(Updated Jan. 18, 2017)
I’m ambivalent about Tim Raines being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in January 2017.
I’m not ambivalent, however, on the topic of who among Raines and Lou Brock was the greatest ballplayer.
It’s Brock, hands down.
In making the case for Raines to be elected to the Hall of Fame, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that Raines compares favorably with Brock, the former Cardinals outfielder who was inducted into the Hall in 1985.
Shea doesn’t knock Brock. Instead, he devotes one paragraph of his piece to point out Raines tops Brock in categories such as on-base percentage (.343 for Brock; .385 for Raines) and stolen base success rate (Brock swiped 938 bases in 1,245 tries; Raines swiped 808 in 954 tries). Shea also explains Raines had more home runs (170 to Brock’s 149) and more RBI (980 to Brock’s 900) in fewer plate appearances (11,235 for Brock; 10,359 for Raines).
All fine, if the point is to show why Raines, who spent most of his career with the Expos and White Sox, is of Hall of Fame caliber. But it’s no measure of greatness.
My 5 most important reasons why Brock was the superior ballplayer:
1. Brock achieved 3,000 hits; Raines didn’t. The 3,000-hit mark long has been an accurate measurement that separates greatness from very good. Brock had 3,023 hits (24th all-time). Raines had 2,605 hits (76th all-time).
2. Brock excelled on baseball’s largest and most intense stage: the World Series. Raines didn’t. Brock batted .391 with 4 home runs, 13 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 21 World Series games. Raines batted .214 with no homers, no RBI and no stolen bases in 4 World Series games.
3. Brock (938) had 130 more stolen bases than Raines (808). Brock’s total is a National League record. Brock led his league in steals eight times. Raines did it four times.
4. Brock had 4,238 total bases (63rd all-time). Raines had 3,771 total bases (110th all-time).
5. Brock five times placed in the top 10 in his league’s Most Valuable Player Award voting. Raines was in the top 10 three times.