Raines heads to Florida for final big league season

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

After 22 years of hard work in the big leagues, Tim Raines decided it was time to spend a summer in Florida.

On Feb. 18, 2002, Raines signed a minor league contract with the Florida Marlins. As expected, he made the team and played his last MLB season in South Florida – serving as a veteran leader and pinch-hitter for a young squad that featured up-and-coming players like Josh Beckett, Derrek Lee and Brad Penny.

Raines played with the Expos for most of the 2001 season before being traded to Baltimore on Oct. 3, 2001, so he could be in the same lineup with his son Tim Raines Jr.

Raines hit .308 in Montreal in 2001 despite missing more than two months with a torn biceps tendon. He considered returning to the Montreal in 2002 but decided to head south after former Expos owner Jeffrey Loria bought the Marlins and MLB took over the operations of the Expos.

“This wasn’t an easy decision,” Raines’ agent Randy Grossman told the Montreal Gazette. “There were a lot of sentimental reasons for Tim to want to go back to Montreal. That’s where he started.”

Drafted by the Expos in the fifth round in 1977 out of high school, Raines debuted in the big leagues in 1979 thanks to his explosive speed. By 1981, Raines was Montreal’s starting left fielder – and his play electrified fans that season as he stole 71 bases in just 88 games, leading Montreal to the National League Championship Series and finishing second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting to the Dodgers’ Fernando Valenzuela.

Raines led the NL in steals in his first four seasons, won the NL batting title in 1986 and was named the All-Star Game MVP in 1987 – his seventh-straight All-Star selection.

But with the Expos entering a rebuilding phase, Raines was traded to the White Sox on Dec. 23, 1990.

After five years in Chicago, where he helped the White Sox win the 1993 AL West title, Raines was traded to the Yankees – where he was a valuable bench player on the 1996 and 1996 teams that won the World Series. He spent the 1999 season with Oakland, then retired prior to the 2000 campaign while batting the autoimmune disease lupus.

After un-retiring and proving he still had the skills to play in the big leagues in 2001, Raines appeared in 98 games for the Marlins in 2002 – 83 of which came as a pinch hitter. He retired after the season with a .294 batting average, a .385 on-base percentage, 1,571 runs scored, 2,605 hits and 808 stolen bases – a total that ranked fifth at the time of his retirement.

The Marlins would go on to win the World Series in 2003, with many of the players citing Raines as a factor in their success.

Raines is the only player in big league history with at least 100 triples, 150 home runs and 600 stolen bases and is the only player to record four different seasons with at least 50 extra-base hits and 70 steals.

He finished his big league career with the best stolen base percentage (84.7) of any player with 400-plus steals.

“It’s been a great ride,” Raines told the Associated Press. “A lot of players play a long time and don’t really know when to quit. I’ve reached the maximum. It’s time to close the book on my career as a player.”

Raines was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2017.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series