Why Tim Raines Belongs In The Baseball Hall Of Fame
Tim Raines was better than you remember
Tim Raines was one of the best players in baseball in the 1980's. He was a 7-time All Star and received MVP votes in 7 different seasons. He had great speed on the basepaths and was also a student of basestealing. He was probably never the fastest man in the game, yet he regularly had the highest stolen base percentage.
So far, Tim Raines has only received support from about a quarter of the baseball writers who vote on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. He needs support from 3/4 of the voters to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. I view this as an absolute travesty, and I'm going to outline exactly why.
Tim Raines was an all-time great basestealer
Tim Raines wasn't just good at stealing bases, he was great at it. He was one of the greatest EVER at it. In his career, he stole 808 bases, and he was only caught 146 times. That's an astounding success rate. Raines was successful 84.6% of the times he tried to steal. Rickey Henderson was successful just 80.7% of the times he stole. Nobody with as many stolen bases as Tim Raines has a higher career success percentage. Nobody really comes close. Lou Brock, who is in the Hall of Fame solely because he was a great base stealer, only had a 75.3% success rate.
Tim Raines also had a great stolen base peak for an extended period of time, which Hall of Fame voters usually like to see. He went six straight seasons with at least 70 stolen bases. His highest total during those years was 90 stolen bases in 1983. He was only caught 14 times that season.
Tim Raines - The Run Scoring Machine
The point of baseball is to score more runs that the other team, isn't it. Well Tim Raines knew how to score runs, even when he was surrounded by some pretty awful lineups. He got on base, he stole bases to advance closer to home, and then he scored on singles, sac flies, or even ground balls on the infield. Raines scored 1571 times in his career. That's more than any other player who is not in the Hall of Fame, excluding those who are not yet eligible and those who are being held back by steroid allegations (Rafael Palmeiro).
Raines scored more runs that many Hall of Famers, including Wade Boggs, Roberto Alomar, Rod Carew, Joe Dimaggio, Tony Gwynn, and Ryne Sandberg, just to name a few.
The underrated power of Tim Raines
Many people forget that Tim Raines spent about 1/3 of his career as a #3 hitter. That robbed him of a lot of stolen bases (he likely could have had 1,000 easily), but he actually fit well into the #3 spot. Tim Raines actually had a surprising amount of power in his bat. He had over 700 career extra base hits, including 170 home runs and 113 career triples. Only 3 players whose careers started after Raines' have more career triples.
Raines would finish just 20 RBI shy of 1,000. It's a shame he didn't reach that milestone, because it's already an incredibly high number for someone who was batting leadoff for 75% of his career. Also, let's not forget that he played in the National League during his prime (the entire 1980s). That means in some seasons he was driving in 60 runs a season despite the fact that he had a pitcher batting before him.
Bring on the sabermetrics
Sometimes there's a player that people think is underrated because he has one really great stat. Think of Roger Maris. His 61 home run season is great, but he's not a Hall of Famer because when you look at the rest of his stats you see that he was a barely average player for most of his career. The baseball geeks who practice a form of statistical analysis called sabermetrics have thoroughly shut down Maris' case for the Hall of Fame. Can they do the same for Raines?
The short answer is no. Raines passes the sabermetrics test. His career wins above replacement (WAR) is 64.6, well into Hall of Fame range and above many current Hall of Famers. The various metrics that measure baseball players all seem to indicate that Tim Raines was in an elite class.
One thing that people sometimes bring up is Raines OBS+. This is his on-base plus slugging percentage adjusted for the ballparks he played in. This stat shows how good a player was in his era. 100 is average. Above 100 is above average. Raines finished with a 123. That's very good, but there are some Hall of Fame candidates who have a higher OPS+, such as Don Mattingly at 127. I would argue that Raines' is more valuable because of the stolen bases, which isn't factored at all into OPS+. Mattingly was a 1 stolen base per season guy, while Raines was stealing 50-70 bases a season. That more than makes up for the 4 point difference in OPS+. Adjusted for stolen bases, Raines would be in the mid-to-high 130s. Mattingly would stay at 127.
A poor man's Rickey Henderson
The truth of the matter is this: Tim Raines had a career that directly coincided with the career of Rickey Henderson. Henderson was the greatest leadoff hitter of all time, combining a great ability to get on base, steal bases, hit for power, and even field at an above average level. Henderson was a first ballot Hall of Famer, and he was well-deserving of that.
I would argue that even being a poor man's Rickey Henderson can still make a man worthy of the Hall of Fame. Rickey Henderson is not just any old Hall of Famer, he's one of the all time greats. Most baseball historians rank him in the top 25 all time. That makes him one of the top 10% of the Hall of Famers. Tim Raines is not as good as Rickey Henderson, but he shouldn't have to be. Maybe Mickey Mantle shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame because he wasn't as good as Willie Mays. Does anyone else see how foolish this argument is?
Drugs in the 1980's
During the prime of his playing career, Tim Raines recognized that he had a problem with cocaine and he went into rehab for it. He's not the only player to have this problem, but he might be the only one from that time who sought help for it without being forced to by a court order. Keith Hernandez was tied to a drug ring. Paul Molitor was a known user as well. Fergie Jenkins was busted for coke possession, and he got into the Hall of Fame rather easily despite a borderline Hall of Fame career. Yet some voters still bring up the drug use when they make excuses for why the didn't vote for Raines. Why is he being singled out?
I think there are a couple things in play here. For one, I think there is some racism involved. Players during the 1950's were known to pop amphetamines, and many of those stars (including Mantle) got into the Hall of Fame without any mention of illicit narcotics use. The second factor is that Raines was best-known for his stolen bases. People think of drugs that are uppers and they think it would make a fast guy run faster. I'm sure science will show them that it's not the case, but I still think the perception of cocaine being a performance enhancing drug hurts Raines more than it does Fergie Jenkins.
Tim Raines key stats
Here are some stats that I think are relevant for Tim Raines Hall of Fame case:
- 808 career stolen bases. Caught just 146 times.
- 1571 runs scored
- 170 career home runs
- 113 career triples
- 430 career doubles
- .294 batting average
- .385 on-base percentage
- 7 time All Star
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