I always kinda thought that Tim Raines was one of the best out there. Along with Rickey Henderson, there were really only two guys you would want to lead off for you.
That being said…I am handing the reigns (terrible pun intended) of this case over to good friend of The Hall Jason as he recently threw out a very positive critique of “Rock” over at his site.
The Case for Raines
Raines is currently 5th all-time with 808 stolen bases and first in stealing percentage (84.7%) among those with more than 300 attempts. He won 2 World Championships (in 1996 and 1998) and made seven All-Star Appearances. He scored 100 runs six times, stole 70 bases seven seasons in a row and hit .300 six times.
The Case Against Raines
Raines was essentially a part-time player from 1996 onward, and really started fading in 1993. It is hard to see how he got to 2605 hits without a 200 hit season. His speed faded fast and his hitting did not appear to have recovered from the missing speed.
That career steal number really stands out to me. I consider the fact that he finished his career fifth all time in such a major statistic to be extremely impressive. All four players who finished in front of him are all in the Hall of Fame.
Raines’ role was always to be a table-setter, and it shows in his fairly low career slugging percentage. It really concerns me that he dropped off so precipitously after the 1993 season.
After 1993, he never played more than 133 games or stole more than 21 bases, and only had one season with at least 500 at bats. That encompasses a period of almost ten seasons, nearly half of his career.
So what do the season-to-season numbers tell us? From 1981-1987 he was an extremely dominant player.
During that time he:
- stole 70 bases or more each season
- led the league in steals four times
- hit .300 or better five times
- scored 100 runs four times (led the league twice)
- had an OPS+ of 129 or better six times
- posted an on-base percentage of .390 or better six times
- went to all seven All-Star games
Simply put, he was one of the most dominant lead off hitters during this period. I am really torn on whether or not he deserves induction. The fact that his career seems to have tailed off so fast worries me. However, the fact that he was able to embrace these roles, and still provide some solid production leads me to believe that he is a Hall of Famer.
MY VOTE: YES