When you spend a lot of time around toddlers, you automatically learn a new language, that is, you hone an ability to understand words that are indigenous to one person, one small, industrious person who will grow out of those words as quickly as he grows out of his tennis shoes and T-shirts.

It took us a good six months, but we finally figured out in 2006 that every time Max said “mopoter,” he was referring to some roller coaster that he’d seen (probably a block or two northeast of the Ballpark).

These days, when Max says, “Pumpkin Horns,” pressing his third and fourth fingers down with his thumb, we know he’s actually paying tribute to his parents’ University.

When he asks us if Michael Young wears a long-sleeved blue-striped shirt after the baseball game, we know the answer must be yes if we expect Max to allow us to put his on him. (I’m being genetically punished on this issue, incidentally. When I was Max’s age, it was made clear to me that I was the only kid on the planet who refused to wear long sleeves. Max is only slightly more tolerant than I was.)

When Max says “No-fat-no-foam” as if it were one word, he’s not really communicating anything of substance to us other than a cry for help from having had to endure more trips with his mother to Starbucks than a four-year-old should reasonably be subjected to.

If you’re a parent of young kids, or of kids who were young not that long ago, or a school teacher or a child care professional or an au pair (lots of Rangers fans in that demographic), then maybe you understood meaning between the lines of several of Torii Hunter’s comments over the last couple months, as he headed toward the biggest contract of his life.

Hunter on September 19: “My family is so important, and I’m hoping the Texas Rangers make some moves and I’ll be right there. . . . Whatever moves they’re making, if they’re good, then I’m going to do it because they really do have a better chance than anybody [of signing me].”

OK. So it’s about family.

Hunter on September 23: “I don’t favor Texas. My family doesn’t even favor Texas, but we’re just going to kind of wait and see.”

Check that. Not about family. Or, yeah, it’s about family, but my family doesn’t prefer to be where we live.

Hunter on October 17: “I always talk to my wife about being interested in playing in front of the African-American fans and trying to get the African-Americans back to playing the game. If I go to Atlanta or D.C. and make a difference that way, I would love it. Trust me — D.C. is very interesting to me as well as Atlanta.”

It’s about making a difference.

Hunter on November 18: “The Dodgers are definitely near the top. With Joe Torre there, things have got to change. He’s bringing his history with them. I’m telling you, they’re going to start winning.”

It’s about being part of the rebirth of a storied franchise.

Hunter on October 24, regarding the lack of an offer from Minnesota since the end of the season: “I’m kind of disappointed, but what can you do? That’s my home team; I want to be with my home team. But there are no talks, no progress at all. It’s still the same. But there’s still a lot of time left. . . . Money has something to do with it, but trust me, that’s just a percentage. We need to talk about stuff that needs to change before we start to get into deep talks.”

It’s about trying to find a way to stay with the Twins. But trust him, it’s not about the money.

Hunter on November 20, responding to reports that would sign with the White Sox during Thanksgiving week: “I promise you, it won’t be this week. I don’t want to think about that while I’m eating turkey. I want to spend the whole weekend relaxing with my family. . . . It’s a life-changing decision, so I’m not going to make it in a rush. I’m still in listening mode. I’m not leaning toward anybody. Next week a lot of things could change, so you’ve just got to let everything play itself out.”

Hunter signed with the Angels the next day.

That’s what can happen when, without question, it’s about the money.

So when you read this Hunter comment, which appeared in yesterday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune, you understand that, in a manner similar to an exception swallowing a rule, Hunter’s omission obscures what he actually said: “It was like a 24-hour decision. I could not leave Anaheim — that’s a nice place, a nice ballpark, they play the game right, they’ve got a chance to win every year. Because Arte Moreno is that type of owner, he wants to win.”


Incidentally, the Rangers’ offer to Hunter was reportedly a five-year deal worth $75 million plus a club option for a sixth year.

If you’re thinking Texas ought to get in on Mike Cameron or Andruw Jones at this point, it’s worth noting that each is a Type B free agent, meaning the Rangers wouldn’t forfeit a draft pick to sign either one of them. The Padres and Braves will get a supplemental first-rounder if they offer arbitration to their player and lose him (or if they sign elsewhere before the arbitration tender deadline). But Type B’s don’t cost the signing team a pick.

Theoretically, the Mets’ acquisition of Milwaukee catcher Johnny Estrada last week doesn’t slam the door on a possible deal of Gerald Laird to New York. There’s been a story or two the last few days suggesting the Mets may dump Estrada, having made the trade with the Brewers primarily to shed the Guillermo Mota contract.

The Mets signed righthander Joselo Diaz, who had a spin in the Rangers system in 2006 that ended in a trade deadline deal to Kansas City for DH Matt Stairs. Diaz — a onetime Mets farmhand who was traded to Tampa Bay in 2004 along with lefthander Scott Kazmir — spent 2007 in Japan.

Newsday’s Kat O’Brien credited “one source” as saying that the Yankees intend to make a “good, strong offer” for lefthander Johan Santana, and you’re going to have a tough time convincing me that the source was not Reginald R. “Ribby” Paultz.

The Mets are interested in Santana as well, and according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, that possibility is one key reason that Omar Minaya refuses to discuss his top outfield prospects (Lastings Milledge, Carlos Gomez, Fernando Martinez) in other trade talks. Rosenthal notes that the Rangers keep asking the Mets for Gomez, likely in the context of a Laird trade.

The Rangers’ signing of infielder Ramon Vazquez to a one-year contract last week leaves only three potential arbitration cases for the club: Laird, outfielder Marlon Byrd, and righthander Akinori Otsuka. Texas, which has avoided arbitration this winter by signing Vazquez and righthanders Joaquin Benoit and Frankie Francisco so far, hasn’t had an arbitration hearing since 2000.

Class A lefthander Beau Jones had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, according to a Baseball America note written by Evan Grant. Jones, part of the five-player package Texas received from Atlanta for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay, is expected to be ready for spring training.

The Rangers signed a Cuban defector named Yennier Sardinas and former Marlins farmhand Adalberto Flores, according to Baseball America. Sardinas is a lefthander, Flores (age 21) a 6’7″ righty.

The USA squad won the Gold Medal in the World Cup competition in Taiwan last week, beating Cuba, which had won seven straight titles. Leading Team USA in its first World Cup win since 1974 was second baseman Jayson Nix, who was named tournament MVP (.387/.457/.742 in 31 at-bats).

Emerson Frostad hit .222/.318/.556 in 18 at-bats for Team Canada.

Ryan Roberts, the 27-year-old utility player that Texas signed to a minor league deal (with an invite to big league camp) last week, is a Fort Worth native who attended L.D. Bell High School and the University of Texas at Arlington.

The Carlos Lee trade, 16 months later: Milwaukee has Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix, and two picks in 2008, one probably in the 30s and the other likely in the 60s. Texas has Nelson Cruz, Blake Beavan, and Julio Borbon.

Bad break for the Brewers, having the Reds rather than a contender sign Francisco Cordero (four years, $46 million, club option for a fifth year at $11 million). That draft pick in the 60s would have otherwise been around the 20s.

Don’t blame Coco, though, for signing so quickly, with a team that’s not a real good bet to win. Don’t blame Torii Hunter, either.

It’s always about the money. Always.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at

1 Comment

Isn’t that “real nice ballpark” Hunter decided to choose the same one that had a rat problem this year?

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