With one vote to go, Tim Raines is on the cusp of Cooperstown.
But two former teammates can’t believe it already has taken this long for Raines’ quest to gain entry into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
One of the greatest leadoff hitters of all-time, Raines fell 23 votes shy of the 75 percent threshold required to be elected last month. Raines’ 69.8 percent total is his strongest showing in nine years on the ballot and gives plenty of room for optimism he could be inducted in 2017. But even so, the uncertainty bothers White Sox manager Robin Ventura, who played alongside Raines from 1991-95.
“It’s hard when you start looking at guys that should be in that aren’t in and you see him on the last time,” Ventura said. “You feel like something needs to change.
“He’s as dominant as any guy.”
A seven-time All-Star, Raines produced 69.1 b-Wins Above Replacement in his career, good for 106th all-time. He’s 37th all-time in walks (1,330), 54th in runs scored (1,571), 47th in times on base (3,977) and 79th with 2,605 hits.
Raines also perfected the art of the stolen base. Not only is he fifth all-time with 808 steals, he’s 13th in stolen base percentage as he converted of 84.7 percent of his tries -- “when he went, he was safe,” Ventura said.
Frank Thomas groups Raines with Rickey Henderson and Pete Rose as the greatest leadoff men in baseball history. Thomas, a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2014, said Raines’ impact went beyond the numbers, too.
“He was a great mentor, a great teammate, one of the best teammates ever,” Thomas said. “You meet a couple of guys that rub you that way your whole career and Tim was one. He was a positive impact on a lot of people. And like I said, he had a career that he went through some ups and downs. But he learned and he always talked to young kids.”
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
Raines is the player most affected by the HOF’s new voting procedures, rules that went into effect two years ago. Whereas players previously could remain on the ballot for up to 15 years, now they only have 10 (exemptions were made for candidates who already were in the 11-15 year window).
In his ninth year, Raines saw an increase from 55 percent to 69.8. Those figures are up from 46.1 percent in 2014. With an increase of more than 23 percent of the electorate over the past two votes, Raines’ chances of election are strong with only Jeff Bagwell (71.6 percent) having finished ahead of him in 2016 without getting elected.
“I hope he gets in,” Thomas said. “He deserved to get in this year. Rock’s one of my best friends in life.
“He has the momentum, but he deserves it. I think people overshadowed him (in 2016). But if you look at his numbers, he’s the best power-hitting leadoff hitter of all time. You look at his numbers, they’re crazy.”