Tim Raines has a chance to join former Expos teammates Gary Carter and Andre Dawson in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and he appears to be gaining some momentum. In 2012, the switch-hitting outfielder received 48.7 percent of the vote, an increase over the 37.5 percent he received the previous year.
A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote from eligible Baseball Writers' Association of America members to gain election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Shortstop Barry Larkin (86.4) earned his ticket to Cooperstown on the 2012 ballot. Starting pitcher Jack Morris (66.7 percent) and first baseman Jeff Bagwell (56 percent) are the top returning vote-getters from last year.
Raines played during an era in which Rickey Henderson was the dominant leadoff hitter, but the man known as "Rock" was a difference-maker himself.
Most of the damage Raines inflicted from the top of the batting order was as a member of the Expos and White Sox. From 1981 to 1992, 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.
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 1998.
Asked a couple of years ago on MLB Network if he was overlooked because he played in the same era as Henderson, Raines said, "Somewhat, but I think the difference was he played in the American League and I was in the National League, which kind of helped a little bit. We were kind of like rivals, but we never really played each other. If you look at the National League side, people would probably be saying the same thing about me like they said about him in the American League."
Dawson, who played with Raines for eight years in Montreal, believes his former teammate belongs in Cooperstown.
"You are talking about a player who played 20-something years. He was consistent and steady. He was a catalyst. For what his requirements were, he did it real well," Dawson said two years ago. "He was Rickey Henderson, minus all the leadoff home runs. He was probably better defensively -- more so with a strong throwing arm."
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 NL 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.
He wasn't able to sign with the Expos until May 1, but he made up for lost time. He played his first game of the season the next day, against the Mets, and went 4-for-5, including a 10th-inning grand slam.
"He had no Spring Training, and we were playing in New York," said Jim Fanning, who was a general manager, manager and broadcaster during Raines' time with the Expos. "It's his first game back. He hits a home run right-handed. He was an absolute star of that game. I remember [broadcaster] Dave Van Horne and I were saying, 'What is this Spring Training business all about, anyway? Everybody can get in condition on their own. Who needs it?'"
Raines ended up leading the NL in runs scored and finished third in the Senior Circuit with a .330 batting average.
Raines almost didn't become the player fans grew to know. After he was taken by the Expos in the fifth round of the 1977 First-Year Player Draft, Fanning, then the GM, envisioned Raines to be the next Joe Morgan. Raines was drafted as a second baseman, and the team believed that, like Morgan, Raines would become a player who displayed a lot of power.
But the predictions proved premature. Raines had a tough time playing defense in the infield. He didn't have the range to play second base, and he had trouble turning the double play. Switching to left field in 1981 was the best thing that happened to him.
"It was not a difficult switch to put him in the outfield. In fact, it was easy," Fanning said. "I'm not surprised by the career he had. He had a knack how to play this game. He was a delight to watch. It didn't make a difference who the pitcher was."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less