Tim Raines Belongs in the Hall of Fame

Great to see Tim Raines — one of my all-time favorite non-Red Sox players — throw out the first pitch in tonight’s Red Sox – Blue Jays exhibition game in Montreal.

What’s not to like about Tim Raines? He was one of the game’s great leadoff hitters, top base stealers, and — believe it or not — an extra-base-hitting-machine during his 23-year major league career. Lost in the shadow of Rickey Henderson — though I’m not sure why — Raines has yet to garner enough Hall of Fame votes. 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 knowRaines Raines was one of the game’s great base stealers, but his consistency on the base paths was unparalleled. 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 Montreal Expos 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, 170 homers, and 808 stolen bases.

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 the evidence is in the numbers: Raines is the only player in MLB history with five consecutive seasons with at least 30 doubles and 70 stolen bases, which he did in five consecutive seasons 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.

Just under 70 percent of the HOF electorate voted for Raines in January. He’s on course to receive the 75 percent of the vote needed for enshrinement next year. Here’s hoping 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 Bobby Pate, two “future stars” that never panned out. Be careful if you’re buying: The “Future Prospect” cards are notorious for having gum-stained backs.