Torii Hunter ruined baseball. It is a little known fact, and it is unquestionably true. Torii Hunter was once so good at catching baseballs that he ruined baseball as we know it. Watch Hunter’s evil deed for yourself:
It was the 2002 Midsummer Classic, in Milwaukee, the very backyard of Commissioner Bud Selig no less, Hunter robbed the over-muscled Barry Bonds of a crowd pleasing home run and proceeded to taunt the champ with his merry, infectious laughter en route to the AL dugout. You do not poke the bear. There is fun. There is showmanship. This, however, was little more than self-aggrandizement. I always believed Torii Hunter to be an extreme narcissist, but this, sir, was going too far[i]. Was this the tipping point? Bonds, ever a prideful man, became enraged by Hunter’s show and tossed the center fielder upon his Titan-sized shoulder like a kegger of “flax seed oil,” but don’t you dare go blaming the victim here. Not anymore. Hunter left Bonds no choice. Would you prefer this?
We associate Selig’s frozen, panic-stricken mug with that 2002 All Star game, as he’s being informed that an exhibition of MLB’s finest cannot be completed because there are no more pitchers available[ii], but before the tie, Hunter set the tone with his stellar defense that stole Bonds’ moment. Without Hunter’s display of extreme athleticism, there is no tie. Bonds wins MVP. The Senior Circuit breaks the snooty AL’s five game winning streak, and with an Atlanta Braves like level of dominance, the AL would win seven straight after the tie, making it 12 non-stupid tie wins in a row. So, thank you Torii Hunter for making the AL the equivalent of the 90s Braves, a team everyone hated.
Let’s not forget the most important result of Hunter’s thievery: “This Time It Counts.” Because Hunter couldn’t just allow the universe to do its thing and gravity to pull that baseball ever so slightly behind Miller Park’s centerfield wall, we’re now left to suffer through an All Star game deciding home field advantage for the World Series. Once again, don’t blame Selig on this one. He had no choice. When Torii Hunter roams center, looting and pillaging like a Viking raider, the Commissioner’s Office must protect us. We were the ones turning off our televisions because we could not stand the carnage. We were the ones that would not remain witnesses to beer and car advertisements because we feared what Hunter would do next. The hunter made this game into a sport.
Bonds knew what the rest of should have known as he lifted Hunter bodily into the Milwaukee night sky: this was a man not to be trusted. Perhaps Bonds smiled good-naturedly, but inside he roiled at Hunter’s audacity. Bonds, always so reticent, spoke louder in those few moments than ever before or since, but a man overburdened with carrying the expectations of fans across America could only lift so much. He needed help. Enter Selig. When the full weight of Hunter’s actions came to bear, when the game stalled because of the managerial decisions to WIN this game through matchups emptied the bullpens of all able-bodied pitchers, Selig acted swiftly and sort of decisively: “It shall be a tie,” he probably said, “because Torii Fucking Hunter jumps high and catches baseballs.”
So pass your judgments and vitriol around as you will. Cheer Derek Jeter and blame Adam Wainright for destroying the integrity of the game, or talking about it, or Erin Andrews for hating Twitter. You are all wrong. Back in 2002, Torii Hunter ruined the great game of baseball, and not a damn person cares to admit it.
Whatever. It wasn’t even that good of a catch.
[i] Of course this is complete nonsense. I love Torii Hunter, like every other human being who appreciates baseball and, you know, decent people.
[ii] What was so difficult about this decision? Why did there have to be a tie that angered everyone? This entire problem could have been resolved with another home run derby to decide the winner. You can’t tell me that the crowd wouldn’t have been excited with a soccer style shootout where each team has five batters and five pitches each to determine the winner. Sigh. Selig turned a slight embarrassment into a headline event, then decided to make the All Star game even dumber by “counting” because he looked like a fool. Seeing that this game was in Milwaukee, you’ll never convince me that Selig didn’t take this embarrassment personally and vowed to destroy the game from within.