Tim Raines likes to classify himself as one of those “weird guys” who never really got nervous during his 23-year major league career. But his case to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame — which is in its 10th and final year — just might be changing that personality trait.
“Coming now to this point, being my last year on the ballot and being so close, it’s getting a little nerve-wracking,” Raines said. “I think those nerves are starting to set in. I just can’t wait until it’s over now.”
Raines’ Hall of Fame credentials at one point were a battleground for the old school vs. new school battle that's raged in baseball circles ever since the "Moneyball" days of the early 2000s. But his .294 batting average, .385 on base percentage, 808 stolen bases, 364 more walks than strikeouts and 69.1 WAR have been viewed in an increasingly favorable light by Hall of Fame voters in recent years.
“Rock” Raines received 69.8 percent of the vote in 2016, falling just 23 votes shy of the 75 percent to earn induction into the Hall of Fame. This year’s mark is significantly up from 55 percent in 2015, 46.1 percent in 2013, 52.2 percent in 2012, 48.7 percent in 2011 and 37.5 percent in 2010. No player who has received 68 percent of the Hall of Fame vote has failed to be inducted.
“This is probably the first year out of the nine years that I’ve been on the ballot that I really, really feel like I have a chance,” Raines said.
Raines is back on Chicago’s South Side for the White Sox “Homecoming Weekend,” along with former teammates Jack McDowell, Lance Johnson and Roberto Hernandez. Raines only spent five seasons with the White Sox (1991-1995), but he made a major impact on those teams — four of which finished over .500. His best year in Chicago came in 1993, when his .306/.401/.480 slash line helped push the White Sox to an American League West title.
“He was one of the guys that, once we had our core group, you bring a guy like that in and it bumps us up to contention level,” McDowell said.
Added Johnson: “He was already a Hall of Famer when he came to us.”
Raines seems likely to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017, along with former Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell, who received 71.6 percent of the vote in 2016, and perhaps former San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman. Ivan Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero will debut on the ballot next year but aren’t locks to be first-ballot inductees, so making up those 23 votes may not be too difficult.
Even though the numbers point to Raines making it, the nerves will only continue to build until the balloting results are announced in January 2017.
“For those 23 that wanna vote for me next year, please,” Raines smiled. “I’ll be grateful.”
But with or without the Hall of Fame, Raines is proud of what he accomplished in baseball and how he went about doing it.
“I had a really great career, I know it personally, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Raines said. “I loved every minute of playing the game. It’s just a situation now where I have an opportunity to close that chapter of my career. Hopefully it’s getting in. If I don’t, it’s not the end of the world.
“But I just know the things that I did on the field, I enjoyed doing it and I’m sure the fans that cheered for me and cheered against me enjoyed seeing me and doing the things that I did. I would love for it to happen. It would be something that I never really thought of when I first started playing the game, or even when I finished playing the game. That never was a thought in my mind that Hall of Fame would even be a chance.”