It was nice to see the Hall of Fame voting committee finally come to their senses and vote Tim Raines into the Baseball Hall of Fame. If it wasn’t bad enough to see Raines wait an agonizingly long 10 years before being elected into the Hall, his situation was made that much more disheartening when the Hall of Fame continued to overlook his achievements and instead began inducting players who had obviously benefited from the use of performance enhancing drugs.
When looking over what Raines accomplished throughout the course of his career, it’s amazing to think that a player that well-rounded, with a lifetime .294 AVG, 2,605 hits, 808 stolen bases, and a .385 OBP still needed 10 kicks at the can before being inducted into the Hall of Fame. In his 1981 season alone, he had an incredible 71 stolen bases while playing just 88 games…hard to believe, especially when you consider that the entire 2016 Blue Jays roster had just 54 stolen bases. The fact that the voting committee did the right thing is a good sign…too often they let these great players languish, year after year coming so close to that magic 75 percent voting requirement, wondering if they’ll ever be elected.
The big comparison back in the 1980’s was who was the better player, Tim Raines or Rickey Henderson. Two of the best lead-off hitters you could ask for, both possessing blazing speed and the most incredible base running skills the game had ever seen. On top of their wonderful talents running the bases was the fact that they were both wonderful hitters with a knack for getting on base. When examining their career numbers one notices that Raines was superior or at least equal to Henderson in so many statistical categories. So why is it then that Henderson was a 1st ballot Hall of Famer, while Raines was forced to sit on the sidelines for 10 years twiddling his thumbs as he watched players he was every bit as good as being inducted into the Hall of Fame?
I don’t want to take anything away from Rickey Henderson, he was a special player. But it seems that because he had the all-time record for steals (1,406), 468 more than Lou Brock who sits 2nd on that list, that perhaps those kind of freakish statistics garnered Henderson a lot more favour with the voting committee compared to someone like Raines who was more reserved, but still put up numbers every bit as notable as Henderson. Henderson has the all-time record for steals because he did nothing but make steal attempts while on the bases. For him, it wasn’t a question of whether to steal or not, it was a question of which pitch he’d be stealing on. Despite having the all-time mark for stolen bases, Henderson ended up with a 80.8% success rate when stealing, while Raines on the other hand had a success rate of 84.7%.
Like far too many things in life, it’s all a popularity contest and the Hall of Fame voting process is no different. Players like Raines who went about their business quietly and had remarkable careers are often ignored, especially when compared to big personalities like Henderson who have sexy records like the all-time mark for stolen bases. That being said, the committee got things right this time by voting in Raines with 86% of the vote. It’s something that should have happened a few years ago, but at least the committee did the right thing and paid respect to a player more than deserving of being included amongst the games best.