Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Card #70: Tim Raines

Who Can It Be Now?
Timothy Raines Sr. (not to be confused with his son) was born on September 16, 1959, in Sanford, Florida -- a smallish city of about 50,000 people an hour north of Orlando.  Tim was one of 6 children who grew to adulthood and one of five boys born to Ned Jr. and Florence Raines.  

Tim's dad was a semipro baseball player in Sanford, and all five boys were excellent athletes. Raines's SABR biography mentions that one local baseball all-star game featured four Raines brothers around the infield -- Levi at first, Sam at second, Ned III at third base, and Tim at shortstop.  

Indeed, Tim was an excellent football player, starring at running back for Sanford Seminole High School.  His SABR biography again mentions that he scored 18 TDs and averaged 10.5 yards per carry.  Reviewing some game stories from the Daytona Beach Morning Journal confirms these crazy numbers to an extent.  In one game write-up, the story went that Raines came back to football after planning initially to sit out his senior year:
Tim Raines had decided to sit out football to concentrate on a possible major league baseball career.  But Sanford Seminole Coach Jerry Posey can thank his lucky stars that Raines changed his mind and joined the Seminole football team after the season opener.  . . . Raines ruined the Bulldogs with his outside running and pass receiving.  The 175 pound senior scored all four touchdowns for Sanford, three from the ground and one from the arm of quarterback John Litton.  In all, Raines picked up 108 yards in 11 trips and added five receptions worth 66 yards in real estate against a reputed staunch [sic] DeLand defense.
As that football story hinted, Raines was known already in high school as being an excellent baseball player.  Thus, after he graduated high school in 1977, the Expos drafted Raines in the fifth round of the June Regular draft.  He stayed in Florida and played for the Expos Gulf Coast League affiliate in rookie league ball and showed off the blazing speed that would be his calling card in the early part of his career and the on-base skills that he kept throughout his career -- .280/.381/.342 with 29 steals and only 2 CS in 189 plate appearances.

The Expos moved him to their Florida State League affiliate in 1978, and Raines responded well to the move.  Despite being about 3-1/2 years younger than the average player in the league, Raines stole 57 bases (caught 21 times though) and hit .287/.400/.315 in 438 plate appearances.  He also walked 64 times against just 44 strikeouts.  

Perhaps the only worrisome issue there was the lack of power he was showing.  That was remedied at Double-A in 1979, where in 650 plate appearances and at the age of 19, Raines hit .290/.390/.399 with 25 2B, 10 3B, 5 HR, and 59 steals against just 12 CS -- and he walked 90 times versus just 51 strikeouts.  Those numbers earned him a late season call-up to the majors in 1979, where he got a taste of a pennant race as a pinch runner.  

His 1980 season at Denver -- .354/.439/.501, 77 SB, 13 CS, 61 BB, 42 Ks -- showed that his previous seasons were not flukes (though certainly his numbers were inflated by playing in Denver).  He got to play a few games in July and August for the Expos that season as an injury fill-in, and then went back to being a pinch runner in September.  

Now, what I had forgotten about Raines was that he came to the Major Leagues as a second baseman originally and, in fact, played at 2B and SS in the minor leagues.  Short wasn't really an option for Raines, who played there only sparingly.  Playing 2B for the Expos in 1980 primarily was 26-year-old Rodney Scott, who himself stole 63 bases in 1980.  Behind Scott was 23-year-old Tony Bernazard, who himself had a decent career in front of him.  So, 2B looked pretty jammed up too.

The Expos realized, though, that they needed to make room for the 21-year-old phenom from Florida.  They decided that Raines could be a leftfielder.  They had picked up former Tiger Ron LeFlore after the 1979 season to play left.  LeFlore still had incredible speed -- I mean, he stole 97 bases in 1980, after all, and with Scott set a record for most stolen bases by teammates in a season with 160.  But LeFlore also was 32 years old and hit just .257/.337/.363 for Montreal in 1980.  So, left field became Raines's position.

Raines grabbed the opportunity and ran with it.  Literally.  In 88 games for the Expos, Raines stole 71 bases, which led the league and was 32 steals more than second place Omar Moreno's 39.  The gap between the two of 32 steals itself would have finished in third place, 2 steals ahead of Rodney Scott's 30.  

Without the strike, Raines was on a pace to finish with 107 steals (the Expos played exactly 2/3 of their scheduled 162 games in 1981).  I previously said that he would have stolen 121 bases.  I think I had a methodology issue there because I think I forgot to extrapolate Raines's totals out against the Expos' remaining games; on Card 3, I think I simply extrapolated what would Raines's numbers would have been had he played 150 games. 

Anyway and as a result, Raines finished second -- correctly -- in the National League Rookie of the Year voting behind the phenomenon that was Fernando Valenzuela. 1981 was also the first of his seven consecutive selections for the All-Star game.  

Raines played in Montreal until after the 1990 season.  It's possible that he would have left Montreal after the 1986 season, but in that year of owner collusion, he simply had to resign with the Expos on May 1.  He was traded to the Chicago White Sox in December of 1990 with Jeff Carter in exchange for a minor leaguer, OF Ivan Calderon, and P Barry Jones.  Raines spent five years on Chicago's South Side, continuing to get on base at a great clip and hitting with some pop.  

After the 1995 season, Raines was sent to the New York Yankees in exchange for a minor leaguer to be named later.  Raines did get a World Series Championship with the Yankees after the 1996 season and again after the 1998 season, though Raines did not play in the World series in 1998.  

At the age of 39 in 1999, Raines played for the Oakland A's for 38 games, and it appeared that his career was over at that point.  The reason for that was that Raines was diagnosed with lupus. Lupus is where a person's immune system begins attacking the person's own body due to a lack of antibodies in the system to prevent such attacks.  Raines's lupus attacked his kidneys, causing him to retain water.  He was treated during 1999, and he believed he was ready to play in 2000.

The Yankees, under GM Bob Watson, gave him a chance to make their club.  Yet, the Yankees released Raines after spring training in 2000.  Later that year, it appearing that his career was over, the Expos inducted Raines into their team Hall of Fame.  Raines told then-owner Jeffrey Loria that he still wanted a shot to play.  As a result, Raines signed after the 2000 season as a free agent with the Montreal Expos, and spent the 2001 season with the Expos as an elder statesman, fifth outfielder and, perhaps, as a reminder to Expos fans that the team used to be good 20 years before.

By this time, his son, Tim Jr., had played in High-A Frederick in the Carolina League and looked to be an adequate player -- definitely not as good as his old man, but decent.  In 2001, Tim Jr. had worked his way up to Double-A and Triple-A baseball in the Baltimore Orioles system.  As a result and at the very end of the 2001 season, the Expos and Orioles worked out a deal to send Tim Sr. to the woeful Orioles from the woeful Expos.  That move allowed Tim Sr. and Tim Jr. to play in the same outfield against the Blue Jays on October 3 and in a three-game series against the Red Sox that weekend. 

Even that did not sate Raines's desire to play baseball, so he signed on for the 2002 season with the Florida Marlins so he could play in his home state.  Apparently that season at the age of 42 was enough to convince him that he was done, as he hit .191/.351/.258 in 114 plate appearances.   

Mustache Check:  You can't really tell on this photo.  If we go by his 1982 Fleer card, though, the answer is yes:

Family Ties
As I mentioned above, Tim Raines Sr. was lucky enough to play in the same outfield with his son, Tim Raines Jr., thanks to the Baltimore Orioles in 2001.  That feat had been done just one time before, when the Griffeys -- Ken Sr. and Ken Jr. -- played together in Seattle.

Another note above mentions how athletic Tim and his brothers were.  If you read the SABR biography for Tim, you'll see that the Raines family believed that Tim's older brother Ned was actually the better player of the two growing up.  Ned was drafted in 1978 in the January Draft by the San Francisco Giants out of junior college.  Ned never made it past the California League, however, and his career in organized baseball was over after the 1980 season.

Trivial Pursuit
Raines played in the major leagues in four different decades -- the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.  He is only one of four players to steal bases in all four of his decades in baseball.  The other three are Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson, and Omar Vizquel.

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
Tim Raines was a young star in 1982 -- on par in many respects with guys like Bryce Harper today.  By that, I mean that if the Expos GM in 1982 had called up your favorite team's GM and offered a trade for Raines, you would just hope that you had enough minor league parts to get him.  

Raines probably was better than Harper at that point, frankly, because Harper seems to be injured regularly and Harper appears to have a bit of an attitude problem.  The only problem Raines had in 1982 was cocaine -- and he went to rehab for that and did not relapse.  As far as I know, there is no rehab available for being something of a jerk.

Back on card 3, I raised the question -- without answering it -- of whether Tim Raines belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Raines has received solid support in the 7 years he has been eligible -- with the percentages of the vote that he has received climbing at first through 2013, when he received 52.2% of the vote (with, of course, 75% needed for induction).  This past year, he faded somewhat, getting 46.1% of the vote.  

Should he make it?

In his favor, consider that four of his ten most similar players by similarity score are in the Hall -- Lou Brock, Max Carey, Fred Clarke, and Enos Slaughter.  Another point in his favor is that those similarity scores are low -- ranging from 813 for Slaughter to 863 for Brock.  A good sign of a unique, important player is that he is not nearly the same player as another in history.  Also in his favor is the fact that the average WAR/WAR7/JAWS scores for the 19 Hall of Fame left fielders is 65.1/41.5/53.3, and Raines's scores are 69.1/42.2/55.6 -- making it appear that Raines is solidly above average when it comes to even being a Hall of Fame left fielder.

On the other hand, Raines is slightly below to much below average when it comes to other measures for Hall of Famers.  His Black Ink score (league leading) is 20, while the average HOFer is 27.  Raines ranks 107th in that category.  His Gray Ink scores -- top 10 league finishes -- is 114, and the average Hall of Famer is 144.  Raines is 182nd in that category.  His "Hall of Fame Monitor" score is 90, and a likely HOFer is 100; his Hall of Fame Standards number is 47, likely HOFer is 50.  In other words, Raines may not have been a dominant enough player in his time.

Bill James created the "Keltner List" in the 1990s in an effort to ask qualitative questions toward clearing up whether a player should be in the Hall or not.  Last November, the "Cans of Cool" blog went through the Keltner List for Raines.  The short Q&A version:

1.  Was Raines ever the best player in baseball or suggested to be the best player in baseball? The answer is probably not, but he was around the top 5 to 10 players every year of the 1980s.

2.  Was he the best player on his team?  From '83 to '87, probably -- and in 1987 almost certainly.

3.  Best player in baseball at his position? In his league at his position?  Here's where Raines's misfortune of coming up at the same time as Rickey Henderson kicks in -- Raines was Henderson-lite.  That's not a jab, either, because Henderson was an incredible, transcendent player who comes along once every 20 or 50 years -- if that frequently.  Raines did everything Henderson did, but Henderson did all of them better.  Raines might have been the best left fielder in the 1980s, though, before Barry Bonds emerged.

4.  Impact on pennant races? In 1993 with the White Sox, definitely. In 1981, as a rookie, certainly.  Other years, the Expos were good, but they could not get over the hump. He played significant time with the 1996 Yankees as well, but was nowhere near being a full-timer.

5.  Good enough to play regularly past his prime?  Sure, to an extent.  Injuries cut his playing time more than a lack of ability did.

6.  Best player in baseball history not in the Hall that is eligible? Certainly not.  Barry, for all his failings, still is that guy.

7.  Most players of comparable stats in the Hall? No, not really, though Brock is somewhat comparable and in the Hall.  Raines shows better than Brock generally, though.

8.  Do his numbers meet Hall standards?  His stolen bases definitely do.

9.  Was he better or worst than his numbers indicate? As the blog I mentioned says, he was a highly successful base stealer -- 84.6% success rate -- and he walked 450 times more than he struck out in an era of guys who struck out 150 times a season.

10.  Is he the best player at his position not in the Hall? Nope, that's Bonds.  Raines is second or maybe third if you count Pete Rose in the conversation and as a left fielder.

11.  MVP consideration? He had three top 10 finishes, never won it, and he was not the guy who should have won it (using WAR) in any of those seasons.

12.  All-Star seasons?  He was a 7-time all-star and merited selection for probably 5 or 6 more.  

13.  If he was the best player on his team, would that team likely win the pennant? In his prime, probably.

14.  Baseball history impact?  Well, that Free agent collusion issue from 1987 revolved in large part around Raines and fellow Expos Andre Dawson.  Maybe that's enough.  

15.  Did he uphold the Hall's standards of conduct? He had his issues with cocaine, certainly, but got clean shortly thereafter.  That issue did not stop Hall voters from inducting Paul Molitor on his first go-round for the Hall (though Molitor's career numbers were a lot better).  

In all, it's a close issue -- much closer than Dave Parker or, for that matter, Jim Rice, in my opinion.  Based solely on the numbers, Raines probably should be in the Hall of Fame and should have been in the Hall of Fame long before Jim Rice even sniffed admission.  Compare the WAR/WAR7/JAWS numbers:  

Raines: 69.1/42.2/55.6
Rice: 47.4/36.2/41.8

Rice had to wait until his 15th year to be inducted, and he too had a backslide in voter support around 7 or 8 years into his candidacy.  We will see whether the BBWAA will start a groundswell of support for Raines's candidacy in the years to come.  It will be close, I think, but I believe Raines deserves admission -- and not solely based on the fact that he was a far, far better player than Jim Rice. 


  1. I'm with you. Raines is a hall of famer in my opinion

  2. Rock Raines should be in the Hall. But I also would vote for Dale Murphy and Fred McGriff, and they seem like longshots as well.

  3. Couldn't agree more with your sentiment on Harper, it comes as little surprise that his fellow colleagues are always voting him as the MLB's most overrated player.

  4. Love this blog - you're really putting a lot of care into this thing! My peak card collecting days were from 1981 to 1984, and all of those cards sets, from the team cap cornered set to the square inset head shot set are essential to my childhood memories. As a Montrealer who jumped onto the Expos bandwagon (with a helping hand from my grandfather) at the age of 5 in 1979, I'm quite biased toward the whole "Team of the 1980s" squad (and especially the 1982 and 1983 teams - I must have listened to more than 100 games on the radio each of those seasons), but there's no doubt in my mind that Raines belongs in the Hall of Fame. I loved "The Hawk", but Raines was a far more impressive player, on the whole, than Dawson was. Yes, I was a child of Baseball Abstract, as well - and "The Hawk" did not walk. Larry Walker should probably be in the HOF too, but that's another debate....