Why Torii Hunter Should Retire After 19 Seasons
After 19 seasons, 17 of them as a regular in the lineup, Torii Hunter should retire. There were several rumors that swirled shortly after the season came to an end. Many sources saying the Minnesota Twins wanted Hunter back. Now 40 years old, Hunter would be doing himself a favor by choosing to retire.
Hunter had a more productive season than many fans, including myself, predicted when he signed with the Twins last winter. In the press conference, he told everyone that he had a few bullets left. 22 home runs and 81 RBI is not bad at all for a player nearing his end.
Oct 4, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins right fielderTorii Hunter
(48) addresses the crowd prior to the game between the Minnesota Twins and the Kansas City Royals at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
However, Hunter’s 2015 bullet should be his last. Across the board his numbers are down. Many are below his career average. This is to be expected. He has declined quite a bit since his prime.
Even though Hunter said he does not believe stats, they do not lie. Hunter’s batting average and OBP were below league average. In fact, his batting average and OBP were the lowest of his career. Hunter’s hit total, runs scored, doubles and SLG rank in the bottom five of his career.
His fielding stats are not much better. In the last three seasons, Hunter’s defensive runs saved above average is -36. In 2015, he saved -8 runs above league average on defense. Simply put, he is costing his team runs by playing in the field.
Going to Target Field to watch the Twins and seeing Hunter play right field there is a noticeable difference in his fielding. He looks one step slower than he used to be. On a single to right field with a chance to throw out a runner at home Hunter failed to do so. More and more of his throws he was falling over on the follow-through. But more importantly he was getting less velocity on his throws.
A few seasons ago the same throw would have reached the catcher on a hop. Now Hunter’s throws from right field take several hops. He just is not what he used to be, and that is to be expected.
The Twins have been rumored to possibly signing Hunter for 2016. If the Twins brought him back, it would be a mistake. For all the statistical reasons why Hunter should retire, there is the business side to consider. If he came back for one more year, Hunter would have to embrace the role of a fourth outfielder. A possible outfield combination could include Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Aaron Hicks with others filling in off the bench. It is dubious that Hunter and his personality would take on that role.
As pointed out in an article from Call to the Pen, Hunter could extend his career by his use as a DH. The Twins already have options, such as Miguel Sano, Kennys Vargas and Joe Mauer from time to time, who are capable to DH. Other American League teams are interested in Hunter. However, he has said he wants to finish his career in Minnesota. The Twins think they need Hunter back in 2016 but they do not.
Even though Hunter made a huge contribution to the team off the field, the Twins should not pay him extra money to come back just so he can mentor younger players. That is what coaches are for. There is no doubt he helped boost the confidence of Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe, but was $10.5 million worth it?
According to FanGraphs, Hunter’s 2015 season value should have merited $3.9 million. The possibility of Hunter accepting such a pay decrease seems unrealistic. Furthermore, $3.9 million is quite pricey for a bench player whose production is declining quickly.
“It’s not implying anything, it’s not saying I’m going to be back or I’m going to retire. It’s a just-in-case kind of feeling.”
As stated in an article in the Star Tribune, Hunter is still undecided as to whether he will officially retire. During the seventh inning of the last game of the season, the Twins showed highlights from Hunter’s career. He received a standing ovation as he saluted the crowd. Phil Miller quoted Hunter saying, “It’s not implying anything, it’s not saying I’m going to be back or I’m going to retire. It’s a just-in-case kind of feeling.”
Even if Hunter is not hinting at a decision to retire, the crowd showing its appreciation along with the stadium playing highlights should be the way to end a career. No parades, no season-long retirements, just a tip of the cap to the fans.
A wise baseball fan once said, “leave the fans wanting more.” Hunter would certainly be doing that by not returning in 2016. If he did return and failed, his past accomplishments would take longer to be recognized. General baseball fans would be more likely to remember a failed comeback than past success. In other words, Hunter should retire now while he is on top.
Hunter wants a World Series ring. He will not get one as player. That is fine. Twins fans know how great Hunter was and he does not need to prove anything.