On Tuesday, January 8th, BBWAA’s ballot results were announced. Congratulations are due to Rich “Goose” Gossage for making the Hall of Fame. He is the scariest man ever to wear a fu manchu, and a pretty good pitcher, too.
Jim Rice just missed the necessary amount of votes (75%) with 72.2%. Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven weren’t too far behind with 65.9% and 61.9% of the votes (Gossage received 85.8%). All those results were improvements from last year’s ballot. What I’m most surprised by is the lack of votes for outfielder Tim Raines, receiving only 24.3%.
Each writer who has a vote has a slightly different opinion of what a player needs to achieve to get Hall of Fame consideration, but, for the most part, a career that lasts long enough with consistent results and includes a dominant peak will receive more support. Tim “Rock” Raines may have been slightly different than most cases, being that by the time he got to his “peak years”, when most players play the best ball of their careers, Raines’ best play was behind him. However, there isn’t any reason why his time from age 21-27 can’t be considered his peak. When looking at a speedster like Raines, it increases the odds that his best play will be when he is younger anyway.
Raines broke into the league in 1981 with the Montreal Expos and put up a .304 batting average, with a .391 on base percentage and 71 stolen bases. He did that in only 88 games. He proceeded to steal a minimum of 70 bases per year through the 1986 season (6 years in a row) with a high of 90 in 1983. Edit: He is the only person to ever steal 70 or more bases 6 years in a row. Even though the streak ended, 1987 was arguably his best year as he hit .330 with a .429 on base percentage, .526 slugging percentage, led the league in runs scored with 123, had 18 home runs, 68 RBI and 50 stolen bases. His “peak years” are certainly worthy of the Hall. He was an explosive, game changing player and his only superior as a lead off hitter was the man who will go down as the greatest of all time, Rickey Henderson.
Like I said, his career did start to go down hill from there. He admitted to having picked up a cocaine addiction and it no doubt affected his play. If he had stayed clean, we may be having an entirely different conversation about Tim Raines. And to those who say that the cocaine addiction may have something to do with his low vote total, I say you’re taking the character aspect of player evaluation a little too far. He didn’t cheat and there are plenty of players with questionable character in the Hall of Fame already. Besides, we are a nation of second chances, eager to forgive those who repent of their sins (sometimes even if they don’t). Tim Raines did kick his addiction and became a great clubhouse presence and role model for younger players. Anyway, even though he battled a drug addiction through some of his prime years, he was still an above average player the rest of his career and was able to retire with good totals.
He is fifth all time with 808 stolen bases and has the highest stolen base percentage of any player with more than 300 attempts. A good way to argue whether a player is “Hall worthy” is to compare him to players that are already in. The most comparable player who is already in the Hall of Fame is Lou Brock. The biggest advantage Brock has over Raines is that he reached 3,000 hits. He ended with 3,023 compared to Raines’ 2,605. Brock also has over 100 more stolen bases with 938, but Raines’ success rate is almost 10% higher. Many of their other numbers are very similar: runs scored are within 40 of each other, doubles within 56, triples within 28, home runs within 29, RBI within 80, batting average within .001 points, and slugging percentage within .015 points. On base percentage is Raines’ biggest advantage over Lou Brock. Brock’s career on base percentage is .343 and Raines’ is .385. As lead off hitters, that cannot be overlooked.
Considering that Tim Raines’ best years are dominant enough to garner Hall of Fame votes and he was consistent enough over the length of his career to post career totals very similar (and in one important statistic much better) to a current Hall of Famer, I refuse to believe that Tim Raines does not belong in the Hall.
What makes this such a big deal? Raines still has 14 years left on the ballot, right? He’s got plenty of time left to get in. The reason I’ve got my panties in a twist over this is because that Hall of Famer I’ve compared him with, Lou Brock, was inducted on his first year on the ballot, 1985, with 80% of the vote. Tim Raines only received 24.3%. There shouldn’t be that big of a gap between them.