#16 - TORII HUNTER, OF
The regime of Angels General Manager Tony Reagins is riddled with asinine decisions that ripple through the fabric of the team through this very day and into the future. The Mike Napoli trade, the Scott Kazmir acquisition, the firing of Eddie Bane, all of these add up to easily naming Reagins the worst GM in the history of the franchise - which is quite an accomplishment considering the garbage piles that has run this franchise at times.
But he did one great thing for the franchise. He signed Torii Hunter. In the offseason after the 2007 season, Bill Stoneman retired and Reagins was named to replace him. After a somewhat startling trade of Orlando Cabrera for Jon Garland, Reagins swooped in and grabbed Hunter in a stealth signing when the Angels were not even one of the expected suitors. As legend has it, Reagins made an offer of five years and almost $90 Million for the free agent center fielder, a lot more than other teams, He made it contingent, though, on doing the deal immediately. Torii's agent agreed to meet at a halfway point between the two - a Del Taco in Corona.
The Angels had signed Gary Matthews Junior to a big contract prior to the 2007 season and it was quickly understood to be a terrible deal for the team. It was a bold stroke to admit this mistake by signing a marquee player of Hunter's stature. Still, the deal was received by most fans with the assumption that Torii would have one or two good years in Anaheim and then the team would pay for it in years 3, 4 and 5.
Torii Hunter was an All Star CF with the Minnesota Twins when he hit his big free agency. He was 31 that offseason but after signing with the Angels he showed little wear and tear. The Angels took two straight division titles and Hunter was critical to each of them. His once great glove was adequate in CF for the team with a flare for the dramatic in those first two years - robbing a few homeruns and making a catches at the wall seemed routine. He never wanted to come out of the game no matter how hard he hit the padding where the warning track ends. He was instantly a clubhouse leader and stood solemnly with John Lackey holding Nick Adenhart's jersey at the pregame memorial after the tragic death of the rookie pitcher. Torii was a fan favorite, who's on-field athleticism was balanced with an on-camera charisma that probably sold more tickets for Arte Moreno than his front office frat brotherswould ever acknowledge. Torii just made people love the Angels.
His biggest hit as a Halo had to have been Game One of the 2009 American League Division Series. Facing the Boton Red Sox for the third time in four postseasons and having been eliminated in this round by them each time, Torii got the scoring started by cracking a monster three-run home run off of Jon Lester to assert that things were different this time around. The Angels would sweep Boston in that series.
When the Angels were faltering in 2010 and called up Peter Bourjos, Torii moved to Right Field with zero ego. Many a star with less stature and talent than he would have raised holy hell in an ego-spasm, but Torii put team first and announced he was switching positions in the hopes it would help the team win.
In his five seasons with the Angels he never had an OPS+ below 111 and had three seasons with an OPS over 125. His OPS+ of 122 is eighth best in club history. His 21.1 Wins Above Replacement ranks eleventh among Angels position players and his OPS+ of .814 ranks tenth.
But ask any Angels fan who was around for the entire Torii tenure in Anaheim and I bet the first thing they say they recall about him was his smile. It made you like baseball more. It made you thrilled Torii played for the Angels and it spread joy to the world like a spiritual person would insist only an Angel can.