HOF ’09: Tim Raines

raines

 

Tim Raines is what I consider a borderline pick for the Hall in 2009.  That’s not a knock… in a year where it seems that there are one or two “sure things”, he might get a break and get the call. 

Raines Facts
  • Drafted 5th round in 1977 by the Montreal Expos
  • Played for Mon, Det, ChiW, NYY, Oak, Bal, Fla (1979-2002)
  • 7 time All-Star
  • Led NL in batting and OBP in 1986
  • Four time SB leader

Raines came in to the majors in 1979 at the age of the 19 as the youngest player in the baseball. It took him a couple years before he got his real chance to show what he was made of.  In 1981, he batted .304 in 313 at-bats, most of the strike shortened season.  But what amazed most people was his league-leading 71 stolen bases, a high amount for a shortened season or no. 

Raines proved it was no fluke by stealing 70 or more bases in the next five seasons reaching as high as 90 in 1983.  To go along with his speed, he had the ability to reach base with ease.  During his peak years (1981-1998), Raines’ OBP was .387 and he surpassed .400 five times (not counting 2001 when he only had 89 at-bats).  His combination of speed and OBP made him an excellent leadoff hitter for Montreal. 

And though he is known mostly as a Expo, he did put in five years with the White Sox and three with the Yankees.  By this time though, his offensive numbers began to dip a little.  Raines’ speed waned a bit with his SB numbers going down.  His first year with the Sox, he stole 21, then 13, 13 again and they never got that high again.  To his credit, his batting average (and for that matter OBP) stayed relatively high in the .280-.290 range.  Ironically, his last three years with the Sox in 1993-1995, Raines actually showed a bit of power, hitting double figures in homers each year. 

By 1999, when Raines went Oakland, he was pretty much done.  He hit .215 in 135 at-bats.  Montreal brought him back for a half a year in 2001 but was granted free agency that fall.  Raines retired the next year after one more failed attempt with the Marlins. 

Why Tim Raines will make the Hall of Fame in 2009

1) Solid career numbers.  Most striking are his 808 stolen bases which rank him 5th overall.  But he also ranks high in other categories important to a leadoff hitter, too.  Such as walks (1330, 33rd all-time), runs (1571, 49th) and times on base (3977, 41st). 

2)  Quite simply, in his prime Tim Raines was one of the best at what he did.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to say he helped redefine the role of the leadoff man.   While Vince Coleman eventually began winning the SB titles in 1985, Raines showed there was more to being a leadoff man than stealing bases.

3)  Longevity.  Though his later years were a bit lean (see below), Rock put together a 23 year career.  Not bad for a 5’8″ guy who came up as a secondbaseman.  

 

Why Tim Raines will NOT make the Hall of Fame in 2009

1) Like it or not, this year’s timing of Rickey Henderson who was a similar type player (leadoff hitter, same era) only better in almost every way doesn’t help Raines’ cause.

Raines fans will poo-poo this but it’s reality.

2) Raines’ offensive numbers went down in the second half of his career.  As a result, his playing time also suffered.  In the last nine seasons of his career, Raines batted over 500 times only once. 

3)  Four words. Pittsburgh. Drug. trials. 1985.

Here’s a good writeup on the topic including Raines’ famous quote about sliding headfirst in order not to break his cocaine vial which he kept in his back pocket.  Yes, there have been HOFers who have had drug issues but this kind of exposure can’t help. 

 

Part of me hopes that Raines gets the call.  For me, it’s really close.  If Raines had tacked on a couple more superstar years before going into his mediocre second half, he probably would get my vote.  But dang, it’s close.

 

  Hall of Fame

Hall of Very Good

  Why is he even on the Ballot?

 

While we wait for January 12 ballot results, The Baseball Zealot will be profiling those players who are on the 2009 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.  Read the rest the of the profiles.

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