Monday, October 5, 2015

The end, or at least an end

Torii Hunter poses at home plate with
the youngster who won his jersey
after Sunday's finale.
The final out of the regular season necessarily comes every year and is always predictably depressing. The playoffs and World Series are well and good, but I embrace baseball's daily grind, the highs and the lows and the background knowledge that it all adds up and none of it is all that crucial by itself. This is why novelists have long used the baseball season as a metaphor for life.

So another Twins season is dead, and another will be born next February in Fort Myers, Florida, and transplanted in April. The 2015 version will be remembered in the long run not so much for the failure of the team to reach the playoffs as for launching the big league careers of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario and maybe Tyler Duffey.

And maybe as the end for Torii Hunter. Or maybe not. Hunter was coy Saturday and Sunday about his immediate plans, He'll decide after seeing his sons play out their college football seasons in November. Or he'll decide in January after ramping up his workouts. I take him at his word when he says he doesn't know if he'll play next year, and when he says that if he does, it will be nowhere but Minnesota.

He's 40, and he knows it. In April he tried a straight steal of home; by September he was being pinch-run for on a regular basis. He sees Buxton and Rosario and Aaron Hicks and Max Kepler, all young enough to be his sons, all dripping with talent and all crowding for outfield playing time. Hunter hit 22 homers this year, but in all other aspects, it was his worst season at the plate since 2000.

I have said this many times about many other players: I don't begrudge a player for wanting to squeeze one more year out of his career. The Jason Bartlett fiasco of 2014 wasn't Bartlett's fault, it was the fault of a manager and front office that couldn't, or refused to, see in spring training what everybody else did -- Bartlett couldn't play major league ball any more.

Should Hunter return? There seems to be a consensus among the writers that he will do so only if he's promised that he will still be a lineup fixture. That would be a foolish promise for the Twins to make, but they might make it anyway. It wouldn't be the first time they let sentiment get in their way.

1 comment:

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