• Raines gains, but falls short of Hall election
"I'm excited about the chances of maybe next year [getting in]," Raines said via telephone. "The odds of getting in are much better than any other year. It's not a given. I can't say congratulations or have a party like that. I know that I still have to get those last few votes."
Raines' stats haven't changed since he became eligible for the Hall of Fame nine years ago. Most of the damage he inflicted from the top of the batting order was as a member of the Expos and White Sox. During Raines' prime of 1981-92, he scored 90 or more runs eight times, led the league in stolen bases four times, was an All-Star seven times and hit .290 or better seven times. As an everyday player, he had an on-base percentage of .390 or better eight times and a WAR of six or better five times, according to Fangraphs.
"I loved being a catalyst, start things and get things going," Raines said about his game.
Among Raines' many dominant seasons, his 1987 campaign stands out -- and he had a lot to prove that year. He became a free agent after winning the National League batting crown the previous season, but he didn't have a true chance to test the market because he was affected by what was ultimately deemed by an arbitrator to be collusion by the owners.
Raines wasn't able to sign with the Expos until May 1, but he made up for lost time, leading the NL in runs scored and finishing seventh in the NL MVP Award voting. He called it his most memorable year. Raines played his first game of the season on May 2, against the Mets, and went 4-for-5, including a 10th-inning grand slam against left-hander Jesse Orosco. Raines admitted he was nervous before the game.
"I didn't have Spring Training. I had to work out with a high school team for a couple of weeks," Raines said. "The first game was probably the most nerve-racking game I've ever played. I was so nervous because I couldn't hit a ball out of the cage during batting practice. We're in New York playing the Mets. It was the game of the week. I had six years in the league then.
"Knowing it was my first game of the season, it's already a month into the season, I haven't seen a Major League pitcher since the previous year, and they are throwing me into the wolves. You put that all in the mix and you say, 'Go get them.'"
Raines, who played for 23 years, ranks fifth all-time in stolen bases (808) and recorded 2,605 hits and 1,571 runs scored. Even when his days as an everyday player were over, he proved to be a valuable reserve, helping the Yankees win World Series titles in 1996 and '98. In his three years in New York, Raines had a .395 on-base percentage and a .299 batting average.
Asked why baseball writers are starting to recognize what he accomplished on the diamond, Raines credits technology and extensive research by the writers.
"People have started to research the numbers," Raines said. "I'm not sure how these guys vote. I think baseball has changed. I think it's about numbers. When I played, it wasn't really about that -- on-base percentage, RBIs -- we knew we did all that stuff, but it was just that.
"From a technology standpoint, you can pretty much find out what everybody is doing today. When I played, a lot of the information really didn't get out. I played in Montreal for 12 years. We were the game of the week maybe once or twice in those 12 years. The country didn't get to see you unless you were in that city."