The ballot has gotten crowded in recent years and there are a lot of different voters who are playing moral police about who should and shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame based on whether or not they have been linked to steroids or not. In some cases, like Bagwell and Piazza, just the mere suspicion has been enough to keep them outside of the Hall.
It's the final year that former Expos outfielder Tim Raines can make Hall via the regular writers ballot. If I had a ballot I would vote for him in a second. I will go over some of the reasons a little further down the page, but first lets look at a Raines card from long ago.....
the often ignored 1981 Topps Expos Future Stars card. These have always sort of been a staple in Topps sets, I know they aren't in at the moment, but have taken on many different forms over the years. The 1980s ones always seemed to have some decent/noteworthy player on the card along with two players who were completely missable. See the Cal Ripken rookie card.
Both Ramos and Pate played less than 100 games in the Majors. I did not try to find either player to ask them their feelings about this card, but I am guessing they think it's pretty cool to have a card with a great player.
I found it interesting that Raines was listed as a second baseman on this card. I actually found it on his other rookie cards too. After a little researching on Baseball Reference it appears that Raines played second base throughout his Minor League career, but was placed in the outfield in favor of Doug Flynn and Rodney Scott when he reached the Majors.
Maybe the only part of this card that I am not thrilled about is.....
is the back. Sure, there is that cool vintage Topps logo next to each of the players names, but they could have done more with this space outside of just putting down the players vitals. Still, I like this look better than some of the more modern prospect cards that are overly busy on the back.
Now, about Raines being in the Hall.
Two biggest things that Raines had going against him during his career were:
1. He spent his best years playing on the Expos
2. He played at the same time as Rickey Henderson who was a better similar player.
Now the positives. Raines is rated the seventh best left fielder in baseball history according to Jay Jaffe. His WAR is 69.1 which is higher than modern Hall of Famers/Hall of Fame candidates such as Jim Rice, Lou Brock, Billy Williams, and 0.1 lower than Manny Ramirez. If you use his WAR7, best seven seasons, he is 2 WAR ahead of Manny and 2 WAR below Pete Rose. Pretty good company.
Looking at counting numbers, it true that Raines never reached 3,000 hits, but his on-base percentage is .385, with 6 seasons above .400. He has four hundred more walks than strikeouts over his 23 year career. Raines also has more than 400 doubles and 800 stolen bases. The stolen base mark places him fifth on the all-time list.
In summation, I have no problem saying that Tim Raines was not the best lead off hitter of his generation. That distinction easily goes to Rickey Henderson. However, I would argue that Raines was the second greatest lead off hitter of his generation and rates better than other speedster in the Hall such as Lou Brock. I'd vote Raines into the Hall if I had a vote, and hopefully this year enough baseball writers will finally agree with the numbers and put him in Cooperstown.