They are supposed to announce the latest inductions into the Hall of Fame tomorrow. Perhaps by the time you read this, we will already know who is in. If there is anyone voted in, chances are it will be Barry Larkin who gets the call. Jeff Bagwell and Jack Morris both stand a good chance as well although they may have to wait another year or two. However, one player who probably won’t get in and may have a very long wait ahead of him will be Tim Raines.
For a period of time it seemed as though the National League version of Rickey Henderson was Tim Raines. In his prime years, Raines had a higher batting average than Henderson during the same period. “Rock” burst onto the scene with the Montreal Expos in 1981, finishing second for the National League Rookie of the Year. He is the only player to steal 70 or more bases in six consecutive seasons, finishing his career with 808 thefts, good for fifth all time. Raines was a seven time All-Star (MVP of the Game in 1987) who finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting three times. In 1986, he led the NL in both batting average (.334) and on-base percentage (.413).
Sometimes, one has to look beyond the numbers to appreciate the greatness of a player. Raines’s nearly 1,000 RBI’s and gaudy stolen base numbers (along with a lifetime .294 batting average) may not be appealing to many voters. However, for almost decade, Tim Raines was as dominant a player as you could find in the National League. His combination of speed and power, although not as strong as Henderson’s, nevertheless gave opposing pitchers and managers many sleepless nights. Also, don’t discount the fact he was a winning player. The Expos made their only playoff appearance in 1981, Raines’s rookie season. In 1993, the White Sox won their first division title in a decade with Raines leading off and hitting .306 with a .401 on base percentage. And of course, he collected two World Series rings as a member of the Yankees. Who could forget his stumbling catch to end Game 4 of the 1996 World Series?
Tim Raines would have been much more appreciated if those Montreal numbers came while playing for the Yankees. Market size should not determine greatness. Ask any of Tim Raines’s peers if he belongs in the Hall of Fame. I am sure 95% of them would give a resounding “yes” to that question.