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Tim Raines

Tim Raines first appeared on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot in 2008. He received 24.3 percent of the vote. He actually went down the following year to 22.6 percent. Over the years, slowly but surely, Raines' numbers increased. Finally, in his 10th year on the ballot in 2017, "Rock" was elected to the Hall of Fame with 86.0 percent. In his acceptance speech a week and a half ago, Raines gave media members, especially Jonah Keri, credit for pushing sabermetrics as a means of proving his worth. Raines spoke to ThePostGame about how Andre Dawson kept his head level during this journey, what it was like to play with young Derek Jeter and young Mariano Rivera and why Montreal has proven it deserves an MLB team again.

ThePostGame: Have you caught your breath? How you doing right now?
TIM RAINES: I couldn't be better. I feel like Superman right now. To go through what I went through last week, obviously the toughest part was the speech. To be part of that weekend was something that I've been thinking about for the past 10 years. That day has finally come, and even though it took 10 years, today it doesn't matter. I'm able to say I'm a Hall of Famer. Ten years ago, I couldn't say that. I'm a part of the history of baseball. It's something that I never thought about as a player, but it's very humbling to think now, I'm one of those guys.

TPG: Being a member of the media, we don't exactly get the warmest response from players, but you're basically the biggest proponent of the media right now after getting into the Hall of Fame. You mentioned it in your speech.
RAINES: Well, social media has definitely been a big proponent, not only for the players -- teams, a brand, whatever. It's been really big. I'm not really that caught up on it. But to get to know some guys who are really big in that area, for me, Jonah Keri was a person I met four or five years ago and him mentioning -- I don't remember taking a picture -- but he brought a picture of me and him when he was 6 or 7 or 8 years old, and now all of a sudden today, he's arguably the one guy that kind of helped me get in, putting out sabermetrics. He told me things I did that I didn't know and made me much more confident I deserved to be there and certainly with his help, it got me over hump.

TPG: You said as a player you never considered yourself a Hall of Famer. Before you met Jonah Keri, did you still think you had any shot at the Hall of Fame?
RAINES: The one thing I had was Andre Dawson. He called me every year and if he felt like I belonged there, then I believed him. He told me it was a process. Sometimes, it takes a while for them to get me in and I didn't really know the process and he assured me year after year, I was getting closer, I was getting closer. He said don't worry about it homie, it's going to eventually happen. I don't know when, but it's gonna happen. And he's the one who kept me going with that belief it would happen even knowing he wasn't the decision-maker, but I felt like if anyone can keep me positive, it would've been Andre Dawson. And even when they took off five years and they changed the rules, it got me nervous, but I thought either they're gonna put me in sooner or I'm not gonna get in. I think knowing that the year before I was inducted, it went from 55 percent to 70 percent, I felt like once I get to 70 percent, I thought my chances would be greater.

Tim Raines

TPG: Do you think Andre Dawson or anyone else has influence on the Hall of Fame? How do you think they help, by campaigning or another form, get you in?
RAINES: I don't know if they can influence the voters, but I think when you have him talking about me, deserving to be in the Hall and having Frank Thomas talk about me deserving to be in the Hall, I think that plays a big role. When other players that are Hall of Famers, mention players that they felt deserved to be in, I think it makes people take a closer look. It's not just because we're friends and teammates. I wouldn't mention another a player who didn't deserve to be in. By them adding me in their speeches, that I deserved to be in, it helped a little bit. I don't think it helped totally, but it helped a bit.

TPG: Did you know that many Expos fans still existed, as in those who showed up in Cooperstown?
RAINES: Yes. I had been in Montreal during spring training the last four years. I've been able to not only be in Montreal, but be around the fans. The Blue Jays have been playing two spring training games the last four years in Montreal, so I've been part of the festivities. I've been able to be in front of the fans. I've been able to do some media and do some dinners. I've actually been a real big part of Montreal the last four years because of the relationship I have with the Blue Jays.

TPG: Will Montreal get a team again?
RAINES: I certainly hope so. I wish I could make that decision for Major League Baseball. Obviously, I can't. I think if anyone really deserves to get a team back, sort of like Washington did with us, they took our team, but they had a team before, I think Montreal deserves a team. They've proven that the last four years with I think 100,000 fans for two games. That kind of proves they still love baseball and there are baseball fans in Montreal. I have my fingers crossed and hopefully one day, they'll have that chance.

TPG: I want to ask you a little about New York. I grew up with those 90s Yankees. When you arrived in New York for those last few years, how much did you have left in the tank and how much did guys like George Steinbrenner and Joe Torre make you confident again?
RAINES: By them getting me over there, I felt like they had confidence in my ability in what I could still do. Hopefully, they were thinking that I was the missing link even though my first year I got off to a bad start by getting injured. I think I was injured the first two months of the season. But the September I had that year kind of helped propel that team to the playoffs. I was in the right place at the right time and I think that's part of the reason they brought me over there. Being a switch-hitting outfielder, I didn't have the speed that I had early in my career, but I still had the experience and I had some leadership at the time. We had veterans as well as young players. It was the perfect fit of putting some veterans with some young players. We came together at the right time and came through to win the World Series in that '96 year.

TPG: You played on those teams, specifically in '96 and '97 with Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden. You guys were three stars in the 80s, with this last hurrah in your career, and it's no secret you had all had certain drug issues in the 80s and I don't want to put you on the same level as them. But what was it like playing for George Steinbrenner who had a reputation for giving players a second chance, not that you were at the same point Strawberry and Gooden were in at that point in your careers?
RAINES: I think it was part of George's legacy. He still believed in players. He still believed in Doc. He still believed in Darryl. When he brought me over, it was a different situation. I was kind of on a roll in my career, leaving Montreal and going to Chicago and being on some successful teams in Chicago, and being able to go to New York and be along with some successful players, like Wade Boggs, who spent all those successful years in Boston and now he was playing in New York. Wade and I were kind of in the same situation. We had history in the game, we had history of being good players. When you put good older players with a bunch of good young players, it's bound to come out to something special, and that's exactly what happened. I'm not sure if anyone felt like that Yankee team in '96 was the one that was going to start such a great run. It was the beginning of an unbelievable stretch of about 10 years. That's where it started.

Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez

TPG: You show up for that first Yankees spring training in 1996, you see Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and others. What was your impression of those young guys right away?
RAINES: First of all, I didn't really know who Jeter was. I didn't know who Pettitte was. I was in the National League for so long and then I went over to Chicago, and the Yankees were in a different division. I remember facing Mariano as a starter with the Yankees and I hadn't even had an opportunity to see Jeter play until I saw him in spring training. Posada wasn't around yet. Those guys got called up at the end of the year in the '95 season, so we didn't get to see them. I got my first look at them in spring training. And that's when I got to know them. That's when I got to see how great they were. If you remember, Tony Fernandez was our shortstop in '96. We picked him up to play shortstop that year. He got hurt and Jeter was next in line. I'm not sure they thought when the season started in '96, he was gonna be our shortstop. But when he took over, wow. The things he was able to do in that '96 year, and as time would tell, I think we've got a few more years before he's in the Hall of Fame.

TPG: I'm looking at Baseball-Reference right now. It says Mariano Rivera pitched against the White Sox on July 4, 1995. He went eight innings, gave up zero runs, walked two and allowed two hits. It doesn't look like you were in the lineup that day. It says you didn't get up.
RAINES: I think I did. The scouting report on Mariano, when he was a starter, was that he threw a lot of sliders, which was a cutter for him. He was young and we thought we were gonna beat up on him. Obviously, the scouting report was wrong. We were looking for sliders and he was throwing fastballs by everybody. I was like, wow. That scouting report wasn't good. Like you said, he had a great game that day. I'm surprised he didn't continue to start, but he's going to be in the Hall of Fame for being probably the best closer that ever played the game.

TPG: If this is right, he allowed both hits to Frank Thomas. But if this isn't right, we have to get the Baseball-Reference people on this.
RAINES: That's probably true because I don't remember us doing anything against him. He was just awesome.

TPG: You're working with Osteo Bi-Flex. What's that relationship like?
RAINES: Well, being a major league player, even when you're done, you still try to stay in shape. You try to do all the things that you used to do as a player. Obviously, it's totally different than everyday life. Osteo Bi-Flex helps me do the things that I like to do. It helps me with my joint comfort, my flexibility and my movement. That's all a part of what I did as a player, but now that I'm not a player, I'm not able to do some of the things that you should do. I have twin daughters that are 6-year-olds. I needed some help to get me through the day. I'm also working with some kids in the minor leagues and sometimes, I have to prove to those kids I can still do the things I did.

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