The Case for Cooperstown: Tim Raines
With the release of the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot, Waiver Wire writer Greg Kaplan will explore the candidacy of numerous names on the ballot. Points for and against induction will be presented, and we’re forcing him to make a decision at the end of each post to decide if that player should be placed alongside the immortals that have played baseball throughout history.
Year(s) on ballot – 6th (received 48.7% of vote last year)
Credentials – spent 23 years in MLB (13 years with Montreal Expos, five years with Chicago White Sox), career .294/.385/.425, 1,571 runs scored, 5th all-time in stolen bases with 808, 7-time All-Star, Silver Slugger award winner.
The Case For:
Tim Raines doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves about his playing career because A) he played the majority of his prime in Montreal and B) his prime overlapped that of Rickey Henderson, who is the greatest lead-off hitter of all-time.
Raines in his own right was a magnificent lead-off hitter that, in any other era, would have received the recognition he deserved. Only once in his entire career (1982, his second full season) did Raines strike out more than he walked. Six times in his career he scored 100+ runs, twice leading the league (1983 with 133 and 1987 with 123). Eight times Raines stole 50+ bases, including six of 70+, four consecutive years of leading the league from 1981-84 and swiping 90 in 1983.
Raines wasn’t just a burner who piled up steals by trying each time he was on base. He was methodical about when to go, and was incredibly hard to catch. For his career, Raines was successful 84.6% of the time (808 out of 954). That percentage is good enough for 11th all-time, and better than Joe Morgan (80.9%), Rickey Henderson (80.8%) and Lou Brock (75.3%).
More than just a base stealer, Raines finished eight seasons with a batting average over .300 (six of which as a full-time starter) and was the National League batting champ in 1986 with a .334 average. Raines finished with 2,605 career hits, including 713 extra base hits. Raines had more pop than people realized, but then again, it was hard for people to realize anything when he’s playing the majority of his career in Montreal.
The Case Against
There are a few common sticking points that have kept Raines out of Cooperstown to this point. Two we’ve mentioned already. It was hard for any great players in Montreal to get the recognition they deserved. We’ve seen it twice in the balloting process with Gary Carter and Andre Dawson, both of which eventually made it into the Hall, but long after they should’ve been inducted. It took less time for Carter to get in than Dawson because of the success he found in New York after leaving Montreal.
Like Dawson, Raines moved on to Chicago after his time in Montreal, but was worn down from spending years on the turf in Olympic Stadium and was past his explosive prime. The Tim Raines people were seeing in Chicago was not the same caliber of player he was in Montreal, even though he was still an above-average lead-off man. People didn’t classify him properly because they judged him harshly on his play in Chicago.
Along the same lines, anything Tim Raines accomplished in his career, spent mostly in the National League, was immediately compared to what Rickey Henderson was doing in the American League. The one problem with that comparison?
Rickey Henderson has no Major League comparison.
Henderson is a once-in-a-generation talent. Everything he accomplished in baseball likely won’t be matched by anyone who plays the game after him. Nobody had the skills and talent Rickey had in his prime, so why are we comparing Tim Raines to those standards?
Instead, let’s take a peak at Raines against the original stolen base king, Lou Brock, who is in the Hall of Fame:
Brock: .293/.343/.410, 149HRs, 900 RBIs, 938 SB (75.3%), 1,610 runs, 486 doubles, 149 triples, six-time All-Star, 42.8 WAR
Raines: .294/.385/.425, 170HRs, 980 RBIs, 808 SB (85.6%), 1,571 runs, 430 doubles, 113 triples, seven-time All-Star, 66.2 WAR
Brock, unlike Raines, did reach 3,000 hits in his career, which is worthy of automatic election in its own right, and also made his living playing in front of the baseball-loving St. Louis Cardinals fans. Both were below-average defenders in the outfield, but looking at those lines Raines is at least on the same level as Brock, if not a little bit more better.
In my opinion, if Tim Raines played in a different generation and on a different team in his prime, he would be remembered very differently and as a Hall of Fame-caliber talent. It’s a shame that he’s been cast under the shadow of Rickey Henderson and compared to him throughout every step in his career. Raines deserves to be in the Hall. Hopefully the writers will one day understand that as well.