It took Tim Raines up until his 10th and final season on the ballot to be elected into baseball's Hall of Fame, and maybe that delay was in part because it took that long for his premier skills – getting on base and scoring runs – to be truly appreciated. But ultimately, the wait for Raines – who played briefly for the Orioles at the end of the 2001 season – ended Wednesday.
Raines received 86 percent of the vote from eligible members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, surpassing the 75 percent needed for election.
First baseman Jeff Bagwell, who received 86.2 percent of the vote in his seventh year on the ballot, and catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who took 76 percent in his first year on the ballot, were also elected for induction this year.
Claiming Raines as an Oriole is a bit of a stretch. He played only four games for the team, to which he was traded in part so he could play with his son, Tim Raines Jr., at the end of the 2001 season.
Raines had his best years with the Montreal Expos, with whom he was a seven-time All-Star, a four-time National League stolen-base champion and the 1986 NL batting champion. He also played with the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics and Florida Marlins. At age 42, he spent the last five games of the 2001 season with the Orioles, playing in four of those games and going 3-for-11 with one homer and five RBIs.
One of the premier leadoff hitters of his era, Raines had 808 career stolen bases, one of just five players to reach that total, and owned a remarkable 84.7 success rate. He posted a career .385 on-base percentage and was top six in the NL in OBP seven times. He was also top four in runs scored four times, and averaged 110 runs over a six-year span from 1982-87.
But Raines received just 24.3 percent of the vote in his first year on the ballot in 2008. He seemed like a long shot then, but in recent years, Raines became a poster boy for the sabermetric age. His offensive wins above replacement (Offensive WAR) of 68.4 ranks 64th all time. There are just five eligible players with better oWAR who aren't currently in the Hall of Fame – Barry Bonds, Pete Rose, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield and Dick Allen.
"I think back in the day, when you looked at a Hall of Famer, you looked at 500 home runs, 300 wins and 300 hits," Raines said on a conference call Wednesday. "And a lot of times if you didn't reach that criteria, it was kind of hard for anyone to kind of look at you as a Hall of Famer. But I think the way the game has changed today, the way they look at the stats and everything, I think it has changed a lot of people's minds because that's the way you're looking at it now."
Last year, he was just 23 votes shy of election, receiving a huge spike by getting 69.8 percent of the vote after receiving 55 percent the previous year. But despite being so close, he was nervous entering this year realizing it was his final year of eligibility.
"I felt like the momentum from last year would kind of carry me through this year," Raines said. "But I wasn't sure what was going to happen. Last night was probably the worst night I've had over the 10 years. It was kind of tough because I knew I was close but I wasn't sure. … I was encouraged by what happened last year… but until that phone rung, I was probably the most nervous guy on the face – along with these two other guys – on the face of the Earth."
Closer Trevor Hoffman, who is on the ballot for the second year, just missed out on election at 74.0 percent, and designated hitter Edgar Martinez received 58.6 percent.
Two former Orioles are trending upward toward election.
Outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, who spent the final season of an illustrious 16-year career with the Orioles in 2011, received 71.7 percent of the vote in his first season on the ballot and is a favorite to be voted in in 2018.
Guerrero hit 30 doubles and 13 homers with 63 RBIs as the Orioles' full-time designated hitter in his final season.
Former Orioles ace Mike Mussina, who is in his fourth year on the ballot, is also steadily drawing closer to election after receiving 51.8 percent of the vote, up from 43 percent last season.
Mussina is third on the Orioles' all-time wins list (147), trailing only Jim Palmer (268) and Dave McNally (181). He trails only Palmer on the team's all-time strikeouts list with 1,535.
After parts of 10 seasons with Baltimore, Mussina signed with the Yankees and spent his final eight years in New York, with his only 20-win season coming in his last year in 2008. Mussina won 19 games twice and 18 games two other times while posting a 3.53 ERA with the Orioles. He averaged 16 wins, 31 starts and 214 innings in his nine full seasons in Baltimore.
Both Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, whose candidacies have been tainted by being tied to performance-enhancing drugs, received more support this season. Clemens went up to 54.1 percent from 45.2 last year, and Bonds received 53.8 percent compared to 44.3 percent last season.
Right-hander Curt Schilling, whose major league career began with the Orioles, received 45.0 percent, down from 52.3 percent last year after he made a number of controversial statements.
Schilling put together a successful career with the Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox, finishing a six-time All-Star, three-time 20-game winner, three-time World Series champion and three-time Cy Young Award runner-up.
Before that, Schilling was mostly a reliever in his three years with the Orioles from 1988 to 1990, posting a 4.54 ERA before he was shipped to the Astros as part of the lopsided Glenn Davis trade in 1991. The Orioles acquired Schilling from the Red Sox with outfielder Brady Anderson before the 1988 trade deadline for starting pitcher Mike Boddicker.
This was the final year on the writers' ballot for reliever Lee Smith, who was grandfathered in to receive 15 years on the ballot. In his final year, he received 34.2 percent of known votes. Smith led the majors with 33 saves as the Orioles closer in 1994.
Former Oriole Sammy Sosa received 8.6 percent, up from 7 percent last year, and enough to remain on the ballot for a sixth year in 2018. Players who receive less than 5 percent of the vote are removed.
However, former Oriole Melvin Mora will fall off the ballot after receiving no votes in his first and only year on the ballot.
Baltimore native John Schuerholz was voted for induction into the Hall of Fame this year by the Today's Game Era Committee along with former commissioner Bud Selig. Schuerholz was the general manager of World Series-winning teams with the Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves, making the Braves into one of the most successful franchises of the 1990s and 2000s.
Players are elected to the Hall of Fame by a vote of eligible Baseball Writers' Association of America members with at least 10 years of consecutive membership.
The Baltimore Sun's policy prohibits its staffers from voting for any awards, including the Hall of Fame, because of potential conflicts of interest.