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Torii Hunter: “we’re brainwashed to want to win”

Feb 28, 2014, 9:54 AM EDT

Torii Hunter Getty Images

LAKELAND, FLORIDA — I made it into the Tigers’ clubhouse right as it opened this morning. It’s like most of the other spring training clubhouses. A bit more cramped than some because Joker Marchant is a bit older, but it’s the same scene you always see. At least physically. In terms of vibe it felt much looser than many I’ve been to.

Miguel Cabrera has a lot to do with that. Unlike a lot of megastars who are scarce when the clubhouse is open to the press, he was in front of his locker the entire time. He holds court over in his corner, mostly with the Latino players, but not exclusively. Indeed, there appears to be more racial/ethnic/rookie-veteran intermingling in the Tigers’ clubhouse than you often see. As it was Cabrera was loud and laughing and joking. At some point he and some other players started making random rooster/chicken/I have no idea sounds and it devolved into a game of some kind in which one of them took video of the others as they all tried to do the same thing. If I had remembered even a lick of my college Spanish I would have asked, but oh well. They all looked like they were having a ball and happy to be in each others’ company. Good chemistry? I dare not even suggest it.

I had a reunion with Torii Hunter, with whom I spoke in Tempe when he was with the Angels in 2011 and 2012. As always, Hunter was amiable and talkative. Indeed, if you’re holding a notepad anywhere near his locker he’ll just start talking to you without you asking him anything, which is highly unusual. But pleasant. I’m pretty sure that’s the reason why every baseball writer goes out of their way to praise Hunter. The guy could talk about how we should seriously consider forced euthanization of everyone over 50 and how we should outlaw ice cream and baseball writers would still talk about how great he is. I get why. He makes their jobs easier. We all like people who make our jobs easier.

Hunter and I talked about the politics of veterans taking long bus rides during spring training — he doesn’t have to do it and is just fine with that — the difference between Florida and Arizona — he much prefers Arizona, even if he likes being with the Tigers — and the thing that makes him wake up every day even after the grind of spring training starts to set in:

“I just want to win a championship. That’s what we all want,” Hunter said.

I asked him if, as many in the media like to say, a players’ “legacy” is somehow incomplete if they don’t get a ring. He considered that for a second and didn’t quite agree with it, but he did say “Ballplayers, we’re all brainwashed to win. We’re brainwashed to want that. That’s what we want.”

He feels he’s close. Joe Nathan came into the room and Hunter yelled across to him. After their conversation ended I asked Hunter if he helped recruit his old Twins’ teammate to Detroit this offseason. “Yeah, I did. I called him and told him,” Hunter said. By “told him” it was clear that he meant that he told them that Detroit is where he should come to win a World Series.

The Tigers are among the handful of teams who can seriously say they’re set up for that.

  1. rbj1 - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    Never thought Ted Williams’ legacy was incomplete. Course he did spend a few prime years doing other stuff.

    • dcarroll73 - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:49 AM

      He sure did – put that legendary hand-eye coordination to deadly effect (literally.) Even though I’m a Yankee fan, I love this guy.

    • happytwinsfan - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      found this at http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/08/who-were-the-best-players-never-to-win-a-world-series.html/

      i think this team would be right there with a team of the best guys who did win a world series

      C : Mike Piazza

      1B: Willie McCovey

      2B: Nap Lajoie

      3B: Ron Santo

      SS: Ernie Banks

      OF: Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Ken Griffey Jr.

      SP: Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal, Fergie Jenkins, Early Wynn, Robin Roberts

      RP: Lee Smith, Trevor Hoffman

      Bench: George Sisler, Harmon Killebrew, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Ralph Kiner, Ryne Sandberg, Nellie Fox, Barry Bonds.

      • rbj1 - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:09 AM

        Dang, what a team that would be.

      • georgewashingtonsghost - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:19 AM

        What a great team! One minor quibble, though–Bonds starts and sends Griffey to the bench.

      • asimonetti88 - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:28 AM

        Barry Bonds on the bench wow that’s a team for the ages.

      • philliesblow - Feb 28, 2014 at 12:18 PM

        Make it an American League team so Barroid Bonds can DH.

      • clemente2 - Feb 28, 2014 at 1:39 PM

        If there is a DH, that is Williams’ job.

      • shutdownespn - Feb 28, 2014 at 2:06 PM

        Intriguing, but not close to a team made up of World Series winners.

        At C, Johnny Bench crushes Mike Piazza. Lou Gehrig does the same to WIllie McCovey. SS not terribly close, either, with Wagner outpacing Banks. 3B is perhaps the biggest imbalance on the whole team, with Mike Schmidt over Santo. 2B is closer, but I’d still rather have Eddie Collins or Joe Morgan or Rogers Hornsby over Lajoie.

        Cobb, Williams, Griffey, Bonds are a heck of an outfield (and first bench player), and they certainly are the players that give the notion that this team could compete with the WS winners. But I’d say Aaron, Mays, Ruth, Stan Musial are that outfield’s equal, at least.

        The winners’ SP would REALLY blow the losers’ staff away. Walter Johnson, Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Mathewson, Cy Young, Lefty Grove, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Sandy Koufax. There isn’t a single pitcher on the losers’ list that could crack that rotation.

        RP would be Rivera, of course, set up by Sutter. Hoffman was great, Smith was good, but neither of them was Mariano Rivera.

        Bench would be the two 2B not already chosen (probably Morgan and Hornsby), the OF not already chosen (probably Musial), Tris Speaker, A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Rickey Henderson, Frank Robinson, Mel Ott, Eddie Mathews, and Jimmie Foxx, with Chipper Jones as batboy and George Brett getting everyone’s water and gatorade. Better bench than Sisler, Yaz, et. al. by a fair margin.

        In short, the winners have a much better infield, a much much better pitching staff, a much better bench, and a moderately better OF (probably).

        Put another way, the winners team includes 22 of the top 25 players all-time by bWAR, the losers team includes 3.

      • happytwinsfan - Feb 28, 2014 at 3:00 PM

        you make a strong case shutdownespn, so may i ask that the loser’s team be augmented by some other guys that never won a “major league” game, like josh gibson, satchel page and cool papa bell. that might even it up.

      • buggsinaz - Feb 28, 2014 at 3:04 PM

        Scuttle Griffey. Put in Al Kaline!!!

      • happytwinsfan - Feb 28, 2014 at 3:14 PM

        buggsinaz:
        i grew up loving Al Kaline so you have my sympathy, but he is one of our sad winners having won a series with the tigers in 68, so we’ll have to go with

        scuttle hank aaron and put in Al Kaline!!!

      • shutdownespn - Feb 28, 2014 at 3:25 PM

        @happytwinsfan: Now, THAT would be a game I’d want to see. Let’s say WS winners vs. WS non-winners plus players who were denied access to MLB for various reasons. That gets the Negro League players in, plus the ones whose debut was delayed by segregation (Minnie Minoso, etc.), plus any Japanese players you might wan to grab (Sadaharu Oh, most obviously). I think the WS winners would still be the favorite, but it would be MUCH closer.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Feb 28, 2014 at 4:59 PM

        Pardon moi twinsfan, but Satchel Paige won 28 games in the Majors. He was in his late 40s when he won his last one. Obviously, but for the abomination known as segregation, he’d have won at least 10 times that many, but he did get a crack at MLB, however belated it was.

    • mrfap626 - Mar 1, 2014 at 9:10 PM

      Ted Williams was a war hero as well as a baseball hero. I’ve always been happy to have come from the same family tree.

  2. thedoubleentandres - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    ¿qué fue eso baile del pollo???

  3. karlkolchak - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    Brainwashed? Ever since I was six years old playing kickball on the schoolyeard blacktop I’ve sort of known that winning was was awsome and losing sucked. I undertsand the point he was trying to make, but that’s an odd choice of words.

    BTW – I’ve got two rings from my kickball days (they were taken off of chocolate cigars)–does that make me a Hall of Famer?

    • jeffbbf - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:56 AM

      Once again, Torii’s blaming the man. He doesn’t really want to be so focused on winning, it’s that he’s been “brainwashed” to think that way.

      • historiophiliac - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:57 AM

        Fight the power!

    • historiophiliac - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      Oh, I hear they let any old kid in the Kickball Hall of Fame. Might as well call it the Hall of Prepubescence anymore. Everybody gets a trophy.

      /s

    • gloccamorra - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:56 PM

      If you understand the point, he used the right words.
      As far a schoolyard kickball is concerned you’ll be sad to hear winning and losing are now banned, though the urge you learned and had still exists. It’s immortalized in a cartoon featuring a kid saying, “I’m tired of this ‘no keeping score, everybody wins, nobody loses’. I wanna stomp somebody!”

  4. nymets4ever - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:03 AM

    …and this requires brainwashing…….why?

    • historiophiliac - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:44 AM

  5. angrytwitterguy - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:39 AM

    “Brainwashed” often comes off like a negative term

    • angrytwitterguy - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:41 AM

      Kinda like Torrii was brainwashed into Catholicism

      • Old Gator - Feb 28, 2014 at 12:19 PM

        Torri has been known to wax nostalgic for the auto-da-fé. He was seen watching a Da-fé Duck cartoon on the clubhouse DVD player once.

    • karlkolchak - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:47 AM

      Yep, Mitt Romney’s dad used the word once during his presidential run against Nixon in ’68 and it instantly destroyed his candidacy.

      • Old Gator - Feb 28, 2014 at 12:17 PM

        I bet you Harold Stassen leaked it to the press.

      • clemente2 - Feb 28, 2014 at 1:55 PM

        Having been there, he wasn’t going to beat Dick anyway, and it was more the admission that he could be bambozzled than the term ‘brainwashing’.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Feb 28, 2014 at 5:06 PM

        It would have been very interesting, had George Romney seriously challenged for the GOP nomination, to see what would have been made of his undisputed birth certificate stating very clearly he was born in Mexico to US citizen parents.

  6. mikhelb - Feb 28, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    Now I see why you opt to copy/paste links to articles adding a bit of side commentary instead of reporting actual news.

  7. pwshrugged - Feb 28, 2014 at 2:30 PM

    The Tigers very much looked like a team that had fun last season, so I’m not surprised if that energy continues. From watching games, they look like one of the more jovial and easygoing teams in the league, with guys who like to enjoy their day as they do their job. Always lots of smiles and laughing in that dugout. That our megastar helps make that environment happen is certainly a positive thing.

    I don’t know if that means anything relative to winning, but when I watch Twins games (I’m a Detroiter living in Minneapolis), none of the players looks like they’re having much fun or want to be there… especially their manager. And we know how good they’ve been lately.

  8. pastabelly - Feb 28, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    I think if you make it to Cooperstown, that makes up for no WS ring and then some. Hunter may get neither.

  9. psly2124 - Feb 28, 2014 at 3:43 PM

    The only brainwashing going on is in the classrooms and the media in regards to this administration. The will to win is not brainwashing or wanting to win. Brainwashing may be fine at lower levels by parents to children in regards to there level of play and chances at being a professional athlete with a child thT has zero athletic ability

    • infieldhit - Feb 28, 2014 at 4:29 PM

      Speaking of classrooms, it sounds like someone could’ve spent a little more time in one…

  10. Minoring In Baseball - Mar 1, 2014 at 1:02 AM

    I really hope the Tigers can do it this season. They are way over due for a World Series win in Detroit. The way Ausmus seems to be handling things so far, they definitely have a chance.

  11. ningenito78 - Mar 1, 2014 at 2:39 AM

    All the professional journalists in spring training and then there’s Craig running around with his little notepad asking for autographs and acting like a 13 year old watching porn for the first time whenever a major leaguer walks by. Bang. Nailed it.

    • Old Gator - Mar 1, 2014 at 9:07 AM

      You sound eaten alive by envy.

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