By: Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
Tom Reich and Randy Grossman know Tim Raines about as good as anybody.
Both are lawyers: Reich the agent par excellence, who handled Raines’ contracts to play, Grossman the crack agent, who takes care of his marketing opportunities.
Over the course of the last 40 years in a career that has ventured into semi-retirement, Reich established himself as one of the best in the game, the go-to guy many players wanted as their representative at the bargaining table. He’s still offering advice as a consultant to players and agents.
Raines was starting to receive some go-sees and auditions by the Expos, first in 1979 and then more in 1980, just around the time he needed some financial advice and contract assistance. The person to give him that advice was Reich, who had been in baseball’s labour-movement business going back to the early 1970s.
“I represented him his whole career, since he was a rookie,’’ Reich was saying proudly on the phone the other day. “He was one of the guys I met through other guys. Tim was one of the really nice guys.
“He was really popular. A really, really good guy, down to earth. He was one of my favourite players without question. When you represented guys like Tim, you’d think you were in heaven.’’
As Raines nears his deserved spot in Cooperstown with the Jan. 18 announcement looming, Pittsburgh-based Reich and Grossman, who practices law in San Diego, are all supportive.
“I do believe he has a very good shot at getting in this time. I surely hope he does get in,’’ Reich said.
“Tim is on the ballot for the 10th and last time,’’ said Grossman, who first met up with Raines more than 30 years ago in 1986. “I have said he got cheated. It used to be that you were on the ballot for 15 years but then with the thing about performance-enhancement drugs, the limit was changed to 10 years.
“I hope Tim doesn’t get caught up in a numbers’ game. We will see what happens. Historically, you get a bump in the final year.’’
Raines received 69.8% of the ballots in 2016 and this past Dec. 30 was the deadline this for voters to hand in their choices for 2017 with the induction event set for July 30. A player must receive at 75% of the votes.
If it’s an indication, early results through Jan. 1 show that one-third of the voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America are 91% in favour of Raines getting in this year, according to Ryan Thibodaux who has been keeping tabs on writers, who publicly reveal their results. Yet, two-thirds of the voting results are unaccounted for.
Lee Smith, who recorded his last major-league save with the Expos in 1997, is on the ballot for the 15th and final time. He was a player grandfathered in when the 10-year rule was announced in 2014. He’s unlikely to be voted in this time but he could down the road be selected by the Today’s Game Era committee.
If ESPN had been a going concern in the 1980s like it is today, Grossman thinks Raines would be in the Hall of Fame already, adding to his berth a few years ago in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Tim played in Montreal where nobody really saw him,’’ Grossman said. “He was an absolutely tremendous player.’’
Raines batted .294 lifetime with 808 steals, 1,576 runs, 2,605 hits, 430 doubles and 113 triples. With the help of 1,330 bases on balls, his OBP was .385. If only there was no strike-shortened season in 1981. Otherwise, those statistics would have been much better.
Raines struck out only 966 times. To boot, he played on two World Series winners with the Yankees and was a coach with the 2005 World Series-champion White Sox.
“Players who played with Tim loved him,’’ Grossman said. “Tim transcends a fan-favourite. He was approachable, down to earth, easy going. Derek Jeter credits Tim for helping him get to his first World Series.
“Tim was getting toward the end of his career when he was with the Yankees. He didn’t have the same skill set, he wasn’t one of the top players anymore but he had a calming presence with the Yankees. He kept them loose. He told them not to take themselves too seriously.’’
So when Raines is likely inducted in July, don’t be surprised if Jeter is one of his invited guests. And when Jeter is a first-ballot inductee in 2021, look for Raines to be on his guest list.
What many people forget is that Raines sat out the 2000 season because of an attack of lupus. It’s been in remission for a number of years, although it’s not curable, just treatable. Grossman figures that the symptoms of the disease began affecting Raines in the days he spent with the Yankees from 1996-98 but doctors didn’t realize it at the time.
“He was having these injuries late in his career, a broken wrist, a broken finger, hamstring problems but he found that it was the lupus was the reason he was having these issues with injuries,’’ Grossman said. “It attacked his kidneys. They put him on steroids and he ballooned and put on a lot of weight. But he doesn’t have the symptoms anymore. He can leave a normal life.’’
Jeff Bagwell is the highest vote getter among holdovers from last January. He received 71.6% and Trevor Hoffman was third behind Raines at 67.3.
HighHigh profile first-time candidates Pudge Rodriquez and former Expos star Vladdy Guerrero are receiving a large number of votes in the early going with results being recorded by tracker Thibodaux, whose Twitter handle is @NotMrTibbs.
Raines would go into Cooperstown with an Expos’ logo on his plaque and hopefully, the same will be for Guerrero, if he gets in. Guerrero also could be elected into the Canadian hall in early February. Imagine. Guerrero played 7.25 seasons for the Expos, six for the Angels.
“Tim was the National League’s Rickey Henderson. He was a sparkplug, a tremendous player. He was sensational from the beginning,’’ Reich said.
Whereas Henderson wasn’t averse to braggadocio, pomposity and declaring that I am the Greatest when he broke Lou Brock’s stolen-base record May 1, 1991, Raines is his anti-thesis, preferring modesty, humility and making people laugh.
“Tim was a different personality. He wasn’t a pampered player. He was a real guy, a special kind of guy, never a show-off, never in your face,’’ Reich said.
“I met Tim in January, 1986 in Palm Springs, Calif.,’’ Grossman said. “He was recruited to play in the AT & T Baseball Challenge where major-league players like Bo Jackson and Mike Schmidt competed in throwing, hitting and running. He almost missed his flight.
“Tim ended up winning the whole competition. He was one of the best players in baseball then, certainly among the top ones. I developed a friendship and close relationship with Tim. He’s a gregarious personality. He gets along good with everybody. I did marketing deals for him and signed him to do a commercial for Globe Motors in New York.’’
Grossman is tight enough with Raines that the two chat at least once a week. Grossman also played a large role in arranging for Raines’ memoir to be published later this year. The tome was originally intended to hit bookstores June 1 but powerhouse Harper Collins Publishers wants to release the book in the spring in Canada while Triumph Books of Chicago will do the same in the U.S.
Written with help from American journalist Alan Maimon, the 260-page hardcover is called Rock Solid: My Life in Baseball’s Fast Lane and will be available in Canada April 4, according to an order form posted online by Canadian bookstore giant Chapters/Indigo. It may even make sense to have the books available when the Blue Jays host the Pittsburgh Pirates in an exhibition series in Montreal March 31 and April 1. Bet that Raines will be doing numerous book signings this year, including on Main St. in Cooperstown in late July.
With widely respected Harper Collins involved, don’t be surprised if this book is a Canadian best-seller with 5,000 sold copies the benchmark. Chapters/Indigo will be supporting this book enthusiastically. You also have to think the book would sell nicely in New York and Chicago, two U.S. megacities where Raines played.
“This memoir entails the life and playing career of one of the sport’s all-time greatest leaders and personalities, an honest, raw, and compelling tale of triumph and redemption,’’ a trailer for the book says.
“I set up Tim’s autobiography and it’s nearly complete,’’ Grossman said, proudly.
“Tell Tim I send him a hug,’’ Reich said.
Shall do, Tom. When Raines makes his induction speech July 30, you can be assured that Reich and Grossman will be in the audience. And you can be assured that both will be thanked by Raines in his speech.