Former Twins right fielder and American League batting champion Tony Oliva knows a quality ball club when he sees one. He played on the 1965 Twins, a team that won 102 regular season games, the most in franchise history, and went to the World Series.
Oliva remains close to the Twins organization and is enthused about this year’s team. He’s watched the club win 89 games and lose 60 through yesterday, holding a 10 game lead over Chicago on the way to winning another Central Division title. Significant, too, is that the Twins, with 13 games remaining on the schedule, are close to New York (90-59) for the best record in the American League. Home field advantage in the league playoffs awaits the team with the best record.
The Yankees lead the Rays (89-59) by one half game in the AL East while Texas is winning the West Division with a record of 83-65. The Twins are 2-5 against the Yankees this year, 3-5 versus the Rays and 7-3 against Texas. The Twins have excelled since the All-Star game when they were only four games over .500.
“I don’t think there’s another team in the American League that is better than us,” Oliva told Sports Headliners on Thursday. “We are (all) almost the same. All those big teams (the Twins can play with).”
Oliva wants to see the Twins gain home field advantage throughout the playoffs but if not he won’t be agitated. The Twins are 49-25 at home, 40-35 on the road.
“Some years we play very bad on the road,” he said. “This year we play good on the road and good at home. But we like to have home field advantage. If we don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. …”
Ask Oliva what’s most interesting about this Twins team and he speaks in detail about the depth. He begins with overcoming the loss of reliever Joe Nathan for the season, a closer he describes as one of the “top three” in the league. Then he talks about playing without “one of the best hitters” in the league, Justin Morneau out since July 7. Next he describes the loss of more players. But when others went down, Olivia said, various players stepped up.
“The team is not one guy,” Oliva said. “It’s not only Michael Cuddyer, or Justin Morneau or Joe Mauer, or Jim Thome. …Everybody contributes. Every single one.”
Olivia believes luck has been part of the success story, too. In the off-season the Twins acquired the slugging Thome who as a part-time player leads the club in home runs with 24. Chicago could have signed Thome before the Twins did. Then after the trading deadline the Twins were fortunate to bolster their relief pitching by adding Brian Fuentes and Randy Flores via waivers.
“We have a good luck,” Oliva said. “It’s one of those years (where) everything going our way, too.”
Oliva said in baseball it’s unpredictable what will happen next. Perhaps good fortune won’t continue for a Twins team that seems to some like it’s destined to make the World Series. As the Twins close out the season, Oliva watches and says: “Right now we in good shape. In baseball you never know what going to happen but I like our chance.”Comments Welcome