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Friday, April 20, 2018

Torii Hunter: The Ultimate Team Player

When the Angels initially signed Torii Hunter in 2007, I was not a fan of the deal. I thought 5 years and $90 million was way too much and I still believe that his $18 million per year is too high. But when I complained about the contract, I was constantly told that Hunter would be worth the money. One of the main arguments was that Hunter was an excellent clubhouse guy and that value could not be understated. I scoffed at that notion but three years later I see what people meant.

The Angels have been struggling offensively and Juan Rivera in particular has not been making up for his poor defense in left field with his typical production at the plate. The team decided to make a move on Tuesday, promoting prospect Peter Bourjos who was tearing it up at triple-A Salt Lake. The issue was that Bourjos plays center field — the same spot occupied by nine-time Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter. Naturally you would expect the spot to go to the veteran while the rookie earns his place. Not with Hunter. The gracious, ultimate team player put winning first and his ego second:

“I could say I want to go for that 10th Gold Glove. … But sometimes you’ve got to slap pride in the face and all that individual stuff – the Gold Glove stuff – you can let that go. All I care about is winning. … If this makes the team better, I’m going to do it.”

Not only does the move help give the Angels more defensive range in the outfield, it also could give them some needed pop in the lineup. I see that, many of the fans do, but how often is it that an $18 million a year player recognizes it and volunteers to cede his position to a youngster? Just look at Allen Iverson who became disgruntled as a bench player and LaDainian Tomlinson who proved to be a negative force in the Chargers locker room when his playing time faded. Hunter isn’t exactly losing playing team here, but he is a nine-time Gold Glover and definitely has more rights to center than almost any other player in the bigs.

Being the ultimate team player that Hunter is, he quietly moves to right field because his primary concern is winning. Now that’s the type of guy you want in your clubhouse.

Angels’ Torii Hunter said move to right field was his decision [LA Times]

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