12/30/10 8:45 AM EST
Raines hoping Hall of Fame bid gets boost
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
First, there was Gary Carter, and then Andre Dawson.
Will Tim Raines be the third member of the Expos elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his fourth year of eligibility? He'll know in a matter of days, once the results are in.
Raines appears to be gaining some momentum when it comes to the Hall of Fame balloting. In 2009, for example, the switch-hitting outfielder received 22.6 percent of the vote, while gaining ground this year with 30.4 percent.
A candidate must get 75 percent of the vote to gain election, with former Twins and Pirates pitcher Bert Blyleven (74.2 percent), former second baseman Roberto Alomar (73.7 percent) and former Tigers and Twins ace Jack Morris (52.3) standing as the top three returning vote-getters.
Raines played during an era when Rickey Henderson was the dominant leadoff hitter, but the man known as "Rock" was a difference maker himself.
Most of his damage at the top of the lineup was done as a member of the Expos and White Sox. From 1982-92, he scored 90 or more runs eight times, led the league in stolen bases four times, was an All-Star seven times and hit .290 or better six times.
Overall, Raines played 23 years. He ranks fifth all-time in stolen bases and ended up with 2,605 hits and 1,571 runs scored. Even when his days as an everyday player were over, Raines proved to be a valuable reserve, helping the Yankees win World Series titles in 1996 and '98.
Asked earlier this year by the MLB Network if he was overlooked because he played in the same era as Henderson, Raines said, "Somewhat, but I think the difference was, he played in the American League and I was in the National League, which kind of helped a little bit. We were kind of like rivals, but we never really played each other. If you look at the National League side, people would probably be saying the same thing about me like they said about him in the American League."
Dawson, who played with Raines for eight years in Montreal, believes Raines belongs in Cooperstown.
"You are talking about a player who played 20-something years. He was consistent and steady. He was a catalyst. For what his requirements were, he did it real well," Dawson said last year. "He was Rickey Henderson minus all the leadoff home runs. He was probably better defensively -- more so with a strong throwing arm."
Among Raines' many dominant seasons during the '80s, the 1987 campaign stands out -- and he had a lot to prove that year. Raines became a free agent after winning the NL batting crown the previous season, but he didn't have a true chance to test the market because he was affected by what was ultimately deemed by an arbitrator to be collusion by the owners.
The leadoff hitter couldn't return to the Expos until May 1, but he made up for lost time. He played his first game of the season the next day against the Mets and went 4-for-5, hitting a 10th-inning homer off left-hander Jesse Orosco.
"He had no Spring Training, and we were playing in New York," said Jim Fanning, who was a general manager, manager and broadcaster during Raines' time with the Expos. "It's his first game back. He hits a home run right-handed. He was an absolute star of that game. I remember [broadcaster] Dave Van Horne and I were saying, 'What is this Spring Training business all about anyway? Everybody can get in condition on their own. Who needs it?'"
Raines ended up leading the National League in runs scored and finished third in the Senior Circuit with a .330 batting average.
Raines almost didn't become the player fans grew to know. After he was taken by the Expos in the fifth round of the 1977 First-Year Player Draft, Fanning, then the GM, envisioned Raines to be the next Joe Morgan. Raines was drafted as a second baseman and the team believed, like Morgan, that he would become a player who displayed a lot of power.
But the predictions about Raines being another Morgan proved premature. Raines had a tough time playing defense in the infield. He didn't have the range to play second base and had trouble turning the double play. Switching to left field in '81 was the best thing that ever happened to him.
"It was not a difficult switch to put him in the outfield. In fact, it was easy," Fanning said. "I'm not surprised by the career he had. He had a knack on how to play this game. He was a delight to watch. It didn't make a difference who the pitcher was."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.