When I interviewed Jonah Keri in early January of 2010, he stated that “Tim Raines isnâ€™t in the Hall of Fame because he didnâ€™t have the good sense to exchange 400 walks for 400 singles.”
Had that little swap taken place, newly selected 2013 Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Raines would have retired with over 3,000 hits and would have almost certainly been a lock for Cooperstown (our apologies, Craig Biggio).
For a player who reached base more than Tony Gwynn, Roberto Clemente and Lou Brock (Hall of Famers all), Raines seems to have beenÂ wounded by the double-headed monster of playing his prime years in theÂ relative obscurity of Montreal and that his career paralleled that of baseball’s greatest lead-off hitter, Rickey Henderson.
“I never let it bother me we were similar types of players,” RainesÂ said at the inductees conference call. Â “Similar in that we were lead-off guys, stole a lot of bases and made things happen. I didn’t care one way or the other about the comparison, but I never tried to compare myself to him.”
Though Raines states that he never let the comparison to Henderson bother him, he notes that for as much asÂ that comparision may have hurt him , it could end up a blessing in disguise.
“He’s in the Hall of Fame, so I hopeÂ (the writers) Â continue to compare us, because if he’s in, maybe I can get in as well,” Raines said.
Though Raines stated that the games of both elite lead-off hitters were similar, but there were some things that he did better than Henderson.
When asked what those things were, Raines paused before replying “It’s hard to say. I’d rather not go into it,” with a laugh.
Raines continued, “It’s hard to say you do things better than a Hall of Famer, so I’ll leave it at that,” continuing to laugh.
Raines may not be willing to discuss what he did better than Henderson, or other Hall of Famers (see above statement), but I am:
Raines concluded his playing days with a higher on-base percentage than Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays and Derek Jeter, scored more runs than Reggie Jackson, Max Carey, Frankie Frisch, Wade Boggs, Eddie Matthews, Roberto Alomar and Al Simmons and accumulated more hits than Ernie Banks and Richie Ashburn, all while ranking fifth all-time for stolen bases behind only Henderson, Brock, Billy Hamilton (the original) and some guy named Tyrus Raymond Cobb.
You’ll note all are either Hall of Famers, or could be. You’ll alsoÂ notice my disdainÂ with having beenÂ left with little choice but to use the word “could”Â instead ofÂ “will” because of A-Rod’s shenanigans.
Far too often, the writers seem to forget that it’s not about being the best of all-time, but rather about being in the conversation, and when it comes to lead-off men, only Henderson’s name is mentioned before Raines.
That wouldÂ require a modicum of good sense, though, so maybe I’m asking too much of the voters.