We’re all hoping that Mike Piazza will get the call when the Hall of Fame voting results are announced on January 8th. This year is a very crowded field with newcomers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, and Jeff Kent among the top first timers along with strong holdovers Craig Biggio, Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Lee Smith, Curt Schilling, Edgar Martinez, and Fred McGriff. There are also the steroid guys that have the numbers to get in, but never may – Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro. That’s already 18 guys (and only 10 votes can be cast by a single writer) before this one player that should be in the Hall.
While he was not a Met, he was a fierce competitor of the Mets that I’ve been in favor of his enshrinement ever since he was first eligible in 2008.
His name is Tim Raines.
He’s on the ballot this year for the 7th time. Last year he managed to achieve 52% of the vote and he may eventually get there. However, will the crowded field hurt his chances and the momentum he’s gained the last few years?
Raines played 23 seasons in the majors. While he spent the last several years of his career as a role player and after 1993, he was not the same player that in my opinion made him a Hall of Famer, he did have a dominant 10 year stretch where he was one of the most feared players in the game.
He wasn’t a slugger, but he was the player you didn’t want to beat you. He played his best seasons in Montreal, so most of his greatness wasn’t in the spotlight. He also was overshadowed by Rickey Henderson. Raines game was speed. He got on base and he ran. He did it better than almost anybody else. He was Rickey Henderson in the National League.
During his 10 year stretch as a full time player in Montreal from 1981-1990 (1981 being a strike shortened year), he stole 627 bases, had 1,597 hits, scored 926 runs, had 81 triples, and had 769 walks. During this 10 year stretch in Montreal, he hit .302 and had an OBP of .391.
He was a dangerous player. By the time he left Montreal, he was a Hall of Fame player, and had already put in the 10 years needed for the Hall. Maybe he wasn’t in the Big Room, but he was in the hall. For that 10 year stretch, he wasn’t a compiler – he was someone you were scared of. Mets fans know that well.
Before that 10 year stretch, he had cups of coffee in two other seasons with the Expos and played for an additional 9 years with the White Sox, Yankees, A’s, Orioles, Expos, and Marlins. He had a few productive years as a full time player with the White Sox – in his 5 full seasons with the Sox, he scored 100 runs twice, hit .300 once, and had two seasons with over 80 walks. He stole 51 bases in 1991 and 1992 (which were the two seasons he walked over 80 times). His .306 season occured in 1993 at the age of 33, but saw his stolen base production drop to 21 and he was never the same player after that. He aged after that the way players naturally do. His last season as a full time player came in 1995 with the White Sox where he hit .285 and stole just 13 bases.
By the time he started to play in big media markets, Tim Raines was already a player on the decline. He began to diminish in Chicago and he was only a role player by the time he came to the Yankees. He played well in his 3 seasons in New York, batting .299 with a .398 OBP in part time duty, but by then, he was far removed from his Hall of Fame level.
Had Raines retired earlier, he would probably be in the Hall by now. He stuck around long after his prime as a good, but not great, role player which may have watered down memories of how great he was in his prime. The cocaine usage also may not have helped him either.
Tim Raines deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.