Results tagged ‘ Tony Oliva ’

Never Quite Fit

After a team-wide collapse during the final months of 2007, the Twins were a ballclub in desperate need of hitters.  The thought was, at least at the time, that the Twins had a solid stable of starters and a deep bullpen, so Matt Garza (and Jason Bartlett) were deemed expendable and sent to Tampa Bay for Delmon Young (and Brendan Harris).  Unfortunately, Young never quite fit in with the Twins organization and is now a Tiger.

In 2008, with the promise of power based on a solid TB rookie campaign, Delmon hit .290 with little power.  In 2009, he hit about .290 with…little power.  In 2010, he hit about .300 with 21 homers and 110+ RBI.  So far this season, he’s missed much time on the DL and never really found his stroke.

Basically, there are two Delmon Young’s:

The first Delmon can put a team on his shoulders from the middle of the order.  When he’s locked in, he’s almost Vlad Guerrero-like with his free-swinging ways.  He (more than probably any other Twin) took the “sage” advice of Tony Oliva in this now-infamous TV spot…

The other Delmon, however…

…was an out machine when swinging at those early pitches, completely unable to draw walks or move runners along.  In the field, he was a complete klutz.  Though sometimes he’ll dive and catch a ball, it is usually because he misplayed it so thoroughly to begin with.  He just doesn’t have any natural coordination in the field.

Sadly, that “second” Delmon Young was much more apparent as a Twin than the first.  Looking back, I can’t blame the Twins for giving Young a try.  At the time, we though we were getting two above average hitters for a pitcher (in Garza) that needed a change of scenery and a hitter (in Bartlett) who didn’t blossom until his Tampa stay.

However, it just didn’t work out.

Kirby

Every Spring Training for the MN Twins, at some point I am reminded of the death of Kirby Puckett in 2006.  Although I didn’t become a serious baseball fan until the mid 1990s, the very end of Puck’s cut-short career, I just remember (as a child) the presence of Kirby being larger than life.  He was (perhaps more than any other) the player who initially got me excited about Twins baseball.

It’s very sad to me that Puckett is no longer around.  When I think of legendary players, I think of guys like Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva.  For my dad, for instance, just seeing those guys is enough to rekindle a flood of old (and primarily rosy!) memories.  Unfortunately, I don’t get to do that with Puck.  Later this August, when the Twins have their 20th Anniversary of the 1991 World Series, there will be a big hole in CF, as has been the case since 2006.

We only have videos like the ones in this post to remember #34.

 

Gags

Before this past weekend becomes too “old news”, I wanted to take a moment to comment on the induction of Greg Gagne into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame.

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Here’s the thing: Gagne was solid defensively, did all the “little things” that the Twins organization values, and is the nicest guy you’ll ever chat with.  He also played for both Twins world championship, 1987 and 1991.

The trouble is, Gagne was the epitome of an “average” ballplayer.  His career batting average was .254 (over 15 seasons), and the highest he ever hit in a single season was .280 (and that was post-Twins with the KC Royals).  He hit 111 career homers, stole 109 bases, yet (in one of the most bizarre stats that you’ll never see in today’s game) was actually caught stealing 96 times.  His OPS in any given season never touched .750.

Thus, I can’t say that I agree whatsoever with the Twins’ inception of Gags into their HOF.  I love to see him (and appreciate his contributions) at team reunions and get-togethers, but putting him in cohorts with names like Killebrew, Oliva, Carew, and Puckett really only cheapens that selection group.

However, I have only congratulations for Mr. Gagne now that the deed has been done.  I’m sure it is a great thrill for him.

One other quick note: The Twins once again put on a great show last weekend with their 50th Anniversary Celebration.  The 50 Greatest Twins ceremony was great, while the old-timers game provided a lot of laughs (Kent Hrbek’s divot, primarily) and good memories.  Like Gene Washington taking his hacks with his new team (the Rangers) standing on the top step laughing their butts off…

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First Moose, Now Tony O.

RetroOliva.jpgRight on the heels of Mike Mussina announcing his retirement and that subsequent Hall of Fame debate, the Veterans Committee for the HOF announced its 2009 ballot.  First and foremost in the minds of Twins fans was the inclusion of popular Twins star Tony Oliva on that ballot.  Does Oliva have a chance to get a hanging plaque in the great Hall?  Well, let’s start by looking at the stats…

-13 seasons, 1,917 hits, 220 HR, .304 BA, 8 All-Star Appearances, Rookie of the Year Award in 1964, twice finished second in MVP voting.

By looking at those stats, I would consider Tony O. to be the epitome of an “on the fence” candidate for the Hall.  When healthy (and that is key), Tony was perhaps the best pure hitter of the American League during the mid to late 1960s.  However, knee injuries plagued Oliva for much of his career, getting so bad that he could hardly run anymore by the time he retired.  Thus, much like Mickey Mantle, Oliva never really was able to play at his true potential for any extended period of time, as those knees always ailed him.

What bolsters Oliva’s case, though, is the work that he has done away from the game, as he has been a loyal, devoted member to the Twins organization since his retirement and has been a great ambassador to the Latin American community (he was born in Panama).

So, do I think Oliva belongs in the Hall of Fame?  I would have to say no.  It’s tough to deny a guy a spot just because of injuries, but I don’t think Tony O. played at a high enough level for a long enough period to earn that bronze plaque.  I think that other former Twins still on the ballot such as Bert Blyleven and Jim Kaat have much more solid cases for the Hall than does Oliva.

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