Playing the Percentages

Raines makes sixth appearance on BBWAA ballot

December 19, 2012
2013 BBWAA Hall of Fame Candidate Tim Raines (Photo File/NBHOF Library)

Tim Raines finished his big league career with the highest percentage of stolen bases of any player with 300-plus steals.

Now he is hoping to join the one percent of major league baseball players to make it into the Hall of Fame.

Raines is one of 37 players on the 2013 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Class of 2013 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Raines returns to the BBWAA ballot for the sixth year after receiving 48.7 percent of the vote in 2012, a jump of 11.2 percent from the previous year.

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 9. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2013. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 28 in Cooperstown.

Raines, who was born Sept. 16, 1959 in Sanford, Fla., was selected in the fifth round of the 1977 amateur draft by the Montreal Expos. During his 1981 rookie season, he batted .304 with 71 stolen bases in a strike-shortened season. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, 19th in MVP voting and earned his first All-Star selection.

“Stolen bases got me to the big leagues,” said Raines, who finished his career with an 84.7 percent success rate in stolen bases. “You need instincts, aggressiveness and cockiness – all three play a big part.”

Raines earned All-Star Game selections in each of his first seven full seasons. He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting four times and won a Silver Slugger and a batting title in 1986 with a .334 average. He led the league in stolen bases from 1981-1984 and in runs scored in 1984 and 1987.

“He’s worth every cent we pay him,” said Expos manager Buck Rodgers. “He’s our ignition. He’s our leadoff man, but he’s one of the few players who can either get on base or drive in runs.”

In 1991, after 13 years in Montreal, Raines signed with the White Sox as a free agent. After five years on the South Side, Raines went to the Yankees and got a taste of the postseason success he’d been missing.

Raines helped the Bronx Bombers to World Series Championships in 1996 and 1998. Although his playing time was limited due to injuries, Raines was a positive veteran in the clubhouse and remained productive at the plate.

Six months after signing a free agent contract with the Athletics in 1999, Raines was diagnosed with lupus. He spent the rest of the year undergoing treatment and recovery.

Raines returned to the big leagues in 2001 and played for the Expos, Orioles and Marlins during two seasons. On a minor league rehab assignment for a shoulder injury, Raines and his son, Tim Raines Jr., became the first father-son pair to play against each other in a professional game. Later that year, he played with his son for the Baltimore Orioles.

Raines began his coaching career as a manager in the minor leagues in 2003 and has served as coach for the Expos and White Sox. He is currently the manager for the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League.

During his 23-year career, Raines recorded 2,605 hits, 980 RBI and a .294 batting average. He hit over .300 during five seasons and over .320 for three in a row (1985-87). His 808 stolen bases ranks fifth all-time and his 1,571 runs scored ranks 53rd.

“He’s one of the toughest guys on the bases,” said former Pirates catcher Tony Pena, a Gold Glove Award winner. “He can go almost any time he wants. He has a good idea of what he’s trying to do when he’s on base. As soon as the pitcher thinks he’s not going, he’s gone.”

Samantha Carr is a freelance writer from Rochester, N.Y.