Sid Hartman: Hunter sought out role on a contender

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 25, 2007 - 6:34 AM

The star center fielder's decision to leave was driven by the realization that the Twins won't be competitive in the AL Central in the near future, he said.

Torii Hunter said he wouldn't have returned to the Twins even if the money was there because he doesn't believe they can compete with the more talented teams in the division.

As for his decision to sign with the Angels he said: "It was like a 24-hour decision. I could not leave Anaheim -- that's a nice place, a nice ballpark, they play the game right, they've got a chance to win every year. Because Arte Moreno is that type of owner, he wants to win."

Had the Twins' three-year offer for $45 million been five years for $75 million, he might have considered it, Hunter said, but on the other hand, he wanted to play with a winner. He said he doesn't think the Twins are going to have the talent to win in the future.

"Sometimes you're going to ask for a raise or whatever. And it just so happened that in major league baseball the market is up, it's way up." he said. "So, I was going to get what I was going to get. I just wanted to make sure that I was with a team that wants to win, that's going to try to win day in and day out. Whatever pieces to the puzzle that they need, they were going to go out and get it. I just didn't feel the Twins were that ballclub."

Should trade Santana

Hunter said he doubts the Twins will pay enough to sign free agent pitcher Carlos Silva, and if he were the general manager, he would trade pitcher Johan Santana for some much-needed talent.

"Yeah man, for some great talent," Hunter said. "I'm talking about a good center fielder, maybe a superstar third baseman in two years. You're talking about good talent. Everybody wants Johan, he is hot. So, they're going to give any and everything to get him. So, you might as well take advantage of it because when the season starts, he's not going to negotiate a contract. He's actually going to see what's out there. We grew up with much of nothing, just like everybody else. Not everybody else, but most people. So, if you leave $130 million on the table and you know you've got a chance to get that, you've got to do it. So, the closer he gets, the hungrier he's going to get."

It will be hard for the Twins to attract free agents, Hunter added, because the new stadium lacks a roof.

"People aren't even thinking about this," he said. "I wouldn't play in Minnesota unless my career was at an end and I had to go to Minnesota to play the game. ... People think that's not true -- that's 100 percent accurate. This is coming from a player, so I'm telling you."

Hunter said the Twins offered him three years because they thought he wouldn't have much left after that.

"Some people think that in three years, I'll be older ... but I feel like I can play left or right, and still be the best left fielder and right fielder in the game," he said. "Some people think that, but that's a mistake. You shouldn't think like that because that was terrible."

Hunter said he was disappointed that neither club owners Carl Pohlad nor Jim Pohlad made a counteroffer to try and keep him here.

Yes, it is pretty obvious the Twins brain trust was determined to limit Hunter to a three-year deal, take it or leave it.

This guy will be missed like no other player who has left the Twins. The pitchers have lost their friend. The games he saved with great catches in the outfield made great pitchers out of ordinary ones.

New Paul Brown

Back in the 1940s, Paul Brown dominated high school football in Ohio to such an extent that he was eventually named football coach at Ohio State, then went on to coach the Cleveland Browns before taking over the Cincinnati Bengals.

We have our own Paul Brown in Minnesota in the form of Mike Grant, the Eden Prairie football coach who won his sixth Class 5A championship by dominating a previously unbeaten Cretin- Derham Hall team 50-21 on Friday night.

Since Grant took over at Eden Prairie in 1992, he has won 13 of 16 Lake Conference titles and in the past four years he has a record of 49-3. Now combining the jobs of athletic director and football coach, Grant is happy where he is and doesn't plan on moving.

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