Thursday, July 20, 2006

July 20th, 1938

Tony Oliva Born

His full, proper name apparently was Antonio Oliva Lopez Hernandes Javique Oliva. I'm a little hazy on how exactly they managed to stick "Oliva" in there twice, and which Oliva exactly Tony used for his "baseball name" but there you are. Oliva is sometimes mentioned as a should-be Hall of Famer, and a quick look at his stats would seem to suggest that: fifteen years, .304/.353/.476 batting line, three time batting champion and an eight-time All-Star.

The problem with Oliva's Hall case is that his career was, in reality, not much longer than his name. Of those fifteen seasons, Oliva played in fewer than ten games in three of them. Even leaving those out, Oliva averaged fewer than a hundred and forty games per year over the course of his career. Oliva's eight All-Star games, 1964 through 1971 basically mark his period as a quality player. Now mind you, he was outstanding in those eight years, twice finishing second in the MVP vote, leading the league in hits five times and doubles four times.

If Oliva had surrounded those peak years with a typical career rise and fall, he'd be in the Hall of Fame by now with no trouble. Unfortunately, outside of those years he played in fewer than five hundred games and hit under .280. Tony Oliva is no doubt an elite member of the Hall of Very Good, but he remains rightly outside the Hall of Fame.

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