It took ten years, but Tim Raines will finally take his rightful place in Cooperstown, with the rest of baseball’s immortals.
One of the league’s most-prolific, leadoff men through the 80’s and 90’s, Raines had several factors working against him. One, his prime years were spent in the baseball purgatory of Montreal. Two, his career played out parallel to that of the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time, Rickey Henderson.
Finally, his candidacy gained steam as baseball became swept up by the massive tide of analytics. Raines was no less-deserving of induction, ten years ago; we just have better ways of measuring and appreciating his contributions, nowadays.
It’s a win for Expos fans and journalists who have been carrying the Raines’ torch for years. Most prominent of that crowd is CBS Sports’ Jonah Keri, who all but went door to door with a pitchfork, in Raines’ last year of ballot-eligibility.
In a perfect world, we have reached a point where voters have become enlightened enough that there will never be another Raines situation. However, there are some interesting candidates coming up, whose statistical achievements put them on Cooperstown’s doorstep.
Here are a few names of such players, who will be eligible in 2018:
1453 Runs, 2470 Hits, 288 HR, 1363 RBI, 400 SB, .291/.395/.475
1 gold glove, 2x all-star, 59.9 WAR
Twice deemed expendable – first in the 1997 expansion draft, then subsequently by the team that first plucked him – Bobby Abreu blossomed into a one-man offensive machine in Philadelphia.
A .300 hitter, for most of his career, Abreu is also a member of the rare, 200-400 club. There are only 11 members in the eclectic group that includes Bobby and Barry Bonds, Paul Molitor and Ricky Henderson.
Abreu ranks first all-time among Venezuelan-born players in runs scored. He wore pitchers out, averaging 4.29 pitches per plate appearance. He was a great base-runner, who stole 400 bases at an excellent, 75% rate of success.
So how is Abreu’s case for the hall? He will be hurt by his home run and RBI totals, which are relatively-low for a corner outfielder. He topped out at 31 home runs, in 2001 – one of only two seasons of 30+ blasts.
On the defensive side, he did manage to win a gold glove. For the most part, however, he was regarded as a capable, but un-extraordinary, right fielder.
Amazingly, he was only an all-star twice – which, to voters, may be the most damning blot on his record. Abreu will probably be relegated to the hall of very good.
269-209 W-L, 4.25 ERA, 2441 SO, 1.322 WHIP
1x all-star, 50.2 WAR
Moyer lacks the statistical benchmarks favored by old-school voters (300 wins, 3,000 strikeouts) and never had the peripherals that stat-heads love either (pedestrian 5.4 K/9 for his career).
And yet, there was Moyer, still pitching-effectively, well into his 40s. At 45, an age when most Hall of Famers are signing autographs, Moyer won 16 games for the Phillies.
His style of pitching was documented in the book “Moneyball”, in which hitters describe how Moyer “preys on your aggression.”
He got into their heads by throwing stuff at speeds hitters hadn’t seen since youth leagues. And he succeeded, because he was able to throw strikes (2.6 career BB%) and locate his pitches.
Moyer isn’t an all-time great. However, he was such a unique player that he deserves at least a passing mention in Cooperstown.
His strongest case is his longevity and the 269 wins. It will be interesting to see how much stock voters put into those factors.
1211 Runs, 2077 Hits, 316 HR, 1287 RBI, 118 SB, .281/.364/.490
1 Rookie of the Year, 8 gold gloves, 7x all-star, 70 WAR
Rolen will be one of the ultimate tests of Sabermetrics clout, because he didn’t stick around long enough to accumulate the gaudy, counting stats usually associated with HOF candidates. In his prime, however, Rolen was one of the best third basemen to ever play the game – a player who got on base, hit for power and played elite defense.
Rolen’s candidacy receives its biggest-boost from that last category. He ranks fifth all-time in defensive runs saved at the hot corner. He finished with eight gold gloves, and could have had more had he not gotten injured so much.
And, that was the main issue. Rolen injured his shoulder in 2005. While he returned and was effective, he was never quite the same player again. A dangerous hitter in his prime, Rolen would hit just 90 home runs after turning 30.
As it stands, he ranks in the top 10 for career WAR among third basemen. Of the ten, seven have already been enshrined in Cooperstown. The other two – Chipper Jones and Adrian Beltre – are surefire-locks to get in.
Voters will have to be willing to overlook the low home run and RBI totals – figures that will look worse if the BBWAA decides to start putting in admitted steroids users. Rolen is first-eligible in 2018, but his HOF wait will be much longer.
He will sneak in, but it might take close to the full, ten years on the ballot for it to happen.