With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the side of righteousness trailing by a run, the Baseball Writers Association of America undid one of the biggest wrongs in the Hall of Fame by electing Tim Raines in his final year of eligibility. Today baseball celebrates the Rock as the former Expos great becomes just the fourth player to be elected in his final year of eligibility, joining Red Ruffing (1967), Joe Medwick (1968), Ralph Kiner (1975), and Jim Rice (2009).
Placed in a historical context, Raines’s resume is more than HOF worthy. He was one of the game’s great lead off hitters, top base stealers, and — believe it or not — an extra-base-hitting-machine during his 23-year major league career. Raines was often lost in the shadow cast by Rickey Henderson, arguably the greatest leadoff hitter ever. But digging deeper into the numbers, Raines was every bit the player as Henderson and even rivaled the great Ty Cobb, arguably the best hitter in baseball history.
We all know Raines was one of the game’s great base stealers, but his consistency on the base paths was unparalleled. He ranks fifth on the career stolen base list with 808 and is the career leader in stolen base percentage (84.7) among players with 400 attempts. Raines is the only player in baseball history to steal at least 70 bases in seven consecutive seasons (1981-1986). He stole 40 consecutive bases between July 1993 – August 1995, a major league record later broken by Ichiro Suzuki with 45 consecutive swipes.
Like Cobb, Raines will never be considered a home run hitter, but the former speedy outfielder combined extra base hits with stolen bases at an historic rate. He was the only player in baseball history with at least 100, triples, 150 homers and 600 stolen bases. Raines finished his career with 113 triples and 170 homers.
Raines also tallied with 2,605 hits over his career — well below the imaginary 3,000-hit Hall of Fame threshold. But looking deeper, only nine of the 27 players with 3,000 hits can match Raines’s .385 career on-base percentage. Raines reached base more times than three no-doubt HOFers with 3,000 hits: Tony Gwynn, Lou Brock and Roberto Clemente as well as the ageless and still playing Ichiro Suzuki.
Need more convincing? Raines was the only player ever with four seasons of 50-plus extra base hits and 70-plus stolen bases. Henderson and Cobb combined for four such seasons; every other HOFer combined for an additional four.
Raines is seldom mentioned with the all-time greats such as Cobb, but he should be and the evidence is in the numbers: He is the only player in MLB history with five consecutive seasons with at least 30 doubles and 70 stolen bases, which he did from 1982-1986. Before 1982, the last player to record 30 doubles and 70 stolen bases in a season was Cobb in 1915.
For more head-spinning stats, be sure to check out the Ace of MLB Stats Twitter account. Its creator, Ryan Spaeder, seems to be on a personal crusade to get Raines into the Hall of Fame. Raines did the work and Spaeder has aligned the numbers in convincing fashion.
Raines becomes the third player to go into the Hall of Fame as a Montreal Expo, joining Gary Carter and Andre Dawson. Raines won two World Series rings (1996 and 1998) in New York as a role player with the Yankees. It’s a great day when one of baseball’s great injustices is rectified.
The Raines Topps rookie card is one of the top rookies from the 1981 series. Issued just before the mass-produced sets of the ‘80s, the Expos “Future Prospect” card also includes Roberto Ramos and, two “future stars” that never panned out. Be careful if you’re buying: The “Future Prospect” cards are notorious for having gum-stained backs.