By Ashley Dunkak
136 players have hit at least 300 home runs. That’s a fairly distinctive achievement in its own right. Of those 136, only eight have also won nine or more Gold Gloves.
When Detroit Tiger Torii Hunter blasted his 300th career home run Sunday, he became one of the eight.
The other names on the list are ones most baseball fans will know – Willie Mays, Johnny Bench, Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Schmidt, Andruw Jones and former Tigers Ivan Rodriguez and Al Kaline.
Mays, Kaline, Schmidt and Bench are all in the Hall of Fame. Rodriguez and Griffey are expected to get there eventually. That makes six of the other seven in this category in Cooperstown.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland paused before answering whether Hunter should be there too.
“300 home runs is a lot of home runs,” Leyland said. “Unfortunately the measuring stick kind of has been a slam dunk 500 home runs. I don’t know. I mean he’s been a terrific all-around player for a long time, but I don’t get votes in that.
“You start looking at numbers, you can make or not make cases for a lot of guys,” he added, “and it’s just what the Hall of Fame committee and the writers, I guess, and the guys that vote, come up with.”
Along with his renowned defensive abilities, Hunter has been a steady source of offense.
From 2001 to 2011, he hit at least 20 homers in 10 of 11 seasons. In that same span, he recorded at least 80 RBI in nine of those 11 years and 90 or more RBI in seven seasons between 2001 and 2011.
Over 17 years in the major leagues, Hunter has a .277 average. He only hit .300 for a season once, last year, but he came tantalizingly close several times over the years, including hitting .289 in 2002, .287 in 2007 and .299 in 2009.
As far as outfielders go, it is hard to argue that Hunter is not one of the best of the modern era. Only six other outfielders – Ichiro Suzuki, Kaline, Jones and Griffey with 10 each, and Mays and Roberto Clemente with 12 each – have more Gold Gloves than Hunter.
Of those six who have more Gold Gloves than Hunter, four have hit more home runs – Kaline, Jones, Griffey and Mays. Of course, some of the best players ever reside on that list.
A four-time All Star, Hunter is also known as one of the great people of the game. While Leyland is not sure whether Hunter will be in the Hall of Fame, he certainly appreciates the unrelenting effort and commitment that has always accompanied Hunter’s talent.
“He’s a treat for a manager,” Leyland said, “because he’s a guy you don’t have to worry about. You know what you’re going to get every day. You’re going to get whatever he’s got every day.”