Hunter's champagne gift runs afoul of MLB's rules

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 23, 2007 - 9:58 PM

An act of generosity has landed Twins center fielder Torii Hunter in some hot water with Major League Baseball.

When Hunter gave the Kansas City Royals four bottles of champagne this weekend, he was fulfilling a promise he made after the Royals swept the Detroit Tigers last September, helping the Twins win the division title.

But with that gesture, Hunter also violated little-known MLB rule 21-b.

The rule states, "Any player or person connected with a Club who shall offer or give any gift or reward to a player or person connected with another Club for services rendered ... in defeating or attempting to defeat a competing Club ... shall be declared ineligible for not less than three years."

The violation was first reported by "The Cheater's Guide to Baseball Blog."

Monday afternoon, the Twins received a telephone call from the commissioner's office. The Twins contacted the Royals, who agreed to send all four bottles of Dom Perignon back to Minnesota. Yes, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said, those bottles are still unopened.

"I'm to blame as much as anybody because I didn't know the rule," Ryan said. "We'll end up righting the wrong. We've already contacted the Royals. They're going to return the goods, and hopefully that'll be the end of it."

A suspension for Hunter seems unlikely, but he still could be fined. The Royals also could face penalties for accepting the gift, under the same rule.

Ryan called Hunter's gesture "an honest mistake."

But Ryan also hinted at the reason MLB won't let it pass with a simple slap on the wrist. The rule is designed to avoid any tampering between teams -- gifts from a team to a pending free agent, for example -- and MLB remains highly sensitive to anything that could even be remotely viewed as a form of gambling.

By letting Hunter's gesture pass, MLB would have to consider the precedent.

"Integrity of the game; it's as simple as that," Ryan said. "This is an honest, trivial exchange, but it could grow into something different if you let it get away."

The rule is posted inside the Twins clubhouse, a few feet from manager Ron Gardenhire's door. But like Ryan, Hunter said he was unaware of it.

"I do good things," Hunter said. "If you want to make a good thing into a bad thing, then so be it."

MLB executive vice presidents Jimmie Lee Solomon and Rob Manfred are handling the investigation.

MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said: "This is the first we've heard about [Hunter's gift]. It would be inappropriate to comment until we have more information."

Short leash for Ponson

During a news conference with high school journalists, Ryan said it's time for struggling pitcher Sidney Ponson to produce better results.

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