As many know and have accepted, Hunter is probably in his last year as a Twin. When asked about his contract, he told this to the Star Tribune:
"I don't let it bother me anymore," Hunter said. "I'm still signed for one year, and I'm going to honor that. I'm going to work hard. I'm not going to be a problem in the clubhouse or none of that."To some, this may seem totally the opposite of what people expect from Hunter or it may seem like something he put out there to keep face. I think it has to be looked at as symbolic of the true Torii. Hunter is a leader, yes, and he also can be a distraction. But, deep down, he's a loyal guy who plays his heart out and has always respected the team.
"Once the season starts it's over," he said. "I'm 100 percent focused. I won't be a distraction. That's why I really don't want to talk contract. It sounds selfish when you're trying to win a division or things like that."
One of the best examples I can think of, other then these recent quotes, is Hunter's frequent visits to Fox Sports Net's "Best Damn Sports Show Period." In his visits, he's constantly hounded by Chris Rose and others for why he is still playing for the Twins, but he's always stuck up for the organization. His occassionally disrespectful or irritating outbursts make him the type of emotional team player remniscent of another great Minneapolis athlete: Kevin Garnett.
Ironically, Garnett may be out of town soon too, based on how terribly things went last night. (This isn't a Timberwolves blog, but you don't need to be a fan to understand the embarassment of last night's loss to Charlotte. Adam freakin' Morrison people.) Hunter isn't the once-in-a-lifetime talent Garnett is, but he is one of the great athletes in Twin Cities history.
If this is his last season, let's view Hunter in the right light: he isn't perfect, but he's always played hard, he's been a vocal leader, and he's always kept us entertained.
A couple other notes:
* If Hunter keeps the professionalism, it will certainly help the ability of the Twins to trade him. Knowing how a troublesome or distracting star can be hard to trade (Manny Ramirez anyone?), it's easy to figure that the opposite situation will only help ease the trade market for a player.
* There is an interesting quote from Johan Santana in response to the Barry Zito contract at the end of the aforementioned Strib article:
"We haven't heard anything from [the Twins]," he said. "But one thing I could tell them is, sooner would be better. I'm pretty sure it will be cheaper."All I can say is that if the Twins want to have any chance of keeping Santana, they better act quick.