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  • Oliva and Kaat Running Out of Chances to Make the Hall


    Cody Christie

    Two former Twins, Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat, have dedicated their lives to the game of baseball. Now both in their 80s, Oliva and Kaat get another shot at Cooperstown on this winter's Golden Days Era ballot. 

     

    Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily

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    Voting Process
    Back in the summer of 2020, the National Baseball Hall of Fame decided to postpone the Era Committee elections until the winter of 2021. Although there is still uncertainty about the pandemic, these committee votes will take place this winter. Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat are two players featured prominently on the Golden Days Era ballot (candidates who played between 1950-1969). 

    The ballot consists of 10 candidates that the BBWAA's Historical Overview Committee nominates. A 16-person committee of Hall of Famers, veteran baseball executives, and historians/media members is charged with voting on the candidates. Twelve votes are needed for a player to reach the 75% threshold required for induction. Back in 2014, Oliva and Kaat fell just short of election. Oliva and Dick Allen received 11 votes to fall one vote shy of induction, while Kaat ended with ten votes. 

    The Golden Days Committee will meet on December 5, 2021, with the results being announced that night on MLB Network. The ballot includes Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Roger Maris, Minnie Miñoso, Danny Murtaugh, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce, and Maury Wills. Along with Wills, Kaat and Oliva are the only other living members on this ballot. 

    Oliva's Hall of Fame Case
    Since 1900, only two hitters have won a batting title in their rookie season, Tony Oliva and Ichiro Suzuki. He was able to lead the league in runs, hits, doubles, and average on the way to winning the AL Rookie of the Year. He'd go on to win the batting title again in his second season as he was in the midst of eight straight All-Star seasons. Overall, he won three batting titles, led the AL in hits five times, and took home a Gold Glove.

    Oliva finished runner-up for the AL MVP in two different seasons, and he was in the top-20 in eight other campaigns. In 1965, he finished behind teammate Zoilo Versalles even though Oliva's OPS was 89 points higher. Oliva had quite possibly his best professional season five years later, but he finished behind Baltimore's Boog Powell. According to Baseball-Reference, Oliva's WAR that season was nearly two points higher than Powell's.

    Kaat's Hall of Fame Case
    Kaat's longevity is something to behold as part of his Cooperstown case. During a 25-year career, he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 2,461 strikeouts in 4,530 1/3 innings. He was an original member of the Twins franchise as he came with the club when they relocated from Washington. His first 15 big-league seasons were spent in the Senator/Twins organization. He was a two-time All-Star with the Twins, and he led the AL in wins, starts, and innings pitched back in 1966. 

    He played with five different organizations by the end of his career and averaged over 180 innings per season. His defensive prowess puts him into rarified air. He won 16 consecutive Gold Glove awards, which is tied with Brooks Robinson for second all-time. Only Greg Maddux and his 18 Gold Gloves rank ahead of Kaat on the all-time list. 

    Do you think Kaat or Oliva finally get the Cooperstown call? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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    I think they both belong in the HOF. Oliva was one of the most feared hitters to face and were his career not cut short by a brutal injury probably would have been a shoe-in with the numbers he was on track for. Kaat was not only great on the field but was (and still is) a great example of what a major league ball player should be and act like. Total class.

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    39 minutes ago, Karbo said:

    I think they both belong in the HOF. Oliva was one of the most feared hitters to face and were his career not cut short by a brutal injury probably would have been a shoe-in with the numbers he was on track for. Kaat was not only great on the field but was (and still is) a great example of what a major league ball player should be and act like. Total class.

    Totally agree with Karbo. Tony Oliva is my all time favorite MLB player, he could it all. One time I told him this, he said I was his favorite fan. He should've been a politician

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    Of the players listed above I would rank Tony Oliva first, then Richie Allen and finally Maury Wills.  I would not rank Kaat as one of the top players.  Oliva was robbed by his injuries. At the end he would come to bat with his knee wrapped and you could see the bulge from the bleachers, where I sat.  He practically had to hit a double to make it to first base.  It was sad to see, yet magnificent at the same time.  Tony Oliva definitely deserves to be in the HoF.  :)

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    Both should be, but there are a lot of great players on this ballot.  I feel Kaat should certainly be in.  If Don Sutton got in (good but not great, how can Kaat not be in)

    couple of the old players make this tough.  Buck O'Neill is a certainty in my mind, and Lefty Grove should be in.  Tough field, Maury Wills will probably be elected and in my mind should not be.  

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    23 minutes ago, nclahammer said:

    If not for blowing out his knee, Tony Oliva's total career numbers would be even more impressive.

    If not for his back injury, Al Rosen's career would be a lot more impressive. If not for the injuries, Byron Buxton's career would be a lot more impressive. Nomar Garciaparra, Bret Saberhagen, Orel Hershiser, Fred Lynn. There are literally HUNDREDS of baseball players throughout history who could say the same thing.

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    It seems to me Oliva should have been in already as for Kaat what reason an they give to keep him out. I think it comes down to being with the Twins if either of them had been on an East Coast team they would have been shoe ins. But come from Minnesota and the Nit Pick.

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    I posted this on my Forum - Golden Age HOF, but wanted to add it to this thread too.  "I have come to the place where I am not interested in long dead players being resurrected for election.  When Buck O'Neil was denied his election while he was alive it was heartbreaking because we all know he will get in and his acceptance speech would have been a classic.  Now I look at Kaat and Oliva and we have had them so close for so long that I want them in while they are alive - I want the pleasure of their satisfaction and their recollections."

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    283 wins, a 3.45 career ERA, 16 gold gloves, and let's not forget he hit as well (.185 lifetime average).  31st all time in number of wins; fields with the best and can actually hit a little.  If Jimmy is held out, it won't be because he didn't earn it.  Tony, on the other hand, is just fighting the old school idea that a shorter career doesn't equate no matter what the numbers were while they did play.  Hopefully, that won't hold this time.  

    It would be a shame if Tony didn't make it; it would be a crime if Jimmy didn't.

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