Torii Hunter visits the ballpark he helped build

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When I read the intro to this story about Torii Hunter’s return to Minnesota in today’s L.A. Times, I was prepared to scoff at yet another strange Torii Hunter statement: Target Field is “The House That Torii Built.”  Ha! Put this alongside “Dominicans are imposters” and “Kirby Puckett moved off centerfield for me.” The usual Hunter weirdness.

But (a) Hunter didn’t say that Target Field was “The House that Hunter Built,” the writer came up with that construction; and (b) even if he did say it, he wouldn’t be all wrong.

Unless you’re a Twins guy like Gleeman it’s easy to forget now how dire the ballclub’s straits were in the late 90s and early oughts. The threat of contraction seemed very real at the time. And even if you didn’t think it would happen, it certainly felt like Twins baseball was on life support in many important ways.

As the article notes, however, a crop of young players — not the least of which was Torii Hunter — helped revitalize the team and restore winning baseball to the Twin Cities. That, in turn, helped generate excitement which, in turn, led to the construction of what by all accounts is a wonderful ballpark.

Torii Hunter says a lot of crazy stuff. He wouldn’t be wrong, however, if he said that he had a hell of a lot to do with the construction of Target Field.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.