Hunter's champagne gift violated baseball rule

Maybe a thank-you note would have sufficed.

Torii Hunter's gift of expensive champagne to the Kansas City Royals has the Minnesota Twins outfielder in some bubble trouble.

Hunter's gift of four bottles of Dom Perignon, which he had delivered to the Royals clubhouse this past weekend, was meant as a reward for the Royals sweeping the Detroit Tigers last September, allowing the Twins to come from behind to win the American League Central. The gift fulfilled a promise Hunter made last fall.

But baseball has rules about this sort of thing.

Namely, rule 21-b, which proclaims "Any player or person connected with a Club who shall offer or give any gift or reward to a player or person connected with another Club for services rendered ... in defeating or attempting to defeat a competing Club ... shall be declared ineligible for not less than three years."

And after "The Cheater's Guide to Baseball Blog" reported the violation, the Twins got a phone call from the commissioner's office about the proffered bubbly. And the Twins found themselves in an awkward position -- having to call the Royals to ask that the champagne be returned.

Luckily, the Royals hadn't popped the corks yet.

Hunter said he wasn't aware of the rule. "I do good things," he said, according to the Star-Tribune of Minneapolis. "If you want to make a good thing into a bad thing, then so be it."

Twins GM Terry Ryan wasn't aware of it either.

"I'm to blame as much as anybody because I didn't know the rule," Ryan said, according to the Star Tribune. "We'll end up righting the wrong. We've already contacted the Royals. They're going to return the goods, and hopefully that'll be the end of it."

Ryan called Hunter's gesture "an honest mistake," according to the Star-Tribune. But he acknowledged that the rule is designed to avoid any tampering between teams and that Major League Baseball isn't about to let that slide with a slap on the wrist for Hunter and the Royals.

"Integrity of the game; it's as simple as that," Ryan said, according to the newspaper. "This is an honest, trivial exchange, but it could grow into something different if you let it get away."

Ryan said he didn't anticipate punishment.

The rule is posted inside the Twins' clubhouse, but Hunter said
Tuesday that he didn't know about it until this week. The MLB
public relations office had no comment Tuesday, because officials
were still gathering information.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.