After delayed burn, Tim Raines blazes his approach into a Hall of Fame

6:03 PM ET

He hasn’t gotten a hit, scored a run or padded his festive numbers in some-more than 14 years. So how extraordinary is it that on this overwhelming Wednesday dusk in Jan 2017, a good Tim Raines finds himself celebrating his choosing to a Hall of Fame?

Let’s step behind and whirl this around a smarts for a minute. When a male has this moment, after 10 painful years on a ballot, his choosing is apparently revelation us something — nonetheless not usually about him.

If we unequivocally consider this through, a large tract line on this night isn’t merely a story of Raines’ career. It’s a ever-evolving story of how we view his career.

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  • This isn’t usually about his Hall of Fame numbers. It’s about how we perceive those numbers.

    So this is a dusk when notice and existence finally converged — and authorised one of history’s biggest leadoff hitters to finish a tour that unequivocally few prior Hall of Famers have ever traveled.

    Once on a time, as recently as 2009, Tim Raines perceived usually 22.6 percent of a vote. And we know what routinely happens to players who get 22.6 percent — in any election? Not a outing to a lectern in Cooperstown, New York. That’s for darned sure.

    Ask Alan Trammell. Or Dale Murphy. Or Dave Parker. Or Don Mattingly. Or Lee Smith. They all got some-more than 22 percent of a opinion in their day. Not one of them wound adult carrying to write a joyous initiation speech.

    And that’s usually a dash from a many longer list. Over a past 45 elections, take a theory during how many players got a commission that low and still went on to get inaugurated by a Baseball Writers’ Association of America? That would be accurately three, not counting Raines: Bert Blyleven (2011), Don Drysdale (1984) and Duke Snider (1980).

    Yet from a beginning, Raines somehow seemed opposite from a possibilities who were gripping him association during a bottom of a list — maybe given he had so many people in his dilemma who felt so strongly that he belonged in a Hall and weren’t fearful to contend so. Loudly.

    “I truly never had one second where we had any doubt that his [vote] numbers would go up,” pronounced Raines’ tighten friend, longtime teammate in Montreal and now associate Hall of Famer, Andre Dawson. “I always felt like he was right there with a biggest leadoff hitters of all time.”

    Dawson even finished it a indicate to block Raines’ box in his possess initiation debate in 2010. But 5 some-more frustrating elections came and went after that speech. And after all of them, Dawson pronounced he kept revelation Raines: “You don’t get in before your time.”

    But since did it take so prolonged for that time to arrive? We surveyed a series of citizens who didn’t opinion for Raines until a final dual years. They don’t all have a same reasons for finally checking his box. But together, they’ve embellished a divulgence picture. Let’s take a look:

    He didn’t have ‘mainstream’ numbers

    “It takes a genuine appreciation of baseball,” pronounced former Expos ubiquitous manager Murray Cook, “to know what Tim Raines did.”

    So is that true? It seems like it. Raines was one of usually 4 organisation given 1900 to take 800-plus bases. He did that while compiling a tip stolen-base success rate (84.7 percent) of all time. And he was a leadoff on-base appurtenance who had 10 seasons with an OBP of .390 or better. But apparently, those weren’t a forms of numbers citizens were looking for a decade ago. And for citizens acid for some-more normal sorcery numbers, well, Raines wasn’t their man.

    He didn’t utterly get to 3,000 hits (finishing during 2,605). He didn’t utterly finish with a career batting normal over .300 (winding adult during .294). He didn’t have a energy numbers (170 homers) of a leadoff fable he was constantly compared with, Rickey Henderson. So in a early years, a hulk cube of a citizens beheld Raines as an glorious player, nonetheless not one who had finished adequate to acquire their vote.

    “I’d never been staunchly anti-Raines,” pronounced a Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin, who expel his initial opinion for Raines this year. “I usually always felt he wasn’t utterly there. He was a very, very, unequivocally good actor nonetheless not indispensably an all-time great. He had a duration of dominance, nonetheless not utterly prolonged enough. He had some extensive stats nonetheless was brief of some of a capricious standards many of us use, possibly we acknowledge it or not.”

    Yes, nonetheless a humorous thing happened over a march of a final decade: Those “arbitrary” standards began to change. More on that later.

    He played north of a border

    Unfortunately for Raines, a biggest years of his career were spent with a now-defunct authorization in a nation not famous as “the United States.” And while it seems absurd to consider that personification in Canada should have any outcome on a man’s Hall of Fame credentials, it clearly did.

    Not usually in Raines’ case, either. It took Gary Carter 6 years to get inaugurated to a Hall. It took Dawson nine. Vladimir Guerrero fell usually brief on his initial year on a ballot, as well. That’s your Montreal Expos Mount Rushmore right there.

    No, there was no invisible force margin during a extent that prevented all Expos highlights from reaching a U.S. behind in Raines’ heyday. But this was still a 1980s, prolonged before life-changing wire TV innovations that let we watch any organisation any night. So a Expos and Blue Jays got reduction atmosphere time than any other teams in baseball, because, well, ratings.

    “It was usually a fact that we were out of a country, personification opposite a border,” Dawson said. “You were in a news. But literally, we weren’t in a news.”

    You would consider citizens could demeanour past that arrange of thing. But writers who lonesome a American League behind afterwards certified to us that they usually about never saw Raines play as an Expo. And for whatever reason, what many citizens see (or don’t see) with their possess eyeballs matters.

    Could that have influenced Raines some-more than any other Expo? Absolutely, pronounced Jonah Keri, a longtime Raines fan who grew adult in Montreal and now covers ball for After all, Dawson’s Hall of Fame box had assistance — from that MVP endowment he won as a Cub. Carter won a World Series as a dear Met. Guerrero warranted himself an MVP prize as an Angel.

    “But Raines’ box was roughly usually as an Expo,” Keri said. “All those other guys indispensable that boost they got from personification for those other teams. But Raines didn’t have that boost.”

    He was a plant of a Rule of 10

    The purists out there would contend that if you’re a loyal Hall of Famer, we shouldn’t be influenced by a Rule of 10. Ha. Easy for them to say.

    Those of us who opinion know all too good that a capricious 10-player extent on votes we can expel any year is a order that has had unintended consequences. And a misfortune of those unintended consequences is a fist it has put on a garland of possibilities who weren’t involuntary first-ballot Hall of Famers: Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Larry Walker, Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield, Jeff Kent … and Raines.

    In an epoch of packaged ballots, packaged with competent possibilities and difficult by PED-era players who never got inaugurated or fell off a ballot, we pledge that a Rule of 10 suppressed Raines’ opinion totals. We know given several citizens told us.

    “In 2014, 2015, 2016, we voted 10 guys, and Raines didn’t make my cut,” pronounced one of those voters, a Associated Press’s Rob Maaddi, “because of a absurd Rule of 10.”

    Maadi finally finished a indicate to opinion for Raines this year, in his final shot. Topkin says he did a same, interjection to a choosing of nine players over a prior 3 elections, that helped to “unclog” his ballot. Based on what we listened from citizens like them, we can’t assistance nonetheless consider that Raines competence have been inaugurated years ago but a Rule of 10.

    On a other hand, he competence have been helped this year by another order — a Hall’s sudden preference in 2015 to cut players’ participation on a list from 15 years to 10. At a time, Raines seemed to be a actor who could be harm many by that change. In a end, though, a coercion to opinion for him now — or never — competence have been what gathering him over a top.

    So what else altered besides that 10-year rule? Voters spelled that out for us, too.

    He became a Bernie Sanders of Hall of Fame voting

    You know what altered many dramatically during Raines’ 10 years on a ballot? Not a actor being voted on, obviously. It was a makeup of a organisation doing a voting.

    As a citizens got younger, Raines’ support got bigger. Go figure.

    “You’d consider a comparison citizens would have been some-more prone to opinion for Tim Raines,” Keri said. “But what finished adult function was, he has a childish demographic behind him.”

    The law is, a makeup of both a BBWAA and a pool of authorised citizens has undergone a surpassing makeover in new years: Fewer old-school journal writers, some-more new-age writers from a web and sabermetric community. And many significantly of all, some-more than 100 writers mislaid their right to opinion given of another Hall order change that lopped off comparison writers who hadn’t “actively covered” ball in some-more than a decade.

    “I truly never had one second where we had any doubt that his [vote] numbers would go up. we always felt like he was right there with a biggest leadoff hitters of all time.”

    Andre Dawson

    So what has that meant for Raines in particular? Turned out he was a ultimate new-school kind of guy.

    It was writers from that aged propagandize who looked during a claimant like him and didn’t see those good aged sorcery numbers that had fueled so many of their votes. But as those citizens were transposed by that “youthful demographic,” Raines’ certification were unexpected beheld by a whole different, Moneyball-era lens.

    “Growing up, we desired Rickey Henderson and always dignified Raines as arrange of Rickey Lite,” pronounced ESPN’s Scott Lauber, who expel his initial Hall of Fame opinion usually final year and began voting for Raines immediately. “Then, when we became a Hall voter, we dug deeper into his numbers and detected he was much, many some-more than that. In particular, a .385 career OBP stood out to me.”

    Is there any doubt that this competition and a people who cover it value on-base skills many some-more reverently now than they did a decade ago? Well, if we value on-base skills, it’s tough not to be a Tim Raines fan.

    • Among players who started their career after World War II and got during slightest 4,000 image appearances as a leadoff man, Raines is one of usually 4 players with an OBP of .385 or better. The others: Wade Boggs, Henderson and Richie Ashburn — all Hall of Famers.

    • Over a 7 seasons from 1981 to 1987, Raines led a National League in singles, doubles, triples and walks. In other words, he was so good during reaching base, he led his joining in flattering many any approach it’s probable to “reach base.”

    • And what seals it for many citizens is a list of slam-dunk Hall of Famers who got on bottom fewer times than Raines did: Lou Brock, Roberto Clemente, Roberto Alomar, Ernie Banks, Mike Schmidt and Tony Gwynn. Just to name a half-dozen.

    • If we beheld a name of Gwynn on that list, so did lots of voters. They finished a indicate of mentioning it to us. Raines and Gwynn played in a same era and had careers of scarcely a same length. But even nonetheless Gwynn got 536 some-more hits and kick Raines in batting normal by 44 points, Raines’ ability to pull walks finished their OBPs roughly matching (.388 for Gwynn, .385 for Raines) — and Raines’ baserunning luminosity enabled him to strech scoring position so often, he scored roughly 200 some-more runs than Gwynn.

    So Raines’ choosing is a best instance nonetheless of how differently all players are looked during now. Gwynn was a first-ballot lock. Raines had to persperate it out for 10 years to get elected. But he was discovered by an expansion in meditative — an expansion that said: The value of these dual good players was a lot closer than Gwynn’s “magic numbers” once finished us believe.

    He gained a energy of momentum

    Raines also serves as a classical evidence for a value of time. There’s a reason players like this get 10 years on a ballot. Perspectives change. Voters change. Votes change.

    So as Raines’ some-more pointed numbers finished it into heavier dissemination and a voting ranks shifted, Raines’ opinion totals headed north so steadily, we could find roughly no fashion for them. He spent dual years in a 20-percentile group, dual in a 30s, dual in a 40s, dual in a 50s and afterwards jumped dramatically when those comparison citizens got pushed out — to 69.8 percent final year and 86 percent this year.

    And as Raines combined votes, year after year, that usually led to some-more votes — from citizens who hadn’t delved as deeply into his certification earlier.

    “I think, finally, that guys started unequivocally doing their task and observant a loyal significance that he had,” Dawson said. “Especially a sabermetric guys. If we unequivocally lay behind and bear down on all his numbers, they kind of wow you.”

    Maybe to those on a outside, that looks like flip-flopping — or like citizens who didn’t take their responsibilities severely adequate early on. But in reality, it’s usually tellurian nature. When some-more people we honour start voting for a guy, since wouldn’t we take another look?

    “I consider we should be open to revisiting a merits of candidates,” Topkin said. “Since we posted my ballot, I’ve, of course, had people ask mockingly, ‘So how many hits did Raines get final year?’ and other identical things. But there is zero wrong with being open-minded. We change a views on other things in life with a advantage of age, wisdom, technology, information and perspective, so evaluating possibilities for a Hall of Fame should not be immune.”

    His friends strike a debate trail

    Unlike politics, a possibilities in this choosing don’t debate for themselves. So a male has have to have friends — unaccepted debate managers “who take it on themselves,” Cook said, “to get a word out.”

    Turned out Raines had a lot of them. And that list starts with Dawson, who chose not to spend his whole initiation debate articulate about himself — given it was “important to me” to tell everybody within reach that his friend, “Rock” Raines, belonged on that podium, too.

    Meanwhile, as other players from Raines’ era got elected, they also took time to discuss his name — if not in their speeches, during slightest in interviews and news conferences. They got their summary across.

    “I started looking some-more closely during him,” pronounced USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, “when Hall of Famers during a initiation rite kept observant that he belongs.”

    Even Keri found himself tiptoeing opposite a line writers routinely feel nice about channel — by reaching out privately around email this winter to citizens who hadn’t voted for Raines in a past.

    “I attempted to be superpolite,” he said, “just saying, ‘Here’s since we opinion for this guy.’ we was usually holding a mainstay we wrote on him and putting it in front of them. It was kind of like approach tweets, solely in their inbox.”

    He admits that a few writers took difference to carrying a associate clerk debate that actively for any player. But as a boyhood fan of a organisation that no longer exists, “I roughly felt like we had a certain immunity,” he joked, “just given a Expos are deceased.”

    “I’m good wakeful it’s uncanny to do something like that,” Keri said. “And we approaching to get called out for it. But we know what? If a male gets in a Hall of Fame, I’m excellent with that.”

    Well, on this life-changing Wednesday in January, his guy, Tim Raines, has finally gotten in a Hall of Fame — some-more than 5,000 days after he played his final game. It’s a covenant to Raines himself, of course. But it’s also a covenant to a relentless spinning of a planet, until a perspective of his career looked like a Cooperstown-worthy collection of achievements it was all along.

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