|Torii Hunter before a recent road game.|
I have refrained this season from criticizing Hunter for specific fielding plays, in large part because I doubt my own objectivity on the matter and don't want to damage my credibility. Some readers accept the analytics, some don't. I figure the analytic scores this season will tell their story (which is, at this point, somewhat better than last years but still not good) without me.
But this business of picking up balls in right field and casually flipping them into short center field has provoked me. Hunter did it earlier in the month, when a ball careened off shortstop Jorge Polanco. And he did it again Tuesday night in the ninth inning, when struggling reliever Aaron Thompson gave up his second single to as many hitters.
In both cases, the toss came as a game was getting away. And maybe I'm reading too much into this, but in both cases the play came off as more a mental error than a physical one. The body language speaks of frustration, contempt, even surrender.
These are not useful things to display on the field, period. To the degree that Hunter's presence on the roster and in the lineup is justified as a role model, they're even worse. Polanco commits an error, Thompson gives up a couple of singles, and Hunter responds with a sloppy play that telegraphs: I don't care about this one anymore. That's not the example one wants set for the Byron Buxtons and Eddie Rosarios.
Again, maybe I'm reading too much into this. Errors happen. But these came on sloppy technique at a time when the specific game was going poorly, and they irritate me. One of them, OK, mistakes happen. Two of them begins to establish a pattern.