Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Keltner List: Tim Raines

The next installment focuses on Tim Raines, who received a 52.2% vote in 2013. This is his 7th year on the ballot. Raines was a dangerous switch hitter for the Expos in the 1980s and for the White Sox and Yankees in the 1990s.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
In 1988, Bill James concluded that Raines was the second best player in baseball outside of Wade Boggs. Tom Tango rates him as the best leadoff hitter in the National League during the 1980s. I do not know that anyone tagged Raines as the best player in baseball, but he was in the discussion for the top five or ten during the height of his career.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

Raines became a full time player in 1981; at that point, the Montreal Expos featured two future Hall of Famers (Gary Carter and Andre Dawson) and one near member (Jeff Reardon). Dawson was most likely the best player on the team during Raines' first season, but after that it was Raines. Between 1983 and 1987 he was the best player on his team as Dawson developed knee problems.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in his league at his position?
Raines was a left fielder and leadoff man. He had the singular misfortune of being a direct contemporary with the best leadoff man in the history of baseball, Ricky Henderson. Raines was second best in baseball, making him the best in his league. Between 1981 and 1987, he was the best left fielder in the NL. After 1987, that title was owned by some guy named Bonds.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

In 1993, Raines played a key role for the White Sox, drawing 29 walks and stealing 14 bases without being caught in September and October. It was in July that he really shone, hitting .323 with an OPS of .925. In 1996, Raines showed uncharacteristic power in September, hitting 7 HR in 84 AB for the Yankees. He solidified their left field position that year, then played a key role in the next season. In the 1993 ALCS, he hit .444 for the Sox.

5. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly past his prime?

Raines was last a full time player in 1995 for the White Sox at age 35. He slashed .285/.374/.422, continuing to get on base at a good clip and showing good gap power. In 1998, he was an above average offensive player for the Yankees, drawing 55 walks in 321 AB. After a diagnosis of lupus in 2000, Raines came back for parts of two seasons as a part time player with limited success.

6. Is he the best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

I don't think so. I would vote Barry Bonds for that label.

7. Are most of the players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?

Of the 10 players who are comparable with Raines, four (Lou Brock, Max Carey, Fred Clarke and Enos Slaughter) are in the hall. Two of those players (Clarke and Carey) were playing back in the 1910s and 1920s. Other similar players include Johnny Damon, Jose Cruz (who would be in the hall of fame but for an ankle injury and the Astrodome) and Kenny Lofton. Lofton is an interesting case, and needs to be looked at further. Unfortunately, this is not the place or time.

In actuality, Carey and Lofton are the most similar players to Raines. Both were leadoff men who drew walks and stole bases. Both played good defense (although both played some centerfield) but Raines had more power than Carey and somewhat more power than Lofton. Brock did not get on base at the clip that Raines did. Fred Clarke was the left fielder and manager for the great Pirates teams of the first decade of the 20th century. Slaughter was a hustling ball player who could hit .300 and put up 40 doubles a year, but he did not have the speed of Raines.

8.Do the player's numbers meet hall of fame standards?

Raines comes in at 47 according to He is currently 5th all time in stolen bases and 36th in walks. Raines won one batting title and led the NL in steals for four consecutive years. The hall generally likes players such as Raines, who get a lot of hits and steal a lot of bases.

9. Is there evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than his statistics suggest?

Raines did a lot of the little things well. He got on base, took extra bases and was an excellent base stealer and showed some power. Raines stole 808 bases in his career and was caught only 146 times, which is a phenomenal success rate of 84.6%. He also walked more than he struck out (1330 vs. 966) and was a strong fielder in his younger days. In other words, maybe.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame and is not inducted?

No, that goes to Barry Bonds. I would put Raines at #2 on that list, with Moises Alou a distant third.

11. How many MVP type seasons did the player have? Did he win an MVP? How many times did he come close?

Raines never won an MVP, but was in the top 10 three times (1983, 1986 and 1987). His best season may have been 1985. Raines hit .320 with 54 extra base hits, stole 70 bases while being caught only 9 times and scored 115 runs. Or maybe it was 1987, when he won the NL batting title and led the league in runs with 123.

12.How many All Star type season did he have? How many All Star teams did he play for? Did most of the other players elected to that many games go into the hall of fame?
Raines was an all star caliber player between 1981 and 1993 and was selected for seven all star games. Out of left fielders, this is 9th highest all time. Six players of the same amount or more are in the Hall, with one ineligible (Pete Rose) and another in limbo (Barry Bonds). He was the MVP of the 1987 All Star game.

13. If this man was the best player on his team, would that team likely win the pennant?

I would argue yes.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history?

Raines was one of the high profile players affected by the Collusion scandal of the late 1980s. He became a free agent following the 1986 season but no one signed him despite his six consecutive all star games and NL batting title. He did not play for the entire month of April 1987 and resigned with the Expos. He was awarded some $895,000 dollars in compensation.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of the hall of fame?

I would argue yes, even though his nickname (Rock) bespoke his problems with cocaine in the 1980s. Raines was said to slide head first into bases to save the coke vials in his uniform pants. He was a very popular player with the Yankees, who pranked him when he received his World Series ring for 1997.

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