s
s
Sections
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone

Voting for the Hall of Fame is baseball’s Rorschach inkblot test. You see what you want to see and are quite comfortable to ignore the rest. So what if everyone else sees a mongoose? I see a ham sandwich. It’s a goofy-looking ham sandwich but a ham sandwich nonetheless.

This helps explain why the best baseball player whoever lived, Willie Mays, never received 100 percent of the votes. Neither did Babe Ruth, the man who saved the game. We see what we want to see. In my case, so what if everyone else sees Barry Bonds as a Hall of Famer? I see someone who mocked the integrity of the game. Like Pete Rose and Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa.

For the past nine years I gave a shrug to Tim Raines. For a guy who ran so fast, things are going quite slow for the man. I had no problem with passing on Raines. My criteria always have been the same for election to Cooperstown: Can the history of the game be written without (fill in the name)?

Sure, I thought, Raines would have to be included — as long as you put his name in the footnotes. He’s not a chapter, not even a paragraph. A footnote recognition doesn’t carry enough convincing, much less an exclamation point.

But this is Raines’ 10th and last nomination before he moves into the dustbin, only to be fetched much later as an old-timer. I always pay a little more scrutiny to someone in his last year of eligibility, the feeling he’ll soon be banished to exile, his name floating in the ether of anonymity, drifting eventually out of sight, joining the Johnnie LeMasters and Mike Ivies of the world.

Always thought Raines deserved more than that, and Jonah Keri of CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated tried to show me just how much. Keri sent me an email, noting I had passed nine times on Raines. These kinds of emails happen when a player reaches his last year of eligibility. Like a flyer about a one-day Christmas sale. Better get on board now or lose the golden opportunity to get that frying pan.

Before I read the email, I thought of the things that made me pass on Raines. He was in the big leagues 23 years, the first 10 with the Montreal Expos and last 13 with five other teams; true Hall of Famers don’t get passed around like a loaf of bread, everyone gets a slice. Raines got snared in that Pittsburgh drug trial of the ’80s, even admitting he stashed a vial of cocaine in his hip pocket when he played, so the drug wouldn’t be found in his locker. Raines was never the best player on whatever team had him. He may have had an electric influence on a game but I rarely saw it — his best years were in Canada in a soulless baseball stadium. And he never made the magic and automatic Hall of Fame number: 3,000 hits (he had 2,605).

And then there was Rickey Henderson. Overshadowed is a polite way of saying what Rickey did to Raines. In every way imaginable Rickey drew attention to himself. Those stolen bases and his foot speed and his flair for grabbing the spotlight and his unabashed self-love, Rickey in every way defined The Ultimate Leadoff Hitter.

No one before or since matched Rickey. Quite possibly no one ever will.

It would be unfair to compare anyone with Rickey. Yet that was Raines’ fate as his years in MLB matched almost year-by-year with Henderson. Raines getting caught in someone’s shadow began in his rookie year in 1981. Raines hit .304 and stole 71 bases while being caught just 11 times. Yet, there was the Dodgers’ Fernando Valenzuela. Fernandomania was Rookie of the Year.

Even when Raines led the National League in hitting in 1986, hitting .334, Andre Dawson, the Expos center fielder, was there, the guy who would make as many All-Star teams as Gold Gloves he won — eight.

So if I was ever going to see Tim Raines alone, I had to bring him out of the shadows. Keri helped. Raines reached base 3,977 times. That’s more than Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn, Lou Brock, Roberto Clemente, Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Harmon Killebrew and Brooks Robinson.

Only five players in baseball history have stolen 800 bases in their career: Raines, Henderson, Brock, Ty Cobb and Billy Hamilton of the late 1800s. All but Raines are in Cooperstown.

Raines was successful 84.7 percent of the time stealing. That’s the highest percentage for anyone with more than 500 steals. And that’s 4.7 percentage points higher than Rickey’s success rate.

And while he made no attempt to grab the spotlight like Rickey, Raines influenced the game the same way Henderson did — walking Raines turned into a double 84.7 percent of the time. The art of stealing a base has gone the way of the 8-track music player. Yet there’s not a pitcher who stood on the mound with Raines on first base who wasn’t distracted and nervous, the exact same condition Rickey created.

I’d like to know how many grooved fastballs the No. 2 hitter received with either Rickey or Raines on first base. Statistic-crazy baseball nerds should have a number for that. Unfortunately, they don’t.

A Hall of Fame player influences a game like that. Everyone in the dugout, press box or stands finds that Hall of Fame player and watches, waiting for the disruption, the excitement, the game suddenly turning on that player alone.

I just added another definition to how I judge if a player is worthy or not of Cooperstown. You can’t take your eyes off him. You don’t leave to get a hot dog. You stay. You watch. And you marvel. Tim Raines was that kind of player. Tim Raines belongs in the Hall of Fame. He has my vote.

To contact Bob Padecky email him at bobpadecky@gmail.com.

Show Comment