A View from Studio 3: Hunter's impact looming large
I was told money was tight but I guess the Arte had money hidden under a mattress. Business is business but don't lie.
-- Torii Hunter on Twitter, Dec. 13, 2012
That shot heard round the baseball world was aimed at Angels owner Arte Moreno when the club opted to let Hunter walk away in free agency in favor of signing Josh Hamilton to a $125 million contract.
The tweet packed a wallop and gave fans a look at a side of Hunter we rarely see. But I'm guessing that even when he typed it, he was flashing at least a hint of his trademark smile. Hunter did acknowledge in December he thought the move was "business" and not "personal."
Make no mistake, this weekend in Anaheim, it will be personal when Hunter's Tigers play a three-game set against the Halos in Anaheim. Hunter has not said as much, but he did offer this on Twitter Thursday night when the Tigers' plane touched down in Southern California:
"Just landed in my old stumping grounds of Anaheim. Had a great 5 years here but I'm a Tiger now and we are here to eat."
Just landed in my old stumping grounds of Anaheim. Had a great 5 years here but I'm a Tiger now and we are here to eat.- Torii Hunter (@toriihunter48) April 19, 2013
Doesn't sound like a guy with too much added motivation, but given the chance, I estimate, roughly 100 percent of self-respecting players, or persons for that matter, would want to stick it to their former employer after being replaced. Hunter has the savvy and personality to at least do it with a smirk on his face.
Very few folks associated with the Angels are smiling a few weeks into this season. It could be argued that allowing Hunter to depart Southern California was the biggest mistake made by any team in the offseason.
The Angels and their most recent big purchase, Hamilton, look lifeless. Their win total entering play Friday stood at four. Four. Same as the Astros. Say that to yourself a few times to let it sink in. And it's been suggested that without Hunter, internal leadership is lacking. His influence on Mike Trout in 2012 was so strong that even Trout's mother expressed disappointment when Hunter was not retained.
As if leadership, presence and experience aren't enough, consider the numbers. Hunter's performance in a Tigers uniform has been remarkable. At 37, he's set a career high for hits (26), average (.413) and and on-base percentage (.439) through his teams first 14 games. Hunter also leads the Majors in hits.
All that is certainly impressive, but when you look at what his teammate and Detroit's leadoff man Austin Jackson is doing, your eyes widen a bit more.
Austin Jackson's performances in April
Jackson, who entered Friday tied for the Major League with 19 runs, is having the best April of his career in numerous categories. Is it a coincidence that he's playing next to and batting in front of Hunter? Maybe. But doubtful. The numbers and the buzz coming from inside the Tigers' clubhouse suggests that Hunter continues to positively influence young stars on the rise.
"We are thrilled," manager Jim Leyland said Friday. "He just has a presence about him. You never really get to appreciate another player totally, because you don't know them. It's different when they are in the other clubhouse."
That's something the Angels are learning the hard way.
As for Hunter praising Jackson, he recently told the Detroit free press, "Austin Jackson has been awesome at the top. He's the one that is setting the tone for all of us. ... I'm just trying to serve it up for those big guys."
Oh yeah, the big guys. Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera form perhaps the most dangerous 3-4 combo in the game. Right now they're living on a different planet than an Angels' meat of the order that includes Hamilton and Albert Pujols.
While nothing is certain, this weekend series could turn out to be a lopsided feast. One fit for the reigning American League champions.
Matt Yallof is the co-host of The Rundown on MLB Network from 2-4 p.m. ET. Follow him on twitter @mattyallofmlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.