September 16 – Happy Birthday Tim Raines
In an interview I came across over a year ago, Derek Jeter confirmed that Tim Raines was one of his favorite all-time teammates. “Rock” spent three years as a Yankee, from 1996 through 1998 and was an extremely valuable utility outfielder, DH and pinch hitter in each of those seasons. Jeter loved the fact that Raines was always smiling and always looking on the bright side of every situation.
Raines’ baseball life however, had not always been so rosy. The speedy outfielder shocked all of baseball in his 1981 rookie season with the Expos, when he led the National League in stolen bases by compiling an amazing 71 thefts in just 88 games. He won the next three NL stolen base crowns as well, setting a personal season high of 90, in 1983. His lifetime total of 808 places Raines fifth on the All-Time stolen bases list and the thing that separated him from most other big base stealers was his efficiency. Percentage-wise, Rock was thrown out attempting to steal less than any player in history with 300 or more steals.
Raines shocked the baseball world a second time in a different way when it was revealed that he had played the first part of his career addicted to cocaine. I still remember reading his revelation that he would make head first slides on stolen base attempts so that he would not break the vials of cocaine he regularly carried in his uniform back pocket during Expos’ games. He credits his Montreal teammate, Andre Dawson, with getting him into rehab and swears he’s been off the stuff since. But cocaine wasn’t the only thing that hurt Raines career.
Back in the eighties, MLB owners began to privately rebel against free agency. They had grown tired of the system’s bidding wars and dealing with players’ agents and decided among themselves that they were not going to play anymore. As a result, upper tier players like Raines and Dawson, who entered free agency in the late eighties found no demand for their services. The owners collectively simply stopped bidding for stars from other teams and Raines, who had been expecting a huge payday, was forced to re-sign with the Expos for what he felt was a token raise. The courts eventually ruled in the players’ favor and owner collusion ended. Raines finally got the opportunity to shop his talents after the 1990 season and left the tight-fisted Montreal organization to sign a five-year $20 million dollar deal with the White Sox. He did not have his greatest statistical years during his time in the Windy City but his performance was solid and he had a great influence on young White Sox players like Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura. Raines’ Chicago teams won many more games than they lost.
His base-stealing days were behind him by the time he joined New York but he could still handle a bat and get on base, averaging .299 with an on base percentage of close to .400 during his stint in Pinstripes. Like Jeter described in the interview, whenever a television camera panned Raines sitting in the Yankee dugout, he always had a huge smile on his face. Why not? This was a guy who battled cocaine and collusion and was now getting the opportunity in the twilight of his career to win three World Series rings as a member of a great team. His bat, base running and outfield defense were all important parts of that Yankee team’s winning formula and his veteran leadership had a huge influence in that Yankee clubhouse.
Raines was born on September 16, 1959 in Seminole, FL.