After a 19-year career in the Major Leagues, including 12 seasons spent with the Twins, Torii Hunter retired at the end of last season. He’ll now have to wait five years before he appears on his first Hall of Fame ballot.
But once he does, I believe he will be enshrined. It won’t happen on the first ballot, but in subsequent years I expect him to get enough votes. Hunter’s numbers are across-the-board good, if not great, but he does stand out in a few categories, especially as a defensive outfielder, which I think will push him over the top.
I also think he will be rewarded for playing clean during a period of performance enhancing drug use.
For his career, Hunter hit .277, 353 home runs and had 1,391 RBIs. Not bad, but those numbers alone won’t do it. But combine those numbers with these and he gets in: 2,452 hits, nine consecutive gold gloves and a career center fielder fielding percentage of .993, which ranks him 13th all time.
During that stretch when he won nine gold gloves — only outfielders Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Andruw Jones, Al Kaline and Ichiro Suzuki have more gold gloves — his fielding percentage never dropped lower than fifth in the Major Leagues and in 2008 he ranked first with a perfect fielding percentage of 1.000, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Fielding percentages don’t tell the whole story because Hunter was a highlight reel in the outfield, making spectacular catch after spectacular catch. He’ll likely be best remembered for going over the wall to take a home run away from Barry Bonds in the 2002 All-Star game.
In addition to his hitting and outstanding centerfield play, I believe Hunter was well liked by fans, his peers and Hall of Fame voters — the beat writers who cover the game. So what’s not to like? Hunter gets in.
Photo credit: By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “0923 240cb”) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons