

Oh well.  Hopefully Burke is ok and we’ll get some good baseball tonight.  If for nothing else, it will be interesting to tune in and see how Hunter is treated today and if the Sox exact any retaliation.  If they do, this could turn into one heck of a rivalry really quickly (and no, I’m not advocating retaliation – Hunter acted foolishly enough by putting his and Burke’s health at risk.  There’s no sense in risking someone else’s – even if it is Hunter’s).


  • At 11:05 AM, June 02, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I loved that play from Torii Hunter and I only wish they played the clip more often. It was a hard nosed play and gives us a glimpse of what it must have been like to see players like Cobb or Wagner playing way back in the day.

  • At 8:21 AM, March 03, 2013, Blogger Michael B said…

    Mike: I am an old school Twins fan, and yet, I have to say: your assessment of this play is correct. My opinion would not be popular with rank and file Twins fans, but I could care less. That Torii Hunter's play was needlessly over-the-top violent, avoidable, is borne out by Twins beat writers publised at the time. Seems ever since Pete Rose All Star Game hit on Ray Fosse in 1970, the severity & frequency of this play (not sanctioned by the official rule book) has increased.


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