…and it says that thrifty Carl Pohlad will continue to make his Minnesota Twins get by on a modest payroll. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Jim Souhan spoke with Torii Hunter in today’s edition.
On Opening Day 2002, a lineup of Jacque Jones, Cristian Guzman, Doug Mientkiewicz, David Ortiz, Hunter, Corey Koskie, Brian Buchanan, A.J. Pierzynski and Luis Rivas took the field in Kansas City. Eight of those players, with a host of right fielders subbing for Buchanan, helped the Twins to their first division title since 1991.
Today, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan will decide whether to offer, or “tender,” contracts to Jones and Rivas. That means there is a chance that, on Opening Day 2005, Hunter will be the only everyday player on the Twins’ roster remaining from that 2002 lineup.
Hunter said he has spoken at length with Jones, and doesn’t expect him to accept a pay cut, or even a slight raise over the $4.35 million he made last year.
Hunter said he understands the position of owner Carl Pohlad, who has restricted the payroll to about $55 million because of stalled stadium talks and poor attendance. He said he understands the difficulty of re-signing players given that limitation.
As a player who wants to win, though, he is angered by the prospect of losing Koskie, Guzman, Jones and perhaps Rivas in one offseason, a year after losing Eddie Guardado, LaTroy Hawkins and Pierzynski.
“You want me to be honest? There is no way — no way they can keep going like this,” Hunter said. “We’ve got to get some guys out there with heart. Guys with track records. When you start taking pieces out, after a while, we’re going to crumble. I think we’re on the verge of that.
“That’s my opinion. I know I work there, but I’m being honest.”
Is he questioning the heart of the Twins’ prospects?
“I think we’ve got some guys who can play,” he said, listing Lew Ford and Justin Morneau. “Out of that whole group, Morneau has heart. He’ll strike out and come back and say, ‘I’m going to get that guy.’ I like that. Take your failures and make them positives. That’s what my group did.
“Joe Mauer is laid back. I didn’t get to see a lot of him this year, but I think he’ll be like that — be a leader one day. But some of the other guys are going to have to develop heart.”
Even without Jones, won’t the Twins still have the talent to win the division?
“I think we still have young talent, but we don’t have the talent to win a World Series,” he said. “I think we can probably win the division. I’m not happy with that. I’m tired of losing in the first round. The only reason we lose in the first round is we don’t have heart, we don’t have players. Well, the way I’ll put it is we don’t have ‘Ballers.’ ”
Meaning players combining heart and talent?
“Exactly,” he said. “We’re losing them instead of gaining them. If all of us could have stayed together, we would have eventually won that World Series. That’s the business of baseball, and everybody hates that. We win in the season, and we lose in the offseason.”
Hunter admits he has no answers, other than the obvious: “We need a new stadium,” he said. “I want to play on grass.”
What about the new FieldTurf?
“That was a bad sign,” he said. “That was their way of saying, ‘We’re going to be playing in here for a long time.’ “
(Torri didn’t want to meet Barry’s nutritionist, trainer and chef, but Bonds wouldn’t take no for an answer)