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‘Rock’ solid: Tim Raines deserves Hall of Fame vote

Tim Raines belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Eight simple words that don’t connect as easily as they should.

“Rock” Raines — the former White Sox leadoff hitter — has appeared on the ballot nine times. Not once has he gotten my vote. This is significant because one of my golden rules is if you don’t qualify the first time, you don’t rank a year or five down the road. Statistics shouldn’t improve over time.

Here’s the truth: I blew it with Raines.

He had fallen into that category of good, even great, but not Hall-worthy. Steve Garvey, Fred McGriff and Lee Smith reside in this crowded neighborhood. After leaving Raines off the first time, I never thought to look back.

Raines got my second glance — and vote — thanks to an all-out push by Ryan Spaeder, a popular numbers guy on Twitter who goes by Ace of MLB Stats @theaceofspaeder. Earlier this month, Spaeder mounted his annual campaign for Raines. His 140-character pieces of evidence created an overwhelming case.

Here’s a tiny sampling of Spaeder’s number-crunching:

–Seasons with 50-plus extra-base hits and 70-plus stolen bases: Tim Raines four; Rickey Henderson and Ty Cobb combined four; the remaining 213 Hall of Fame players combined four.

–Sixteen of the first 18 players with at least 2,600 hits and 1,300 walks are members of the Hall of Fame. The odd men out? Pete Rose, who is banned for life, and Tim Raines.

–In 1983, Tim Raines became the first player with at least 50 extra-base hits and 90 stolen bases in a season since Tom Brown in 1891 — 92 years earlier. No one has done it since. The only other player with such a season is Pete Browning in 1887.

Ask his former teammates, and they don’t hesitate to cite Raines’ credentials.

“Greatest leadoff hitter of all time,” Hall of Famer Frank Thomas said this week. “I know you can make a case for Rickey [Henderson] or Pete Rose. I’m telling you, he was THE greatest. He was a sparkplug and the ultimate team player.”

“Once you take a closer look,” said Andre Dawson, the Cubs Hall of Famer who teamed with Raines on the Montreal Expos, “you realize he belongs.”

If you were starting a team from scratch, you would want Raines as your leadoff hitter. He had speed, smarts on the basepaths and rare power for a leadoff type.

“Lou Brock was the greatest leadoff hitter of his era,” Dawson said, “and Timmy picked up where Lou Brock left off.”

Ballots went out to voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America last week and must be submitted by Dec. 21. Last year, Raines got a personal high of 55 percent of the votes (75 percent is necessary). If Raines doesn’t make it after the 10th time next year, he’s off the ballot. That’s the new rule, trimmed down from 15 years of eligibility.

Dawson believes magic will happen next year because Ken Griffey Jr. will get most of the attention this year.

“It reminds me so much of myself because it took me nine years to get in,” Dawson said. “If Timmy can garner a little momentum this year, it will happen.”

So how did so many of us miss the mark on Raines?

“He had a drug problem — he’d be the first to tell you — for about a minute early in his career,” Thomas said of Raines’ admission to a Pittsburgh grand jury during baseball’s cocaine scandal in 1985. “He cleared that up quickly and moved on.”

Thomas points out — correctly — that Raines’ drug issues were not enough to knock him out.

Two more reasons tip the scales against Raines: He played during the same era as Henderson, a flashy star who redefined the role of leadoff hitter, and he spent his prime years playing in Montreal, where many teams in the United States didn’t bother broadcasting their games back home in the 1980s because of the inflated costs.

“You really didn’t get exposure, other than national exposure in Canada,” Dawson said. “He didn’t get seen a lot by the writers. You didn’t get to see Timmy in all his greatness, what he meant to his ballclub every day, unless you got to see him on a regular basis.”

And most damaging was playing at a time when Henderson, famous for his “I’m the greatest of all time” speech, was demanding most of the spotlight.

At the height of his career, Raines was the best leadoff hitter in the National League for the Expos, and Henderson was tops in the American League for the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees.

“I admired him as a player,” Raines said of Henderson, who was inducted into the Hall in 2009 after his first time on the ballot. “I just loved the way he played the game. But there’s no way I could do some of the things he did — hit a home run and start to tug at your shirt as you round the bases. I loved that, but I could never do that.

“I never thought about being the best of all time. It didn’t dawn on me until the end. Then I thought, wow, I left some stuff out there.”

It took a long time for many of us to notice.

Take Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson.

Raines has known Jackson for decades and the two were at an autograph signing a couple of years ago when Jackson pulled Raines aside.

“Reggie comes up and said: ‘I was just looking at your numbers and I think you really belong in the Hall,’ “ Raines recalled. “You know Reggie, he never says anything about somebody being a great player, other than himself, but he said that about me.

“I told him: ‘If I get in or I don’t get in, this means a lot to me hearing that from you, Reggie.’ ”

Dawson is certain Raines won’t have to settle for just Jackson’s praise.

“It will happen,” Dawson said, “because he belongs.”

Raines laughed when this nugget from Dawson was relayed this week.

“Andre has always been telling me, ‘You’re going to get in. Be patient,’” Raines said. “Hey, I’ve always listed to him throughout my career, but I just told him, ‘Dude, I’m starting to lose my patience.’”

 

HERE IS THE STAT PACK FROM  Ace of MLB Stats @theaceofspaeder

Players with at least 10 HR and 90 SB in a season

1983 Tim Raines

1982 Rickey Henderson

1890 Harry Stovey

50+ XBH and 70+ SB seasons in baseball history

Time Raines 4

Rickey Henderson and Ty Cobb combined 4

The remaining 213 Hall of Fame players combined 4

16 of the first 18 players with at least 2,600 hit and 1,300 walks are members of the Hall of Fame. The

odd men out? Pete Rose, who is banned for life, and Tim Raines.

Tim Raines is the only player in baseball history with at least 100 triples, 150 home runs, and 600 stolen

basses. He amassed 113 triples, 170 home runs, and 808 stolen bases.

In 1983, Tim Raines became the first player with at least 50 extra-base hits and 90 stolen bases in a

season since Tom Brown in 1891—92 years prior. No one has done it since. The only other player with

such a season is Pete Browning in 1887.

In 1983, Tim Raines became the first player with at least 180 hits, 90 walks, and 90 stolen bases since Ty

Cobb in 1915—68 years prior. No one has done it since. The only other player with such a season is Billy

Hamilton in 1894 and 1895.

Hall of Famers

Lou Brock .293 BA

Willie Mays .384 OBP

Rickey Henderson .422 SLG

Ernie Banks 122 OPS+

Tony Gwynn 68.8 WAR

Tim Raines – .294/.385/.425 (123 OPS+) with 69.1 WAR

Career totals

Lou Brock – 3,833 times on base, 149 home runs, 45.2 WAR

Tony Gwynn – 3,955 times on base, 135 home runs, 68.8 WAR

Tim Raines – 3,977 times on base, 170 home runs, 69.1 WAR

Brock – .343 OBP

Gwynn – .388 OBP

Raines – .385 OBP

Time Raines vs Lou Brock

BA – Rock

OBP – Rock

SLG – Rock

OPS – Rock

OPS+ – Rock

wOBA – Rock

Times on base – Rock

HR – Rock

SB% – Rock

wRC+ – Rock

WAR – Rock

Hall of Fame – Brock

Tim Raines had 978 combined home runs and stolen bases in his career. This is how he stacks up all-

time…

1. Rickey Henderson* 1,703

2. Barry Bonds 1,276

3. Lou Brock* 1,087

4. Ty Cobb* 1,014

5. Alex Rodriguez** 1,013

6. Willie Mays* 998

7. Hank Aaron* 995

8. Tim Raines 978

9. Joe Morgan* 957

10. Billy Hamilton* 954

11. Sammy Sosa 843

12. Babe Ruth* 837

13. Honus Wagner* 824

14. Ken Griffey Jr.*** 814

15. Max Carey* 808

*Hall of Famer

**Active Player

***First year on ballot

Rickey Henderson would have to return to baseball and steal 448 consecutive bases without being

caught to pass Tim Raines in SB efficiency. Lou Brock would have to return and steal 762 consecutive

bases without being caught to pass Rock.

Lou Brock did not have a single season in which he stole bases as efficiently as Tim Raines did

throughout the duration of his entire career.

Lou Brock had a career-high .385 OBP in 1971. Tim Raines had a career .385 OBP.

Tim Raines is the only player in baseball history with more than two seasons with at least 50 extra-base

hits and 70 stolen bases. He did it in FOUR STRAIGHT from 1983-86.

Tim Raines is the only player in baseball history with consecutive seasons with at least 30 doubles and

70 stolen bases. He had FIVE STRAIGHT from 1982-86. Prior to 1982, the last player with at least 30

doubles and 70 stolen bases in a single season was Ty Cobb in 1915.

Tim Raines averaged 4.55 WAR per 162 games player. Besting the likes of Robin Yount (4.368), Ernie

Banks (4.338), Derek Jeter (4.234), Reggie Jackson (4.251), Willie McCovey (4.031), and Pete Rose

(3.629).

Tim Raines is the only player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame with at least 600 extra-

base hits and 700 stolen bases. He ranks fourth and fifth, respectively, among the group of seven.

Tim Raines had a career 84.70 SB%. The best of all-time among players with at least 400 stolen base

attempts. Raines had more than twice that – 954 attempts.

Tim Raines played 1,000 total games from 1981 to 1987. He batted .310/.396/.448 with 504 stolen bases

to just 425 strikeouts.

Tim Raines had 265 consecutive games without being caught stealing from July 23, 1993 to September

1, 1995. He tallied 40 stolen bases during that span.

Tim Raines batted .330/.429/.526 with 50 stolen bases in 1987. Becoming the first player to bat at least

.325/.425/.525 in a season since George Sisler in 1922. The youngest since Benny Kauff in 1914. The only

player to do it since? Rickey Henderson in his 1990 MVP season.

Tim Raiens exactly doubled Omar Vizquel’s career stolen bases total of 404 with 21 fewer caught

stealing.

Tim Raines had five seasons with at least 70 walks and 70 stolen bases. Billy Hamilton (6) and Rickey

Henderson (7) are the only players with more. No other player has more than two. Ty Cobb had just one.

Tim Raines had 70 stolen bases with 9 caught stealing in 1985. Most steals in a season with single-digit

caught stealing (since caught stealing became an official statistic in 1951). Raines tied his own record in

1986 and it has not been broken since.

Tim Raines stole a record 27 consecutive bases without being caught to begin his career.

Tim Raines had just one season, 1982, in which he had more strikeouts than bases on balls.