Baseball Hall of Fame debates 2013: Tim Raines
Part 7 of a 10-part series that looks at prominent potential Hall of Famers for the Class of 2013 and the reasons to vote them in -- or keep them out.
Tim Raines is in his sixth year on baseball's Hall of Fame ballot. The longtime Expo, who also spent time with the White Sox, Yankees, Athletics, Orioles and Marlins, received 48.7 percent of the vote in 2012, his highest total so far. Along with Rickey Henderson, he's one of the greatest base stealers of the last 30 years. But is that enough to get him elected to the Hall of Fame?
THE CASE FOR THE HALL
Of the two best leadoff men in the last three decades -- if not the history of baseball -- one is in the Hall of Fame. The other is 0-for-5 so far.
Rickey Henderson has the shiny record for stolen bases (1,406) and runs scored (2,295). He owns a .401 on-base percentage and a so-so .279 batting average. He also has a plaque in the Hall.
Then there's Raines, who is fifth on the all-time stolen base list and has the second-most since 1979 (808). His .385 on-base percentage is below Henderson's, but his .294 career average is better. And yet he hasn't been able to even reach the 50 percent mark during his first five years on the ballot.
Part of this could be due to perception. Henderson was a premier showman who overshadowed Raines.
But Hall of Fame voting gives a chance to cut through sometimes deceiving perception and get to the heart of the numbers.
Such as this: Raines led the National League in stolen bases from 1981-1984, stealing a career-high 90 in 1983. He had 71, 78 and 75 in the other three.
More outrageous? He was only caught 14 times the year he stole 90. He led baseball in average in 1986 (.334) and the National League in OBP the same season (.413). He combined pop (not necessarily power) with speed, driving 38 doubles in 1984, the same season he stole 75 bases.
He was a seven-time All-Star, finished in the top-20 of MVP voting seven times and helped win two World Series with the Yankees (1996, 1998).
Raines also bested his base-stealing counterpart in a couple areas. Raines had a career 9.3 percent strikeout rate to Henderson's 12.7. Raines was also caught stealing just 15.3 percent of the time. Henderson was nabbed at a 19.2 percent clip for his career. Raines' mark is the best known rate for any of the top five base stealers (Lou Brock was caught 24.6 percent of the time and caught-stealing information is either missing or incomplete for Ty Cobb and Billy Hamilton).
THE CASE AGAINST THE HALL
Raines stole a lot of bases. He was great at that.
Everything else? Well, he was just very good at those things.
His career had an eight-year peak, from 1981-1989, which is when he received all of his MVP votes (only once placing in the top five) and All-Star selections.
Outside of those eight years? No honors. Never led the league in anything. He only played full-time for another six seasons before becoming a part-time player for the Yankees, Athletics, Expos, Orioles and Marlins. And he wasn't the same player during his "second career."
In six seasons, Raines got 1,327 plate appearances -- about two seasons worth for Raines in his prime. He stole just 31 bases and was caught 10 times. Henderson, his contemporary, remained effective as an older player (175 steals in his final six seasons). Those same skills that many point to as the reason Raines should be in the Hall of Fame were not maintained his entire career.