Torii Hunter spent just two seasons with the Tigers, but his impact was big on back-to-back American League Central titles, both on the field and in the clubhouse. Now it’s up to Baseball Writers' Association of America members to decide whether his 19-year Major League career deserves their vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Players must be selected on at least 75 percent of ballots in order to be inducted. They must reach at least five percent to remain on the ballot for the following year.
Hunter is best known for his 12 seasons with the division-rival Twins, who drafted him in the first round of the 1993 MLB Draft out of Pine Bluff High School in Arkansas. But Hunter signed with the Tigers as a free agent following Detroit’s run to the World Series in 2012.
Hunter was an All-Star and Silver Slugger in 2013, batting .304 with 37 doubles, 17 home runs, 84 RBIs and an .800 OPS. He provided the Tigers with a veteran hitter in front of MVP Miguel Cabrera in the batting order. When the Tigers clinched their third consecutive division title in Minnesota that September, Hunter famously lifted manager Jim Leyland out of his office chair and carried him into the clubhouse to join in the team celebration. Hunter will forever be remembered in that postseason for tumbling over Fenway Park’s right-field fence as he tried to take away David Ortiz’s grand slam in Game 2 of the AL Championship Series.
Hunter put up remarkably similar numbers in 2014, with 17 homers and 83 RBIs to go with a .286 average and a 114 OPS+. He left as a free agent after the season, returning to the Twins for one more year. He finished his career with a .277 average, 353 home runs, 1,391 RBIs and a .793 OPS.
Sheffield’s 22-year Major League career included two seasons in Detroit, where he hit 44 home runs with 132 RBIs across 2007-08. His 509 home runs put him 26th on MLB’s all-time list, and his 1,676 RBIs put him 30th, according to Baseball Reference, with 21 Hall of Famers ahead of him. His 4,737 total bases rank 35th all-time.
In terms of Win Probability Added, Sheffield did more for his teams' chances of winning than all but 20 players in history, according to Baseball Reference. The only players ahead of him who aren’t in the Hall of Fame are Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols; the latter is still playing.
"I really believe there's a stretch -- and a good long stretch -- where Gary Sheffield was the most-feared hitter in baseball," former Tigers manager Jim Leyland said a few years ago. "He was the guy who at the time had the best bat speed of any hitter in the big leagues."