December 17, 2018

Jim Palmer and the Hall of Fame case for Tony Oliva

Harold Baines, the longtime DH and outfielder for the Chicago White Sox, was inducted into the Hall of Fame last week, along with longtime Chicago Cubs reliever, Lee Smith.

Smith’s enshrinement went down relatively easy for most baseball fans, but that was not the case for Baines as the twitterverse and blogosphere came up choking and gasping for air. The chief complaint appears to be the great schism in how players are evaluated.

At one time, a player with more than 2,800 hits and a career batting average of .289 was looked on more approvingly than under the microscope of modern metrics. For example, Baines’ wins above replacement has him at 38.7, better than only 8.8 percent of Hall of Famers, according to

Wins above replacement, or WAR is the number of wins the player added to the team above what a replacement player would add. For perspective, Babe Ruth’s WAR is 182.5.

Meanwhile, legitimate (right?) Hall of Famer, Jim Palmer, who won 20 or more games eight times in his career, congratulated Baines and Smith on their induction via Twitter.

And then he had to defend himself from fans who immediately took issue with Baines as a Hall of Famer.

And some fans suggested that if Baines deserves to be a Hall of Famer, then so does career Twin Tony Oliva.

The Hall of Fame case for Oliva, who spent 15 seasons with the Twins, probably fares better under the glare of new-world statistics than it does via traditional means. If the standard is Baines and his 38.7 WAR, Oliva gets in with his career WAR of 43.1.

But if the best candidate for the Hall of Fame has the right combination of both modern metrics and one of the traditional benchmarks, such as 3,000 hits or 500-plus home runs, then Oliva falls woefully short. Yes, he hit .304 for his career, but the often-injured Oliva amassed only 220 dingers, 947 RBI and 1,917 hits. He did, however, win three batting titles and was the 1964 Rookie of the Year.

According to

In Hall of Fame voting, Oliva peaked in 1988 with just over 47% of the vote. In the 2007 voting by the Veterans Committee, he finished with 57% of the vote out of the 75% necessary. However, the injuries at the end of his career hurt him – even though he played 15 seasons through age 37, he had fewer than 2,000 hits. … In the 2015 Hall of Fame Election held by the Veterans Committee, he missed election by only one vote, receiving 11 of 16 votes when 12 were needed for election.

Extra innings…

-Although the Twins are rumored to be interested in slugger Nelson Cruz, I think it unlikely that Falvey & Co will sign him. For starters, it feels like the kind of deal that former general manager, Terry Ryan, would pull off, adding a veteran player toward the end of his career, like Dave Winfield or Paul Molitor, that ultimately provides very little. I would much rather see Falvey & Co. go after that front-line starter to fill Ervin Santana’s shoes because the Twins are poised to have plenty of pop. A bounce-back year from Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, combined with the power of newcomers Tyler Austin, C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop, and nobody will be missing Cruz.


Hi, I’m Rolf Boone, Twins fan.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.