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It’s Hall of Fame Week at Umpbump. We’ll be taking a look at the guys on the ballot and giving you our take on who does and doesn’t belong in Cooperstown. Up next is Tim Raines, who may, or may not get into the Hall of Fame, but he sure deserves a chance.

tim_raines.jpgLet me begin with a disclosure: I’ve never given much thought to the Hall of Fame or the voting process. I understand its a matter that can make or break what would be considered to be a storied career. The Hall of Fame is a place for legends, or so they say. Whereas, to me at least, the Hall of Fame used to be a tourist attraction for those high enough on their baseball knowledge to want to make the trek to Cooperstown, the institution is slowly becoming a morality prism by which we give a the thumbs up or down to our baseball heroes. And it may function as the whopping stick by which the baseball writers of this era will chastise the steroids and HGH users (and deniers).

And some will say, “what’s wrong with that?”

Frankly, the cynic in me cannot take the past two decades of baseball and its “historic” streak at face value. It’s evident the game is full of liars and cheats (and douche bags). And for an institution to still have integrity and want to present great baseball people, not only for their abilities on the field, but for their outstanding character, is a noble endeavor.

As is understanding the context of things.

Take Tim Raines. I was too young to discern the good players from the bad during his playing days (I’d dare say I only became “baseball cognizant” in the mid nineties – and what a time to do it). So what I know about Raines is what I can learn from some research and from the fact that he was a member of the storied White Sox squad of ’94, who could’ve gone all the way.

I’m glad there are some who think he ought to be in the Hall. Baseball Prospectus’ Jay Jaffe said it best:

Raines could take over a game, as his comeback from collusion-driven contract limbo and his bravura performance at the 1987 All-Star Game showed. Even past his prime, he evolved into a charismatic, highly-sought role player, a staple of two engaging Yankees champions from Joe Torre’s early tenure. While he didn’t win an MVP award, the seven-time All-Star’s skills hardly went unappreciated by those hip to Bill James’ sabermetric measures, which valued his ability to get on base and his efficiency once he got there.

But to others that’s not enough; Bugs and Cranks eliminated Rock in round two of their fake HOF ballot:

• Tim Raines – Rock Raines should get some kind of an award for stealing all those bases on the awful turf at Stade Olympique and still having enough left to sustain a long career. As Raines got older, he became a great student of the game, understanding the value of getting on base any way he could. But he was a base-stealer and not even the best base-stealer of his era. Rickey, of course, was the king. But Raines also could be forgotten for Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, Alan Wiggins and a whole slew of guys who ran the bases like jackrabbits. I’m gonna say no to Tim Raines.

And then there’s Rock’s drug use. Something I feel is irrelevant to the question at hand: Does Tim Raines, as a baseball player, deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?

Take this post at Suite101 that tries to make a case that cocaine use is not the same as steroid use, and thusly, it cannot be used to leave him out of the Hall.

In 1982, Tim Raines admitted using cocaine. He used crack cocaine before, after and even during games and said that he would slide head first because he had bags of cocaine in his pocket that might fall out if he slide feet first.

tim-raines-snes.jpgI’m not excusing the fact he used it (and the real possibility of him using it during a game). And if you were to ask me, using cocaine during a game is far worse than betting on the result of said game. But I don’t think chastising Raines now for doing something stupid in his twenties is the way to operate. I’d say some twenty-something people these days would be next in line for the lines alongside a young Rock.

In fact, when in 1986 Baseball suspended Keith Hernandez and others [reg. req.], including Raines, for their Cocaine use, Rock had admitted his role and had undergone treatment. The point is, he regretted his mistakes and that’s commendable.

We can’t be so naïve to think that Baseball (and society in general) is so clean as to stand from our moral perch and deny Raines a place in the Hall of Fame because of his drug use. So what Raines “said” he slid head first so the bags of blow wouldn’t dust the base paths at Stade Olympique? Wilt Chamairlain said he slept with 10,000 women and they also tell us he scored 100 points in a game. There are feats of sport and then there are the self-aggrandizing jocks behind them.

Ok, so Raines wasn’t being self-serving by saying he had bags of coke in his pants, but I don’t think we can really believe that.

And we can’t be so elitist (and morally hypocritical) to think that Raines, having regretted his mistakes (something Bonds and MacGwire keep forgetting to do), doesn’t deserve an up-and-down vote that looks at his baseball achievements while setting aside his troubled past.

Rock doesn’t need your spite, he needs your HOF vote.

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