Tim Raines and the Hall of Fame

 

I wrote this back in November, before the Class of 2013 HOF (or lack of one this year) voting was announced. 

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We know that the 2013 Hall of Fame Ballot is going to be one of the most controversial ballots, if not THE most controversial ballot of all time.  Setting aside Bonds, Clemens, Sosa (and Piazza), there are two other first time candidates on the ballot that have become almost forgotten men – Craig Biggio of the 3,000 hit club and Curt Schilling.  Biggio will likely get in because of the 3,000 club.  Schilling perhaps down the line because of his postseason performances (although his life after baseball may work against him).  Jack Morris is in his 14th year on the ballot and is gaining steam towards the magical 75% mark.

But then there’s Tim Raines.

He’s on the ballot this year for the 6th time.  Last year he got less than 50% of the vote.  I’m of the opinion, and have been since his first year of eligibility, that he should be in the hall.

Raines played 23 seasons in the majors.  While he spent the last several years of his career as a role player and after 1993, he was not the same player he was that made him a Hall of Famer, he did have a dominant 10 year stretch where he was one of the most feared players in the game.

He wasn’t a slugger, but he was the player you didn’t want to beat you.  He played his best seasons in Montreal, so most of his greatness wasn’t in the spotlight.  He also was overshadowed by Rickey Henderson.  Raines game was speed.  He got on base and he ran.  He did it better than almost anybody else.  He was Rickey Henderson in the National League.

During his 10 year stretch as a full time player in Montreal from 1981-1990 (1981 being a strike shortened year), he stole 627 bases, had 1,597 hits, scored 926 runs, had 81 triples, and had 769 walks.  During this 10 year stretch in Montreal, he hit .302 and had an OBP of .391.

He was a dangerous player.  By the time he left Montreal, he was a Hall of Fame player, and had already put in the 10 years needed for the Hall.  Maybe he wasn’t in the Big Room, but he was in the hall.  For that 10 year stretch, he wasn’t a compiler – he was someone you were scared of.  Mets fans know that well.

Before that 10 year stretch, he had cups of coffee in two other seasons with the Expos and played for an additional 9 years with the White Sox, Yankees, A’s, Orioles, Expos, and Marlins.  He had a few productive years as a full time player with the White Sox – in his 5 full seasons with the Sox, he scored 100 runs twice, hit .300 once, and had two seasons with over 80 walks.  He stole 51 bases in 1991 and 1992 (which were the two seasons he walked over 80 times).  His .306 season occured in 1993 at the age of 33, but saw his stolen base production drop to 21 and he was never the same player after that.  He aged after that the way players naturally do.  His last season as a full time player came in 1995 with the White Sox where he hit .285 and stole just 13 bases.

By the time he started to play in big media markets, Tim Raines was already a player on the decline.  He began to diminish in Chicago and he was only a role player by the time he came to the Yankees.  He played well in his 3 seasons in New York, batting .299 with a .398 OBP in part time duty, but by then, he was far removed from his Hall of Fame level.

Had Raines retired earlier, he would probably be in the Hall by now.  He stuck around long after his prime as a good, but not great, role player which may have watered down memories of how great he was in his prime.  The cocaine usage also may not have helped him either.

Tim Raines deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

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