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Would you Rather? Gene Larkin or Torii Hunter?


Torii thinks this is a stupid question. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

It’s an age old debate!  Would you Rather?  One of my favorite comedy podcasts, Comedy Bang Bang, often ends with a game of Would you Rather?  The guests are given two scenarios and are forced to decide which of the two scenarios they would rather.  Typically, the two scenarios are beyond bizarre, but comedy always ensues.  In addition, Bill Simmons, a little-known sports writer from Boston, often posits whether one would rather have had Robert Horry’s career (role player with a bunch of Championships) or Karl Malone’s career (one of the 25 greatest players of all time, no Championships).

I have always found this to be a fascinating question.  As a person with a psychology background, I wonder if this could be used as a projective personality test of some sort.  Regardless, it makes an interesting conversation starter.  I came up with a similar question, related to our beloved Twins franchise.  Would you rather have had Gene Larkin‘s career or Torii Hunter‘s career?

Everyone knows that Torii Hunter is one of the most charismatic and beloved players in Twins history.  He basically took over as center fielder from Kirby Puckett, another extremely charismatic and beloved player.  Hunter forged his own identity and became one of the most productive Twins of the 2000s.  Hunter played 9 full seasons for the Twins.  Since leaving Minnesota for Anaheim, he has continued to put up impressive numbers for the past 5 seasons with the Angels.  In addition to numbers, Hunter has made some of the most memorable catches in MLB history.  He robbed an All-Star game home run from Barry Bonds.  It appeared for a second that Bonds might powerbomb him, which would have likely been the most memorable moment in All-Star game history.  Torii has never won a World Series and has never even played in a World Series game.

Gene Larkin had a short, 7-year career, all in Minnesota.  He did not have the highlight reel that Hunter had.  In fact, a quick youtube search for Larkin led me to this video and little else:  Larkin’s Pipes  Larkin appears at the 1:37 mark, sings a few bars and then laughs like a crazy person.  (Note:  watch the whole video, for the fashion, singing, nostalgia and the creepy Santa that threatens to come to your house at the very end).  However, all singing aside, Larkin was a member of both the 1987 and 1991 Twins World Series Championship teams, even hitting the World Series winning single in the bottom of the 10th inning in 1991.  When I close my eyes, I can see Larkin running down to first with his one arm raised in the air.  Three players in the entire history of Major League Baseball have hit a game 7, extra inning walk-off hit:  Earl McNeely, Edgar Renteria and Gene Larkin.

Here are a couple of charts I made to compare Larkin and Hunter:

G

PA

H

R

HR

RBI

SB

TB

AVG

OBP

OPS+

Torii Hunter

1947

7887

1986

1068

297

1143

186

3347

.277 .335

111

Gene Larkin

758

2670

618

275

32

266

23

869

.266 .348

98

 

WAR

$ Earned

WS Titles

Playoff GP

Playoff PA

Game 7 Walk-offs

Torii Hunter

44.4

134.5 Mil

0

34

148

0

Gene Larkin

0.3

2.8 Mil

2

13

12

1

 

It is easy to see that Torii Hunter has had a much more accomplished career as an MLB player.  Hunter has played roughly 3 times more games and has put up impressive counting stats.  Larkin only played more than 119 games in a season twice.  Hunter has played 14 full seasons, and played in fewer than 119 games only twice during that span.  Hunter has also earned literally a truckload of money, depending on the denomination of the currency.  His career is still in progress and he has been productive enough to likely get another 2 or 3 year contract, for good walkin’ around money.  Larkin made almost 3 million himself, which is nothing to sneeze at (it might blow away).  Larkin is best known for his Game 7 walk-off, but he only had 4 total plate appearances in that World Series.  Hunter has played in far more playoff games and had a much larger role on those teams.

Larkin had a far less accomplished personal career and a more accomplished team career.  Hunter could still win a World Series in his career, so that could certainly change this question significantly.  As of right now, this makes for a very interesting question.  Larkin was a part-time player who enjoyed immense team success, with two World Series championships.  However, he was just a minor part of these teams.  Hunter was a borderline star player for a long time and enjoyed modest team success, never reaching the highest level.  At times, he was considered one of the best players on his team.  So, would you rather have had Gene Larkin’s MLB career or Torii Hunter’s MLB career?

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Tags: Gene Larkin Minnesota Twins Torii Hunter

  • Brad Swanson

    Well, I’ll answer my own question. I’ll take Larkin’s career. I’d rather have the two rings instead of the better personal career.

    • PMinell

      I agree. As a fan, I want the WS victory over the one fantastic player. Interesting thought with regard to today’s team…the reason I’m preparing/hoping for trades that might hurt just a little bit.

  • Randy

    MLB put the 7th game of the ’91 series on their archive last week. I
    have watched the 10th inning dozens of times, but I watched the entire
    game the other night. One thing is obvious, Bobby Cox’s decision to walk
    Hrbek to pitch to Larkin was key. Hrbek had a terrible series and game 7
    and it is highly unlikely he would have got Gladden in from 3rd. If he
    had he’d be lauded like Kirby for his walk-off in game 6. But Larkin is
    largely forgotten. I never thought he got enough credit for stepping up
    their injured (like Kirk Gibson in ’88 – except that was in game 1) and
    lacing that first pitch over the heads of a drawn in outfield for the
    winner. I love Tori but, well, in terms of Twins history, I’d take Geno.
    Thanks for an intriguing article.

    • PMinell

      I recently wrote a series of brief overviews of the ’91 series, and I rewatched parts of the games as research. It’s slightly embarassing, but I cried after Larkin’s swing.

  • Brad Swanson

    I’m glad you enjoyed it. I can’t imagine the feeling of hitting a walk-off, especially in Game 7. That alone pretty much would be enough for me.