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article imageTime is running out for Expo Tim Raines to make the Hall of Fame

By Jack Derricourt     Dec 7, 2016 in Sports
Time is running out for Montreal Expos hero Tim Raines. The stellar leadoff hitter is in the last year of his eligibility for election to the Hall of Fame (HOF).
It’s not often a Canadian member of parliament stands up to honour a baseball player. Especially when that MP represents St. Catharines, Ontario — and he’s praising a Montreal Expos player. MP Chris Bittles is a Toronto Blue Jays fan, but that didn’t stop him from standing up to say his piece about how deserving Raines is of a Hall of Fame spot in 2017.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame is where baseball honours its legends. The greatest players to grace the diamond have their plaques in Cooperstown. And to get there, players need to be voted in — either by the Baseball Writer’s Association of America or the Eras Committee (BWAA). A vote of 75 percent or above by the BWAA will enshrine a lucky player into the hallowed Hall. Tim Raines sits at 69.8 percent of the needed vote as of 2016.
It’s a race against time to see if Raines makes it into the Hall. The BWAA recently changed the rules, limiting the time that a player can remain on the HOF list of eligible players — from 15 years down to 10. His support has risen gradually since he was first on the ballot, to settle just short of 75 percent during the last round of votes. That means he’s got a good shot during his last year of eligibility.
The Expos roster of Hall of Fame players is the rarest of breeds — thanks to the team folding in 2004, the pool is growing ever-smaller every year. Andre Dawson and Gary Carter wear Expos caps on their Hall of Fame plaques. Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson, two of the greatest pitchers of all time, both opted for different caps when heading into the Hall in 2015, further reducing the number of famous Expos alumni preserved in the Hall.
The case for Raines is strong. He received the 1981 Rookie Player of the Year award. He won a Silver Slugger and the National League Batting Title in 1986. He was an all star in seven consecutive seasons. He’s one of the two greatest position players the Expos ever had: he holds franchise records for stolen bases (635), singles (1,163) and triples (82). Raines has the most Wins Above Replacement for the team right after legend and Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter — Raines is 48.9 over his 13 years with the team, while Carter has an astonishing 55.6 over 12 seasons.
He stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the greatest base stealers and hitters to play the game. Raines’ record of six seasons of 70+ stolen bases is second only to the great Ricky Henderson (who has seven). And in terms of production, Raines was very close to the late, great Tony Gwynn — who was voted into the Hall of Fame on his first year of eligibility.
So what’s stopping his election to the HOF? Well, the two biggest factors are the class of other possibilities crowding Raines out. There’s only so many people that can make it into the Hall, and the last two years have been flooded with some of the greatest of the great. Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza stole the limelight (deservedly) of any other lesser legends that might have been hoping to move in. And before that, the undeniable talents of Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez kept things from moving forward for a lot of other Hall of Fame quality folks. This year, the BWAA’s hesitance over PED use may help Raines’ case, as two of the biggest newly inducted players, Manny Ramirez and Ivan Rodriguez, are marred by a history of steroid use.
However, speaking of drug use, Raines was caught up in the Pittsburgh drug trials around cocaine in the 80s, testifying that he had used the drug during games. Raines was not suspended unlike other players, but was subject to random drug testing for the rest of his career. In light of the MLB’s nuanced approach to ‘drugs of abuse’ in the current era, and the induction of Bud Selig (who oversaw the very damaging steroid era, to the Hall of Fame) this protest towards Raines should hold less water now.
While Raines' greatness lives on in the hearts of Canadian baseball fans, and in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, it’s now up to the members of the BWAA to see if there will be another Expos cap in Cooperstown.
More about Tim Raines, Hall of fame, Montreal expos, Baseball, 2017
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