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Happy Birthday Tim Raines

Montreal Expos v New York Mets Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Tim Raines turns 60 today.

I know he wasn’t with the Blue Jays, but he was a favorite of mine. He was the second best leadoff hitter of his era, likely the second best leadoff hitter of all-time, but he played at the same time as Ricky Henderson.

Tim played for 23 seasons, the first 13 were with the Expos. He played 2502 games, scored 1571 runs., had 2605 hits, 808 stolen bases (with just 146 times caught) and a .294/.385/.425 line. He scored over 100 runs in 6 seasons and led the league in stolen bases 4 times. Tim was second in ROY voting in 1981, made 7 All-Star teams and had 1 Silver Slugger.

I think Raines taught me more about baseball than any player. Get on base. That’s most important. Steal when it helps your team. And have fun.

One of the things Tim taught me was that bad teams focused on the wrong things. After years of playing on the thinly carpeted concrete of Olympic Stadium, Expos’ center fielder Andre Dawson knees were shot. So the Expos moved him over to right field and put Tim in center. Tim had tons of range, it was a good move, but the team didn’t win. So, instead of focusing on the dead weight in the lineup, the team focused on Tim’s relatively weak arm, like that cost them wins. So they moved him back to left and put Herm Winningham in center. Herm came to the Jays in the Gary Carter trade. Herm was terrible. He hit .233/.300/.331 in 3.5 seasons, 399 games with the Expos.

Raines came up through the Expos system as a second baseman. When he got to the majors, the Expos, even though they didn’t have a major league level second baseman, they moved him to the outfield. Not wanting to be mean or anything, but the season before Tim’s rookie year the Expos’ second baseman was Rodney Scott. Scott hit .22/.307/.293 in 1980. Tim’s rookie year, 1981 Scott hit .205/.308/.250 (and amazingly, even with the black hole at second the Expos made the playoffs). Tim would have been a huge upgrade at second base.

But the Expos knew they had something in Raines and second basemen, in those days, were open game for base runners trying to break up a double play. A lot of Tim’s value was his legs, so having guys sliding into them seemed a bad idea. And....even though Scott was pretty terrible, Expos manager Dick Williams loved him. Even Hall of Fame Managers have blind spots. The Expos, even with 3 future Hall of Fame players, only made the playoffs once because they balanced the stars out with guys who were barely replacement level.

Raines had some amazing seasons with the Expos. Well, he was great every season. From 1981 to 1990 Tim put up a bWAR of 48.7.

Raines was a free agent after the 1986 season, at just 27 years old. One would imagine many teams would be backing up the Brinks truck to try to sign him. But that season the owners colluded to keep payroll down. Later the MLB Players Association ‘filed a grievance’. The arbitrator ruled that the owners conspired to keep costs down. So Tim stayed with the Expos.

Raines missed the first month of the season. He played his first game May 1st and went 4 for 4, with a home run, a triple, a walk, a steal, 3 runs scored and 4 RBI. I remember watching that game.

After the 1990 season Tim was traded to the White Sox for Ivan Calderon (who had one good season left in him) and reliever Barry Jones (who also had one good season left in him). The Expos weren’t exactly well run back in the day. You would think if you were trading a star like Raines you’d want some prospect, someone who could help in the future. Tim played 5 seasons with the White Sox, not quite at the same level as he had played with the Expos, hitting .283/.375/.407 with 143 seasons. With Chicago he made the playoffs once, losing out to the Blue Jays in the ALCS, in 1993.

From Chicago he went to the Yankees, winning 2 World Series rings. On his 37th birthday he hit 2 three run home runs for the Yankees, the second was measured at 457 feet, the longest homer for the Yankees that year.

Tim finished out his career with time served with the A’s, Expos again, Orioles (Tim played with his son Tim Jr. with Baltimore) and Marlins, retiring at age 43.

It took 10 years for the BBWAA to get it right and vote Tim into the Hall of Fame in 2017 (I got to visit his plaque this year).

Happy Birthday Tim. Thank you for the memories.