I just received an e-mail from a gentleman best known as “Tango Tiger.” He wanted to let me know that he is starting a Tim Raines for the Hall of Fame site. He gave me a preview of it and it is going to be terrific. Check it out for yourself but don't bother clicking any of the links on the left--they're not live yet.
Perfect timing too.
I am currently working on an MSN Canada column dealing with Raines’ candidacy. The biggest problem with him is perception. Bill James once wrote that as time went on players would become known more by their stats than anything. There is nothing wrong with his numbers but the current offensive environment makes his totals look less than impressive.
Raines also suffers from a lack of milestones; he didn’t get 3000 hits, or 900 stolen bases, or 1500 walks etc. He was the prototypical underrated player; he did a lot of things very well but not one thing extremely well. He is overshadowed by players in most traditional categories--even stolen bases. Although he is fourth all-time in modern major league history in that department, he never topped 100 thefts in a season constantly being overshadowed by Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman’s 100+ SB years.
Often it is said that if you have to make a Hall of Fame case for a player, he probably doesn’t belong since HOF talent is relatively easy to spot. Alex Rodriguez is a Hall of Famer while Troy Glaus probably is not. Like most guidelines, there are exceptions. After time passes and memories fade with players’ final seasons hanging on being the freshest of them, people forget how incredible certain players actually were--especially if they played in smaller media markets. In recent years we have seen articles about whether Frank Thomas, Craig Biggio, Roberto Alomar etc. are Hall-worthy.
How soon they forget.
In such cases, you’re not so much making a case as much as you are reminding people just how special they were back in the day. This is the situation with Tim Raines; I watched “Rock’s” career in its entirety and there was never any doubt about what I was witnessing. Just to give you a small preview of coming columns at MSN and the Hardball Times, consider the following: While it seems odd now, there was a time when Raines was compared to Rickey Henderson. It may seem silly now when you look at Rickey’s 3055 hits, 2295 runs scored, 2190 BB, 1406 stolen bases or for that matter, 297 HR and 1115 RBI--a fine career for a three-hole hitter yet alone a leadoff batter. However back in the 1980’s when both of them were still young pups in their 20’s it wasn’t so absurd. From 1983-89:
Player BA OBP SLG Runs SB SB%
Rickey .290 .401 .449 803 552 84.6
Raines .308 .398 .456 710 429 87.1
Obviously, Henderson is, and will always be the hallmark against which all other leadoff men will be measured against. Regardless, it’s interesting to note that while Henderson was the more prolific base stealer, Raines was the better overall hitter and the difference widens a bit more when you compare their totals against their respective league averages.
Henderson played over three more full seasons worth of games than Raines and had “Rock” managed to play that long, he may have gotten to 3000 hits himself as well as 200+ HR and possibly 1700 runs scored. As it is…
Player BA OBP SLG OPS+
Rickey .279 .401 .419 127
Raines .294 .385 .425 123
No, I’m not saying that Raines is in Rickey’s league. What I am implying is that Raines is a lot better than most people remember. For example, Lou Brock--the modern NL stolen base king and member of the 3000-hit club is well qualified for the Hall of Fame, but consider:
Player BA OBP SLG OPS+ SB SB% PA TOB*
Brock .293 .343 .410 109 938 75 11235 3833
Raines .294 .385 .425 123 808 84 10359 3977
*Times On Base
Despite almost 1000 fewer plate appearances, "Rock" reached base almost 150 times more. Once he got there he stole bases far more efficiently. That puts Raines somewhere between Lou Brock and Rickey Henderson as far as a discussion of the greatest leadoff men of all time--easily Hall of Fame territory.
So bookmark Tango’s site (or use the link provided at the top of the list) and I’ll keep you posted on when other Raines’ columns come out from yours truly and Mr. Tango.