There are 207 players in the Baseball Hall of Fame, if we include Barry Larkin and Ron Santo who will both be enshrined this coming July. Only two of those players, however, spent the bulk of their careers with the Nationals’ former identity – the Montreal Expos. While both Gary Carter and Andre Dawson are deserving Hall of Famers, one of their former teammates continues to come up short in voting conducted by the BBWAA. This year, his 5th on the ballot, he was named on only 48.7% of the ballots (a player needs a minimum of 75% to gain induction).
Tim Raines should be in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Raines appeared in 2,502 games over the course of a 23 year career. In 10,359 plate appearances he posted a .294/.385/.425 line, adding 170 HR and 980 RBI. He walked (1,330) more times than he struck out (966) in his career. He was named to seven All Star Games and won the Silver Slugger Award and the NL batting title in 1986. Upon the conclusion to his playing career, the Expos retired his #30 jersey.
He’s likely best known, however, for his 808 career stolen bases – a total bested by only four other players in MLB history.
One of those players, Rickey Henderson, has long been the player Raines has been commonly compared to. The comparison, however, isn’t necessarily a fair one. You can take just about any major offensive statistic and Henderson trumps Raines with relative ease. Henderson is also the all-time record holder in runs scored, stolen bases, caught stealing, and lead-off home runs. He won an MVP Award in 1990, three Silver Sluggers, and a Gold Glove. Henderson was the premier lead-off hitter of his era (and a personal favorite), but Raines was the next best in all of baseball.
Raines got on base at a .390 or higher rate 11 times in his career. He batted .300 or better8 times. While he was never a true power threat – and never expected to be by the teams he played for – he was able to utilize his speed when he was able to drive a ball into the gaps. Raines hit 430 doubles and 113 triples in his career, both respectable totals. When adding hits and walks, Raines actually was able to get on base more times in his career than Tony Gwynn (3,935 to 3,931), a 1st ballot Hall of Famer and one of the greatest hitters of his generation. He was also a solid defensive player in the outfield. Raines committed only 54 errors in his career, a .988 fielding percentage.
Lew Freedman at Call to the Pen recently took a look at Raines’ Hall of Fame case before this year’s results were announced. For all intents and purposes, his argument is largely similar to mine. Though he does make one point which stands out:
I keep coming back to the stolen base total. Raines is fifth on the all-time Major League list behind Henderson, the far-and-away record holder, Lou Brock, Billy Hamilton, and Ty Cobb. All four are in the Hall of Fame and no one is coming along any time soon to displace Raines from his perch on that list. Hamilton retired so long ago that the American League was just coming into existence during his swan song year. Cobb has been dead for 50 years and retired for more than 80. But he played long enough to stretch into the 1920s when the home run was just starting to gain prominence, and he hated that. Cobb called the old style, the way he played, the way Henderson played, and the way Raines played, “the scientific game”.
Raines will eventually get his due, joining Dawson and Carter as the only members of the Hall of Fame adorning Expos hats. It’s just a shame he’s going to have to wait, particularly considering the names that are set to appear on the ballot starting next year.