The year was 1996, the month was September, and I was eight years old and going to the first baseball game not played either in Elmira at Dunn Field or in Pittsburgh at Three Rivers Stadium.* We were heading across the border to Canada to visit the SkyDome, now the Rogers Centre, to see the Yankees play the Blue Jays.
That box score pretty much brings on some serious nostalgia, Rookie Jeter, Wade Boggs, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, Darryl Strawberry, and Joe Carter, to name a few. One player, who mean’t nothing to me at eight years old, is Tim Raines, Sr.
I didn’t know then that someday I’d be arguing on the internet that the guy in left field for the Yankees should be in the Hall of Fame, nor did I know then that even in the waning days of his career he was still a decent player, but not the dominate player he once was. As you can see from the box score though, Raines had an monster game that day, going 2-5 with two home runs, two runs scored (two out of his career 1571), and six RBI (six of 980 career RBI). I can see the second home run so vividly in my mind, because he absolutely crushed it.
In the ensuing years, I would learn more about Raines, and in 2008 his first year on the Hall of Fame Ballot, I was rooting for his first ballot induction. However, Raines would not get in in 2008, or 2009, you’d think that by 2010 the BBWAA would get their collective heads out of certain places, but you’d be wrong. It’s 2013, soon to be 2014, and the campaign to get Tim Raines elected is still going strong.
The aforementioned link lays out a cornucopia of stellar arguments on Tim’s behalf. One of my personal favorite arguments as to why he is denied entry is when voters make the excuse that Raines had a similar skill set to Rickey Henderson, and played in the same era as Henderson, so why don’t his numbers match Henderson? Well for starters, Raines is one of five players to steal 800 or more bases during his career, that exclusive club includes, Lou Brock, Ty Cobb, Billy Hamilton, and of course the immortal Rickey Henderson.
In fact, Tim Raines was just as good, if not better than many of his contemporaries. He gets knocked around a lot for not having great power numbers, and not achieving 3,000 hits, he finished his career with 2,605. Raines was predominately a leadoff hitter, his main job was to, 1. get on base and 2. score runs, because that’s how baseball games are won. Raines was damn good at doing both of those things. Below is a chart that compares Raines to current Hall of Fame outfielders with similar numbers.
So why isn’t Raines in the Hall? I have been asking myself that question for quite awhile now, and so have many other writers, and commenters, most notably Grantland writer and Montreal Expos fan extraordinaire, Jonah Keri. I’m not sure why the voters of the BBWAA have denied Raines entry for this long; I ponder that question knowing his best years were before I was even born. It is a player like Raines, who has some stigma that is not fully explained by logic, that gives this voting process for the Hall of Fame a bad name. We’ll be suffering more of this nonsensical logic when Jeff Bagwell is denied entry again this year because he had muscles in the 90s.
All I know is that, at 36, Tim Raines put on a performance that I still remember very vividly. I really didn’t know then just how great of a player he was, or how long of a career he had to that point, but I now know that he deserves a bronze plaque in Cooperstown, and hopefully 2014 is his year.
More on Tim Raines and the HOF:
*Yes, this is the real Three Rivers Stadium website, it still exists for some reason.