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There has been much discussion concerning whether players known/suspected of using P.E.D’s should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. What has been lost in the debate is that there are a number of former players on the ballot that should be inducted at Cooperstown. Perhaps the player who has the most credentials, but is continually overlooked, is Tim Raines.

In 2009, Rickey Henderson, the “Man of Steal”, was inducted into the Hall of Fame, on 511 of the 529 ballots cast. One wonders what the 18 voters who didn’t include his name on the list were thinking at the time. The overwhelming consensus is that Rickey was the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time. He is the career leader in stolen bases, runs scored, 2nd in bases on balls, 4th in times on base, and 10th in runs created. But the question then comes up, who is the second greatest lead-off hitter of all time, presently eligible for the Hall of Fame?

There is little question that leadoff hitters are the least represented line-up position at Cooperstown. The reason for this is not hard to fathom – the fan, as well as the sports journalist, has for years been enamored with the slugger, and RBI’s and the long ball are prized over runs scored and OBP. For a leadoff hitter, or a hitter who didn’t belt 500 home runs, to be considered for the Hall, only two statistics previously had any real relevance; did he bat .300 and get 3,000 hits for his career? Although both of these stats are impressive (although less so, in certain eras of baseball history), they say little about the true value of a leadoff hitter.  And people tend to forget that Raines played during an era when hitting statistics were at a nadir, and that he missed well over a year of ball due to player strikes, work stoppages, and owners’ collusion. (The relative importance of the leadoff hitter has been recognized in the last decade, especially with the emergence of sabermetrics, and there are now a number of excellent players at that position, some of which may/will eventually be voted into the Hall of Fame, including Derek Jeter, Ichiro, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Hanley Ramirez. There is no doubt that this present era in baseball represents the Renaissance of the leadoff hitter.)

Tim Raines fails the H.O.F. litmus test, based on the traditional statistical analysis. He was not a power hitter, hitting only 170 home runs in his career, which stands out even more, as he was a left-fielder, a position where power is expected. His life-time BA was .294; close to the magic mark of .300, but not quite there. He also falls short on total hits, with 2605. Raines also had his peak years in Montreal, the black hole of baseball; fans rarely had a chance to observe his skills, except during the All-Star game, which he played in 7 consecutive years. His post-season play was came later in his career, with the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees, when his skills were diminished by injuries and age.

Of course, there was the matter of cocaine. An anecdote, recounted by Razzball’s Rudy Gamble, states that during that Pittsburgh drug trials in 1985, Raines testified that he only slid head first so as not to break the vial that he kept in his back pocket which he didn’t want to risk stashing in his locker. (This bring to mind the hilarious story involving second baseman Frenchy Bordagary and manager Casey Stengel in 1935. During one game, Frenchy failed to slide into home and was thrown out. Casey asked him why he failed to slide, and Bordagary stated that he had several expensive cigars in his back pocket, and didn’t want to risk breaking them. Casey proceeded to fine him $100. The next day, Bordagary hit a home run and answered Casey’s fine by sliding into each base. Casey’s retort was to fine Frenchy $100, making the statement that “There’ll only be one clown on this club, and that’ll be me.”)

His ironic nickname of “Rock” was not related to his drug use, which was estimated at $40,000 in 1982. However, Raines came clean, admitted his use, and there is no evidence that he ever had a relapse afterwards in his career. And there are other Hall of Famers, including Paul Molitor, who had drug issues during the course of their career, and of course scores of immortals who were, and remained, full-blown alcoholics. This being said, Gamble states that Raines is arguably the third best lead-off hitter in the last seventy years behind Henderson and Joe Morgan, although I remember Morgan typically hitting 2nd or 3rd in the batting order of the Big Red Machine, with Pete Rose leading off.

Tim Raines ranks as the 4th leading base stealer in modern baseball history, behind Henderson, Brock and Cobb, quite an elite trio. A closer look reveals that of the quartet, Raines had the highest successful stolen base percentage, 84.7%, a staggering success rate when compared to these three immortals.

The essence of what a lead-off hitter does is two things:

a) Get on base

b) Score Runs

Raines led the league twice and was 2nd twice in Runs Scored. He led the league once in Runs Created, was 2nd 3 times, and 3rd once. He led the league in OBP once, was 3rd twice, 4th twice, 5th once and 6th once, with a lifetime OBP of .385, a most impressive figure. Led the league in SB 4 times. Led the league in doubles once. Raines was in the top ten in walks six times, nine times in triples, four times in OPS+, 4 times in total bases, four times in BA, and seven times in Adjusted win Percentage. In other words, he was among the league leaders in all or most of the categories tallied by sabermetrics, and did everything that one would hope for from a lead off batter. If Raines doesn’t have a clear cut case for the Hall of Fame, then the modern statistics don’t have any validity. Raines was also an excellent fielder, although he didn’t have a strong throwing arm. His speed was his greatest asset, allowing him to get to balls that would go for hits against most outfielders. He made only 54 errors during his entire career. His lifetime fielding percentage of .987 compares more than favorably with Hall of Fame outfielders.

Raines was likely the best player in baseball from 1985-87. In answer to the initial question, Bill James called Raines clearly the greatest lead-off man in National League history. In his book “Rain Delay” (1988, Baseball Abstract), James ranks Wade Boggs at that time as the greatest player in baseball, followed by Raines. After Raines were such luminaries as Ozzie Smith, Don Mattingly, Rickey Henderson, Kirby Puckett, Roger Clemens, Dale Murphy, and Darryl Strawberry, a number of whom are in the Hall of Fame. James believed that Raines deserved the MVP in the NL over Mike Schmidt in 1986. In the Historical Baseball Abstract, James ranks Raines as the 8th greatest left fielder of all time.

Tim Raines is the prod for the BBWAA to begin looking at the candidacies for Cooperstown in regards to the modern statistical compilations, and for the sake of the sport once again honoring the true greats of the game, and not choosing those who reach arbitrary milestones.

  1. Fall 2012 says:
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    Does anyone still care about the HOF? I would be happy if the current one would close and someone like Bill James were hired to start up a new one. Seriously. Jim Rice got in????

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Fall 2012: Actually, having a committee of about five, including Bill James, John Thorn, Pete Palmer, Joe Posnanski, David Neft, and men of that calibre, would be far better then the current method of allowing writers to choose the future immortals. However, the Veterans’ Committee is primarily responsible for terrible selections, typically succumbing to cronyism; they have likely selected at least 30 individuals who don’t belong in the Hall.

  2. CookieRojas16 says:
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    Good piece. Rock Raines belongs in the Hall, not doubt.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @CookieRojas16: Along with a number of other overlooked players. What will be interesting is when the writers find out that someone they elected was using steroids during his career – reportedly, there are several presently in the Hall. That will throw the entire process into chaos, as there is no process for removal from immortality at present.

      • joe says:
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        @Paulie Allnuts:

        Nothing but speculation here but wouldn’t be surprised if rickry henderson is one of them based off of his career with oakland/toronto and who was with him there and the timing of when canseco reported that

        • Paulie Allnuts

          Paulie Allnuts says:
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          Anyone who played since the early ’80’s unfortuantely has to be looked at with a sceptical eye. @joe:

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @CookieRojas16: Thanks, Rat Bastard, and thanks for your support. And yes, Raines certainly belongs.

  3. Wallpaper Paterson says:
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    Your argument was good. I would vote yes.
    I saw much of his career and he was very good, but I never looked at him as a no-brainer choice.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Wallpaper Paterson: No brainer choices include Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams…but if that were the criteria, there would be few busts at Cooperstown. The beauty of Sabermetrics is that it always one to better discern the true worth of a player’s contributions during his career, allowing for the era the player performed, his primary ballpark, and other factors. Tim Raines is a wonky choice; there are quite a few others. My favorite is Bobby Grich; he barely received five votes the first time he was considered, and was dropped from the ballot immediately. However, if you look at his career carefully, you can make a really good case that he belongs in the Hall.

      • Wallpaper Paterson says:
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        @Paulie Allnuts: No-brainer vs debatable. I was going for two types of players to keep it simple. Raines is not a no-brainer. Therefore, he is a debatable candidate.

        Grich was good and he was one of those players who looked better after he retired when better statistics were examined.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      You are correct, he isnt a no-brainer. Which is why I wrote this article. And thanks for the comment. @Wallpaper Paterson:

  4. Tha rat bastard says:
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    Good job bro…and yes he should be in the Hall.

  5. JFat says:
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    Poor forgotten Expo. In all likelihood the voters are only looking at Raines’ stats with the Yankees. Toss the rest of it out because the Expos no longer exist right?

    Been waiting to see Raines and Lee Smith get in the Hall, two of my favorites growing up…both deserve it and I think are being over-looked due to team performance related issues.

  6. Kangaroo Hops says:
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    Off topic question: does anyone know of a good site to join a public league for MINOR league baseball? Thanks in advance for any recommendations.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Kangaroo Hops: Sorry, but haven’t a clue. Interesting question, though. I would ask the question in the Forum’s. Rudy or Grey would likely know if they exist, and if so, where to find them.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      Lee Smith certainly deserves a good look-see as to whether he belongs in the Hall. In truth, I haven’t looked deeply into his carreer, but just may do so. Thanks for the comment. @Kangaroo Hops: @JFat:

    • @Kangaroo Hops: Not aware of any MILB fantasy league sites. If you find one, let us know. Our prospect guy Scott should definitely join one!

  7. Simply Fred

    simply fred says:
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    Wow! Raines had completely slipped under my radar. The numbers clearly mandate election. AND, for a numbers guy like me, that should be enough. AND, I am begging to hear the full story…How did he fall into the pit?…Where did he find the strength to climb out? And stay there?…What is he doing now?

    You’ve sucked me in, Paulie…

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      Fred, can’t compete with you with numbers, so an agreement on your part adds credence and validity to the article. As for how he fell into his addiction – cocaine was pretty rampant at the time he played. Well over half of the ’86 Mets Championship team took cocaine on a regular basis. Some managed to climb out that pit, such as Raines and Keith Hernandez. Others, like Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, weren’t able to do so, and their apparent Hall of Fame careeres were tragically shortened. But that kind of thing has gone on in baseball since its outset. There are scores of great players whose careers fell short of the mark because of not being able to kick John Barelycorn. @simply fred:

  8. Nice article. I’m definitely pro-Raines as my position hasn’t changed when i wrote the post you referred to in 2008 (http://razzball.com/rickey-henderson-tim-raines-2009-hall-of-fame-nominations/).

    I said Henderson and Morgan are the only 2 hitters in the past 70 years that are clearly superior to Raines when it comes to leadoff skills which I defined as 1) get on base and 2) speed (although #1 more important than #2). Boggs was better too but I argued his lack of speed made him more suited for #2 hitting.

    The HOF’s blind spots are pretty consistent. If you don’t have the milestone counting stats (and even if you do but PED-assumed), you’re in trouble. If a lot of your value comes from getting on base (Raines, Grich) or defense (Grich), you’re in trouble.

    It would’ve been real interesting if the Yanks made the blockbuster trade for Raines vs. Henderson. I loved watching Henderson play growing up a Yankee fan but his ignominious departure (turning his trade value to crap) left a bad taste in my mouth. Those Yanks also shot themselves in the foot by trading prospects (during the 80’s) like Drabek, McGriff, Tewksbury, and Willie McGee for just about nothing.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      Thanks, Rudy. Your take on the top three lead-off hitters in modern baseball is basically the same as Bill James, so you are in good company there. Now, if Raines or Grich had hit a walk off homer in the World Series, they would have been inducted along with Bill Mazerowski. They were both far superior hitters, although Maz was likely the best fielding second baseman of my lifetime. As for the PED controversy – Mike Piazza, who is far and away the greatest hitter of all time at catcher, was not voted in because he was suspected that he used steroids, although there is absolutely no proof of him doing so. Basically, he didn’t approach the 75% vote because he had a bad case of acne on his back. What will the voters do when they discover that a player in the Hall used steroids? As there is no mechanism to kick anyone out of the Hall, are they going to grit their teeth and elect at least Bonds and Clemens, who had legitimate Hall of Fame careers far before they used P.E.D.’s? And really, this is nothing new. Besides greenies, which are defiinately PED’s, and were used almost universally, Micke Mantle had access to JFK’s doctor, and used to be shot up with “Joy Juice” on a regular basis to deal with his unbearable knee pain. The story is that his “injury” during the ’61 home-run battle with Roger Maris was due to him getting a case of hepatitis from a dirty needle. @Rudy Gamble:

      • Wallpaper Paterson says:
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        @Paulie Allnuts: I don’t mind them using greenies because those did not change the players’ bodies like roids do.

        If you made a top 10 Hall snubs list, would Raines make that top 10?

        What do you think of Dick Allen and Vada Pinson?

        • Paulie Allnuts

          Paulie Allnuts says:
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          @Wallpaper Paterson: I agree with you on greenies. Literally used by almost all ballplayers, and necessitated by the scheduling in baseball – playing a night game on the west coast and a day game on the east coast the next day?

          I also don’t have a problem with HGH; it gets conflated with steroids. It is not a true P.E.D., but helps one recover from injuries faster. Truthfully, what is wrong with that?

          Raines is definitely in my top ten; Santo and Blyleven were until recently inducted. Dick Allen should be in; his reputation as a trouble maker has kept him out of the Hall, but it is not based on truth. Actually, he was very helpful to his teammates, is given kudoos for his team play by ex-managers. The media didn’t like him, just like they didn’t like Teddy Baseball, who also was a stand-up guy. They went gaga over DiMaggio, a great ballplayer but a creep.

          Vada Pinson is a difficult player to evaluate; he is on the bubble.

          Other players/managers I would put in off hand; Buck O’Neill, Gil Hodges, Don Mattingly, Bobby Grich, Pete Browning, Billy Martin (possibly the greatest manager ever when sober), Bobby Mathews, Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Biggio, Bill Dahlen, Minnie Minoso; not in any particular order, and there are others I can’t think of off the top of my head. Some of these are 19th century players, who have been dead for a very long time and are overlooked. Marvin Miller should be in. Joe Torre when he retires from managing. I tend to favor individuals who have contributed in multiple aspects of the game.Dave Parker could also be considered. Possibly Albert Belle. Some of these I haven’t done the research on. Rudy could possibly add to the list.

          • Off the top of my head (and checking B-R.com for sanity checks, players I’d put in the Hall who are not (including some current and recently retired players)…

            Recently Retired
            – Bonds
            – Clemens
            – Bagwell
            – Piazza
            – Schilling
            – Biggio
            – Edgar Martinez
            – Larry Walker
            – Thomas (not eligible yet – he’s a lock)
            – Edmonds (not eligible yet – no chance)
            – Chipper (not eligible yet – lock)
            – Griffey (not eligible yet – lock)
            – Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz (not eligible yet – locks)
            – Pedro, Randy Johnson (not eligible yet – locks)
            – Mussina (not eligible yet – uphill climb)
            – Vlad (not eligible yet – might take a couple years)
            – Kevin Brown (already DQ’d and a douche)
            – Kenny Lofton (already DQ’d – GREAT leadoff hitter and CFer)
            – Thome (not even retired – probably will take a few years)
            – Jeter (not even retired – lock)
            – Rolen (close to retired – no chance)
            – TBD with Halladay, Sabathia, Pujols, Beltran, Beltre (all on the right path)
            – no on McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro (borderline players once adjusted to era – PEDs knock them off)
            – no on Giambi, Helton, Damon, Tejada
            – undecided with Manny Ramirez + A-Rod (got caught post-PED testing), Ortiz, Sheffield, Abreu

            70’s/80’s
            – Raines
            – Grich
            – Trammell
            – Dwight Evans
            – Darrell Evans
            – Rick Reuschel
            – Whitaker
            – On fence w/ Randolph (.373 OBP!, very good fielder, good runner), Nettles (low OBP but great glove + power at premium position), and Bando (great hitting/fielding 3B but short peak)

            pre-70’s
            – Ken Boyer (3B bias that got Santo)
            – Dick Allen
            – Bill Dahlen (turn of century player)

            Might be missing some people…

            • Wallpaper Paterson says:
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              @Rudy Gamble: Thanks, guys. A lot of those guys would be on my list too. Keith Hernandez and Tony Olivia would be worth consideration too.

              • Wallpaper Paterson says:
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                @Wallpaper Paterson: Oliva. Phone changed it to Olivia.

  9. AL KOHOLIC says:
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    awesome post,Raines was awesome on some terroble teams,he gets my vote for the hall,and so does Pete Rose

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @AL KOHOLIC: Yes, Pete Rose should be in the Hall, and would be, if he hadn’t lied about his gambling for many years, and irritated a bunch of Commisioners. But look at this – The Hall does not have the all time hit leader, the all time homer leader (Bonds), and one of the greatest pitchers of all time (Clemens.) All of them jerks, but then again, none of their foibles approached Ty Cobb, who was hated by his teammates, attacked a crippled individual and beat the bejesus out of him in the stands, and stated to his biographer that he committed murder, as well as, along with Tris Speaker, bet on games that they had insider info that were fixed.

  10. Chris says:
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    Nice article, Paulie.

    Tim Raines was 1 of my favorite players growing up watching the White Sox, and I’m a little sad that I was too young at the time to now remember any of his time on the Expos. He does have a great overall resume though, and I do hope he makes it into the Hall eventually.

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Chris: As Rudy states above, speed guys who played great defense are discriminated against. The Hall likes one dimensional home-run hitters like Ralph Kiner. A lot of writers don’t have a clue, and remain skeptical about sabermetrics. Raines was awesome when with the Expos, but Montreal was the black hole of baseball.

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