Knowing he was about to sign a free-agent contract with the Detroit Tigers, outfielder Torii Hunter crowd-sourced Twitter, the social media micro-blogging site, for a new place to live. He asked about suburbs:
Looking for a place to stay for the season. I heard Troy and Birmingham was nice.
— Torii Hunter (@toriihunter48) November 16, 2012
Several fans responded, asking that he give the city itself a look. One (at least) even said:
Ah, civic pride. While it remains to be seen where Hunter will live during the season, the part about him signing with Detroit has come true. The Tigers got Hunter for $26 million over the next two seasons. And here's the thing: If Hunter helps the Tigers win a World Series, he'll be plenty heroic in the eyes of Detroiters — no matter if he lives in a casino across the river in Canada. And while Hunter is no grand bargain at $13 million per season (do the Tigers ever sign anyone good cheaply?), he should make them better in 2013.
Hunter, even at age 37, is coming off his best-ever season at the plate — relative to the rest of the league. He batted a career-high .313 (with a .365 on-base — one point off his career best) with 16 homers in 584 plate appearances for the Los Angeles Angels. And he played above-average defense in right field while being something of a mentor for wunderkind Mike Trout. Hunter's offensive stats added up to a 132 adjusted OPS, the best of his career, but also consistent with his production in recent seasons. Hunter, who had trouble mastering the strike zone earlier in his career — and he definitely regressed with strikeouts and walks in '12 — has been, regardless, one of those players who is better in his 30s than his 20s.
And he's an improvement over Delmon Young who, despite having a great postseason, can't be counted on to hit like that during the regular season. Young also might be one of those players who is better at 35 than he was at 25, but Tigers owner Mike Illitch doesn't have that kind of time to wait. The Tigers need to win now — like, in the next two seasons — and Hunter is a step toward the trophy. He's also back in the AL Central, where he sort of belongs. Hunter, of course, broke in with the Twins and played 11 years in Minnesota.
Tigers fans will like Hunter. Even if he lives in the suburbs.