Torii Hunter is willing to take a reduced role going forward

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Torii Hunter is having his worst offensive season in over a decade and his defense is getting to be damn nigh intolerable. He now has a tight hamstring that has kept him out of action for he past eight days. J.D. Martinez, his replacement in right field, was just named the A.L. Player of the Week.

The writing is, therefore, on the wall. And Torii Hunter is reading it. From Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press, who writes about what will happen now that it appears Hunter is poised to come back to action:

“I will do whatever is best for the team. We’re back to hitting the right groove right now, firing on all cylinders. If that means I have to split time in the field — if that’s in the best interest to help us win — then I’m fine with that. When you get to this point in your career, it becomes a lot easier figuring out what’s most important to you. I want to win.”

When it comes to on-the-field stuff at least, Hunter has always said and done the right things. He moved off of center field in Anaheim when it was clear the Peter Bourjos was better than him defensively. He does not have a history of complaining about where he hits in the lineup or plays in the field. Of course, until this year he hasn’t been faced with a lot of those situations given that he’s been one of the more productive and durable outfielders in all of baseball.

But now things are different. Hunter turns 39 next month and it’s likely that this year’s dip in performance is the new normal, not some temporary slump. He can certainly still be useful to a contender like the Tigers, but Brad Ausmus will have to give him rest and pick his spots in which to play him. Maybe way more against lefties, for example.

Interesting times for a guy who, as recently as last year, was still putting up pretty darn good numbers. Now we’ll see how he takes to a reduced role.

Umpire Cory Blaser made two atrocious calls in the top of the 11th inning

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The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.

Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.

Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.

James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.

The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.