La Velle E. Neal had a good piece in print (and online) Friday, getting retired Twins outfielder Torii Hunter on the phone for a discussion of the 8-25 ball club.
Hunter had some strong quotes, including this one: “There’s no fight right now.”
Anyone who has watched the Twins in the past two weeks would come to the same conclusion. Early in the season, when the Twins were losing close games and running into some genuinely bad luck, the same could not be said.
Lately, the losing has come awfully easy.
But the most telling part of the whole story, at least in terms of the clubhouse dynamic without Hunter, came later on during this passage:
“I know he texts a bunch of people around here,” said Brian Dozier, who was anointed by Hunter at the Diamond Awards in January as the one who should embrace a leadership role.
Hunter has had several conversations with Byron Buxton while he was with the Twins and since the top prospect has been demoted to Class AAA Rochester. Hunter has swapped messages with Dozier, Trevor Plouffe, Eduardo Escobar and others when they asked for advice. But it’s different than being in the clubhouse.
“I just try to encourage them to keep going,” said Hunter.
On the one hand, it’s a sign of respect for Hunter that players are still going to him for advice. It speaks well of his leadership role last year, when the Twins went 83-79 — their only season without 90 losses since 2010, and the only season Hunter was here in that span. Hunter is clearly a leadership mentor, and it’s smart to use your mentors in times of crisis. It’s also good of him to try to help.
On the other hand, though, it speaks volumes about the leadership void that currently exists in the clubhouse. If Twins players are still leaning on Hunter instead of stepping up themselves or getting motivation from a staff led by manager Paul Molitor … well, that doesn’t come close to fully explaining 8-25, but it’s still a problem.