When the modern-ballot Hall of Fame selections for this year are announced — on January 12th — there is no doubt that Rickey Henderson's name will be included among those inducted. Arguably the greatest leadoff hitter in baseball history, the stolen base king totally revolutionized his position in the batting order. Combining speed and power in a never before witnessed embodiment, Henderson redefined the profile of a leadoff hitter and posted stats that easily warrant — what should be but won't — a unanimous selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame.Would it not be fitting, with the election of Henderson, to honor his contemporary on the ballot who played a pivotal yet admittedly less recognized roll in the evolution of the leadoff hitter? I refer, of course, to star Montreal Expos outfielder Tim "Rock" Raines. One of the most underrated players of the modern era, Raines mirrored Henderson's contributions to the roll both men filled, but was constantly shrouded in the shadow cast by Rickey's dominance and the remoteness of the Canadian confines in which he performed.Raines' most memorable and recognizable attribute was his blazing speed. Always second to Henderson when recollecting the most prolific base thieves of the era, the testament to Raines' proficiency lies in the quality by which he enacted his craft, rather than the quantity of steals he accumulated. Raines was historically intelligent and accurate in his larceny, stealing bases successfully at a ridiculous 84.7% clip, the highest percentage for any player with 300 attempts or more. While his 808 career steals (5th all time) pales in comparison to Henderson's career record total of 1406, his success rate holds up prominently when examined against Rickey's also prolific mark of 80% proficiency. While Henderson was also an acknowledged master of the art of getting on base — a main factor in why he is generally considered the greatest leadoff man of the modern era — Raines too excelled in this crucial skill. His career .385 OBP. — while falling short of Henderson's terrific mark of .401 — is very good, highlighted by his prime years with Montreal and Chicago when Rock was able to surpass a .400 OBP four times and exceeded .390 on four other occasions. In fact, as Jayson Stark astutely points out (in his email debate on Raines' candidacy with Peter Gammons) on ESPN.com, Tim Raines reached base more times in his career than Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn and had a career OBP that is only three hundredths of a point less than Gwynn's mark of .388. Every eligible player who reached base as many times as Raines did, and had as high of an OBP as Rock, is already inducted in the Hall of Fame (he's assumingly considering Henderson elected with this statement as many writers have already released their ballots). The value in this ability to regularly get on base is perhaps best illustrated by Raines' 1571 career runs scored, a total that makes him the only modern-day player with at least 1500 runs not to be enshrined (again excluding Henderson), another reflection of the obvious Hall of Fame caliber of his career.Enabling his high OBP and run production, Raines amassed 1330 walks and 2605 hits, allowing him to utilize his deadly speed regularly and adding greatly to his extreme value as a leadoff hitter. While these totals, once again, fall short of Henderson's 2190 walks 3005 hits, it must be noted that Raines amassed his numbers in 2089 less at bats. When taken in this context his statistics in these categories also compare favorably with Henderson even though Rock, unlike Rickey, fell short of that all important 3000 hit bechmark.Then, of course, there were the power numbers. Epitomizing the explosiveness of the Bash Brother-powered Oakland teams of the late 1980s, Henderson slugged 297 career home runs, leading off a record 81 games with a devastating clout. Raines did not have Henderson's home run power but his career total of 170 dingers is more than respectable for a leadoff man, especially considering his afore mentioned at bat totals relative to Rickey's. His closest competition, when examining the eight remaining players in the top ten all time leaders in stolen bases, is Hall of Famer Lou Brock who recorded 21 less home runs than Raines in 1460 more at bats. Further quantifying his ability to hit for power, Rock's .810 OPS and 123+ OPS indicate that he was, at the very least, in the same class with Henderson as a slugger, when juxtaposed to Rickey's career .820 OPS and 127 OPS+ marks. Perhaps the best testament to Raines' unique power and speed combination, his 113 career triples actually dwarf Henderson's surprisingly low total of 66. Tim Raines' unique combination of abilities manifested themselves in the form of runs and wins for which ever team was utilizing his services throughout his career. His 1636 runs created (a sabermetric stat that quantifies the contribution of a players' statistics to the total number of runs scored by the team) ties him with Tony Gwynn for 53rd all time, besting Brock by 124 rc. While Henderson's total of 2164 is 10th all time, the two players compare more favorably when examining the runs created per game statistic, eliminating the effects of longevity on the analysis. Under this scope, Raines' 6.6 runs created/per game total is only two tenths less than Henderson's 6.8 and notably better than Brock's 5.2 mark. Perhaps the most intriguing — while admittedly abstract — quantification of his overall value is Raines' excellent offensive winning percentage (OWP). A stat created by sabermatricians to represent the winning percentage of a team fielding nine "clones" of one player with both teams possessing league average pitching and defense, OWP attempts to singularly quantify the true complete compositional contributions of a player to the actual winning of games using the following formula:
The square of runs created per game, divided by the sum of the square of runs created per game and the square of the league average of runs per game.
Utilizing this statistic — recognized and listed on baseball-reference.com — Raines actually tops Henderson (.660), and Brock (.598), with a stellar mark of .665. The comparisons to Rickey Henderson are prudent because Rickey is justifiably considered by many to be the greatest leadoff man in the history of the modern game and a surefire first ballot Hall of Famer. Because of this status, he sets the standards by which all other leadoff hitters and base stealing specialists must be compared. While Henderson is obviously the superior player, the simple fact that Raines' career numbers are so closely comparable to those of Henderson is a strong, general testimony to his Hall of Fame credentials.When analyzed against other Hall of Fame leadoff men in history Raines' greatness becomes further evident. While Lou Brock cemented his enshrinement by compiling 3023 hits and swiping 938 bags, his .343 OBP and 109 OPS+ show he drastically lacked both Raines' power and his ability to get on base. And while Brock accumulated more career steals, his 75% success rate falls markedly short of Raines' record percentage. This is not to deny Brock's greatness — his career numbers place him along side Raines and Henderson as the most talented leadoff men of the modern era — but if Brock's accomplishments are Hall of Fame worthy than Tim Raines inarguably must be inducted.For his entire career Raines was a uniquely productive and valuable player. A man whose immense skills always provided for him a function on a major league club, he executed his artistry at a Hall of Fame caliber level throughout his prime, and then became an invaluable asset and an integral component on two World Series and three pennant winning Yankee teams as a part time/platoon player. Lost amongst the steroids and corruption that have tainted so many memories of baseball from the 1980s and '90s, is the paradigm shift that occurred involving the leadoff slot in this era. A role once populated exclusively by fast, light hitting, contact style batsmen in the mold of Billy Hamilton and Ty Cobb, Rickey Henderson, and Tim Raines infused elements of power and run production into the position, changing the way managers view the hitter at the top of their respective lineups to this day. Possessing a rare combination of extreme natural athletic ability, pure skill, and an expansive and fundamental knowledge of the game, Raines and Henderson shattered the antiquated mold and paved the way for a new breed of leadoff men like Jimmy Rollins and Alfonso Soriano to excel today. Truly, nothing would be more fitting than for Henderson and Raines — the two players who simultaneously redefined the definition and standard of the leadoff hitter — to reap the benefits of their innovative skills by receiving baseball's ultimate honor of enshrinement together.