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How Tim Raines' Eligibility Opens Bigger Questions on Hall of Fame Inductment: Postnote Added
2007-11-29 17:33
by Scott Long

Let me begin this intellectual exercise by stating that Tim Raines should be elected to the Hall of Fame. Any player that Bill James rates as the 2nd best leadoff hitter of all-time should be in Cooperstown. Now let me also add that Joe Jackson and Pete Rose should be there, as well. Oh and while we are discussing great players with character flaws, let me mention that Barry Bonds should go in with 100 percent of the vote when he is eligible. Some players reach levels of greatness on the field that supercede their own personal judgement mistakes.

Of course, Shoeless Joe and Charlie Hustle aren't in Cooperstown and Bonds looks to be a long-shot for making it in at least during his first year. Why I mention these men with Raines is that there seemed to be more than one reason why his nickname was Rock. Here is Raines in his own words on the subject of cocaine use from an interview he did for Baseball Prospectus with David Lauria in August 2007.

DL: Early in your career there was an issue with cocaine use.

TR: Yes, and it’s not something I’m proud of, but I also don’t want people to have the wrong idea about what happened. I was never a drug addict or anything like that. Not to make excuses, but I was young and it was a part of the culture at the time--I simply made a bad decision. But I was never arrested, or caught doing anything. I voluntarily sought help, because I didn’t want it to get in the way of my career, and coming clean was part of that therapy. I took what happened as a learning experience, and going forward I think it made me a better person.


Now many would offer up in defense of Raines that unlike steroids, cocaine would not have helped him perform better. While I never consumed anywhere close to the amount that he did, I used the stuff some during college and I can tell you that I can see where it could have had a benefit. For many of the same reason players have been using amphetamines since the 60's, doing a few lines could help stimulate your body and have the added bonus of making you feel a bit more confident. Do you think these players would have risked using this illegal substance if they thought it hurt their ability on the field? Now I'm not saying it was the reason for Raines success and I'm not singling him out, as many other major leaguers were using blow than as well, (at this time, coke wasn't seen as the absolute evil it later became when crack came on the scene), but I don't see where voters can okay this transgression, but castigate Bonds.

Anticipating some of this discussion, BP's Joe Sheehan in January offered this on the subject.


Raines, of course, has a black mark on his record, that being his use of cocaine in the 1980s. I would argue vociferously, however, that the BBWAA has made it clear that it doesn't believe that to be a serious offense. My evidence? Paul Molitor, who also used coke in that period, appeared on one ballot and was swept into the Hall with 85% of the vote. If Raines' use becomes an issue in his candidacy after that experience, I would strongly suggest simply ending the process of electing players to the Hall.

It's instructive, in the current environment, to remember how big a deal it was in the mid-1980s to learn that all these baseball players were doing cocaine, and how little it mattered when one of them came up for Hall of Fame consideration.

I don't disagree with anything Sheehan offers here. My problem is with the Hall of Fame hypocrisy that is steroids versus cocaine. Sure both of them are illegal, but ask about anyone who isn't a supermodel or child actor which is the worse drug and 9 out of 10 times you would get cocaine as the answer. It is ridiculous to me that Bonds might end up going to jail over lyring about using while so many other players who used as well were never put in this courtroom situation. (This includes NFL and NBA players, as well.)

I have a mostly Libertarian-view about drugs, so my problems with players using drugs only begins to bother me when the drugs have been made illegal by the sport, itself. Since baseball didn't have a real drug policy until a couple of years ago, it is impossible to know who was on them and who wasn't.

Here would be my Hall of Fame voting rulebook.

  • If a player's credentials are borderline like Jose Canseco, I can see it being a determining factor in saying No to their entry.
  • If a player's credentials state they should be solidly in, but not much above that (see Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero) I can see delaying entry for awhile.
  • But if they are on the level of the career hit leader (Rose) or the greatest player of the past 40 years (Bonds), you put them in and mention their transgressions against the game in their exhibit.

I didn't write this piece to try to hurt Raines' chances at the Hall. It just seems unfair that a player like Rock, who admitted during the Pittsburgh drug trials that he would keep coke in his uniform, use it during the games, and would slide headfirst so not to break the vial, would get a pass, while modern players who used steroids are seen a pariahs. Sure, Raines' rehabilitated himself, but do we really know that cocaine didn't aid his career? His best seasons were when he was under the influence. During a period when basestealing was at its peak (1980's), who is to say that cocaine didn't have as much to do with this spike as steroids did with the increase in homeruns? Yes, I know it is a pretty explosive question, but I think it is a fair one to ask, especially considering the careers of similar type players like Lonnie Smith, Vince Coleman, and Tony Phillips, who also were cocaine users.

Put Tim Raines in the Hall of Fame. He deserves for his career resume. If you believe he should be selected as well, just keep in mind that if you are also one of the people who feel that steroids should eliminate you from Cooperstown, it is time to reexamine your reasoning. Since amphetamines came into the game of baseball, drugs have had varying degrees of influence on the abilities of many of its players. We will never know how many or what percentage were using some illegal substance, so slamming the door on future enshrinement for those who were outed is unfair. The best approach the Hall of Fame voters should take is grading everyone on the curve.

Postnote: In the comments section it is brought to my attention that Raines claimed that he only used during the 1982 season. My belief had been that he had used up until 1985, before the Pittsburgh Drug Trial happened. I regret putting out any wrong information towards Mr. Raines. The point of this piece was one where I was trying to get to the issue that steroids are not the only drug that has helped players achieve more success on the field. Considering the massive usage of cocaine during the eighties by athletes in all sports, I believe that it had its benefits on the field. Sure, over time, users have to use more to chase the same high, which becomes more dangerous and destructive to the individual. Guess what, same goes for steroids. While they achieve different things for their user, steroids, amphetamines, and cocaine all have a lot of similar affects.

Finally, the drug that has negatively impacted and often destroyed more players careers than any has been alcohol.


2007-11-28 18:27:35
1.   Bruce Markusen
Scott, I don't really buy the argument about cocaine being a performance enhancer for a baseball player, but I could see the argument that it might--and that's "might" with strong emphasis--help in the short term. I think, however, that the idea that an addicted ballplayer would perform better in the long term is pretty close to preposterous. Given the debilitating effects of longtime abuse of cocaine, I don't see how that would do anything but severely harm a ballplayer's performance--especially an everyday player like Raines--over that period of time.

Even if some people think that cocaine would serve as a long-term performance enhancer, I severely doubt that any cocaine users among ballplayers during the 1980s were doing so with the purpose of improving their play on the field. Quite clearly, they had other things in mind.

2007-11-28 18:43:34
2.   Scott Long
It would be as impossible to figure out just like it would be impossible to judge a player pre and post steroids, but I do think the argument can be made that basestealers who used the drug had better records on powder than when they were off it. I want to say I remember Bill James discussing the subject in one of his Baseball Abstracts during the 80's, but I'm not sure on that one.

Considering that the lively ball, the smaller new parks, and expansion hurting pitching has also been included in why homeruns went up, is it really so clear that steroids aided homeruns more than cocaine might have aided stealing bases? I don't know how you get the answer, but let's not be naive that speed might not help speed. I know if I did a couple lines before running a 100 yard dash, I at least would feel like I was going to go faster.

2007-11-28 19:14:10
3.   murphy
didn't paul molitor admit to some cocaine use in his early years as a player? he went in first ballot, no?

sounds like the precedent on this one has already been set.

2007-11-28 19:34:52
4.   StolenMonkey86
Didn't Phil Jackson say LSD made him a better basketball player?
2007-11-28 19:52:42
5.   Josh Wilker
2 : "I at least would feel like I was going to go faster"

My favorite literary representation of the effects of cocaine was in the classic Freak Brothers comic book epic "Grass Roots"; while working their way through a massive pile of blow the Freak Brothers believed their efforts rehabbing a house in the country were turning the place into a sturdy, gleaming castle. When the coke ran out they saw the house for what it was, a shabby flea-ridden hovel. I don't have a much personal experience with that drug (for me it was hallucinogens for a while, then depressants), but my feeling is that it works that way: You might think you're faster (or funnier or more productive or more interesting, etc.), but it's doubtful that you actually are.

But then again maybe it did help the famously tight '79 Pirates bond. That'd be a pretty cool performance-enhancing drug: one that at least temporarily helped the team get that all for one and one for all feeling.

2007-11-28 20:13:23
6.   Suffering Bruin
If Tim Raines used cocaine for as long as Barry Bonds used steroids, he would either be out of baseball or dead. I think Scott is implying that Rock wouldn't have been the player he was without the white stuff OR the white stuff improved his play. I don't buy that at all but then again I've never used illicit drugs. Lest that sound like bragging, I've often wondered about what I missed.
2007-11-28 20:46:38
7.   Suffering Bruin
As for Barry Lamar, I have no problem keeping him out of the Hall of Fame forever and that goes ditto for Jackson and Rose. All three poisoned this game with deceit. Jackson participated in the throwing of the World Series--he should never come back. Rose bet on games. There are very good reasons why this is so very wrong and frankly, they are inarguable.

As for Bonds, here's what I'm hearing:

a) He was an HOFer before he used
b) We don't know that he used
c) Even if he did use, so what? Everybody else did.
d)It's outrageous that they are coming after him now for lying.

Can I take these point-by-point?

a) Yes, and Ted Bundy was a helluva tennis player before he started killing people.
b) People who seriously say that Bonds didn't use remind me of those guys who committed suicide because they believed the Hale Bop comet was the ride to paradise.
c) The "everybody else does it" argument is one I hear from my students, just constantly. I always say, "Yes, I know, and they will be caught. Just like you. If you'd like to tell me who else did it, I'm all ears." And the kids don't because they live by the no snitch rule. Fine by me.
d) Barry Bonds lied to a grand jury investigating steroids. He did not care that his lies would impede the investigation, he did not care that his lies would result in his "friend" Greg Anderson being put in jail for a year (why doesn't anyone hold Bonds responsible for that?). He didn't take the fifth amendment... he lied. A lot.

I don't know who frustrates me more--people who believe Bonds didn't use or people who believe it's not big deal that he used.

You know what bothers me most about Bonds? He could've stayed clean and made a name for himself that way. He could've publicly said what so many heard him say privately--that McGwire and Sosa, players not half as good as he, were getting attention because they were juiced. I think it would've helped his popularity--it certainly would've given him the attention that he craved. People would've taken a closer look at his numbers and saw that he really was better than anybody else.

Of course, he didn't do that. Honestly, some of the smartest people I know have no problem with Bonds. I can't understand what these people are thinking.

2007-11-28 21:12:04
8.   Suffering Bruin

Okay, something we can all agree ona? This looks like a must-see:

2007-11-28 21:34:06
9.   Scott Long
Thanks for the link. As promising as the title and subject matter is, I'm concerned that Ms Dushku might not truly be sans clothing in this flick. I guess I will need to solicit the talents of Mr Skin on this one.
2007-11-28 21:50:50
10.   Scott Long
Let me get to your points.

I do have problems with Bonds, as I think he is a lousy human being and more importantly in regards to his baseball career, a lousy teammate and ambassador for the game. Despite these important deficits to his resume, the guy is off the charts good. Only A-Rod is in his league over the past 40 years.

I guess I believe most players would have lied in his situation. It reminds me of the situation Bill Clinton was in when he lied about sex. Using steroids or having extra-marital sex are not great qualities, but are they offenses that require grand jury testimony? I say no. We all know it was about being a President or the best baseball player on the planet with a lot of enemies.

Since we will never know for sure how many players were using and how many weren't, I just can't keep a guy out of the Hall of Fame, if he was as dominant as Bonds was. Roids or not. Now the guys that I do think used who are borderline cases, I would withhold on.

An important element of the blame goes to Major League Baseball who promoted the hell out of sluggers that they knew were juiced up. The owners and players union didn't care, it was about reviving their product after the strike. Now to treat this players with some type of retroactive punishment seems murky at best.

Now to Shoeless Joe and Charlie Hustle.

My thoughts on Jackson is that it has been long enough. Put him in there and have an exhibit that shows the destruction it caused for him. The circumstances behind it and how he actually played well during the series takes some of the steam off of it for me.

Rose is an easier choice. There is no record that he ever bet on games as a player. He is being put in as a player. He has paid a big price for his transgressions and it is time to put him in. Don't let him go to the ceremony. Don't let him ever be part of any official MLB event. This is how Keneshaw Mountain Long rules on it.

2007-11-28 21:55:31
11.   Scott Long
Specific to cocaine and helping performance. Much like amphetamines, if you were dragging from the grind that is a 162 game schedule, coke would do the trick. The long-term health risks would be bad, if you used it a lot, but in the short term, my layman's report would say it could help you.

I know this basestealing/cocaine hypothesis is a pretty large leap for some of you to take in, but it passes the sniff test for me.

2007-11-28 22:04:46
12.   Scott Long
In the interest of full-disclosure, I haven't used cocaine in 20 years. I did it a lot during the summer of 1987, as I dated a girl who was dealing it. (a fellow college student) These were the days of Miami Vice and the whole culture of it was different. She provided it to me and I partook. Call me a coke whore, if you feel the need.

Fortunately for me, it didn't hold any addictive qualities for me. Outside of mushrooms one time, I've never purchased any narcotics in my life. I tossed some people a few bucks when I smoked their weed (I'm not a Bogarter), but I never had enough interest in the stuff to pay for it. It just never seemed worth the money.

I never have done acid, which I do have some regrets about and I suspect that some day I will give it a whirl, but it will be when I'm in my 60's. The only drugs that I would say would be worth paying for to me are Mushrooms and Ecstasy. And I haven't done either of them in 16 years.

See if you get that type of honesty at Baseball Analysts or Baseball Prospectus.

2007-11-28 22:58:07
13.   George Y
IMDB has this quote about the delectable Ms. Dushku: "She refuses to do nude scenes. She says, 'You have a better chance of seeing God.'"

It's enough to make me an atheist.

Oh, Bonds and Raines both go to the HOF. But I have no religious moral compass, so what do I know.

Rose doesn't go because he beat up Buddy Harrelson. I might not believe in God, but the Mets I still have faith in.

2007-11-29 04:39:31
14.   joejoejoe
9 I'd like to see Eliza Dushku in the opposite of a Please Explain post. Why ISN'T she a bigger star?
2007-11-29 04:58:03
15.   joejoejoe
Here's a list of cocaine's short term side effects -

Negative effects: "dilated pupils, increased heart rate, restlessness, anxiety, increased temperature, insomnia, loss of appetite, and increased blood pressure"

Euphoric effects: "energy, reduced fatigue, and mental clarity"

'Crash' effects: "depression, irritability, and fatigue"

For any player to 'benefit' from cocaine usage you have to assume they had no negative consequences from the side effects, gained from the euphoric effects, and never played while experiencing the 'crash' effects. I'd venture it IS possible to get a short term benefit for over a few games but that anybody using cocaine over an extended period of time is going to have have a net performance LOSS due to the many negative effects of cocaine.

I've used other drugs but never used cocaine (too scary, I've got an addictive family history, was shocked by Len Bias) so I can't speak for experience here but it seems like a stretch based on anecdotal evidence to suggest cocaine improves your performance.

2007-11-29 07:12:55
16.   Tangotiger
Scott, I think you are short on facts.

"His best seasons were when he was under the influence."

That is completely false. He used cocaine for exactly one year: 1982. That was his WORST year. He went to management in the offseason, he told them he was going into rehab, and Michael Farber (then of the Montreal Gazette, now of SI) wrote an award-winning piece on Tim Raines', with full access to Raines.

If Raines said he did cocaine only in 1982, and he's been clean since, and since this happens to coincide with his worst year, I don't think you should be saying otherwise.


2007-11-29 08:29:16
17.   Penarol1916
I can see the argument for Barry a little bit (although your defense of his lies to the grand jury are a little silly since you did bring up the Pittsburgh drug trials in your post and most of the accused admitted to that without having to lie to a grand jury and impede an investigation), seeing as how there really was no MLB policy about it during the time when he is reported to have taken the drugs.

Pete Rose is a completely different case. Gambling was THE black mark for baseball when he did it, no ifs, ands, or buts, it is the one thing that can truly destroy the integrity of the game and Pete Rose knew what he was doing was completely verboten, that is why he lied about it for so long. When you have the rule, you don't break it just because the guy stuck around long enough to break the all-time hit record.

2007-11-29 12:23:17
18.   Scott Long
Tango. I appreciate your info, as I was not aware of the piece you speak of. I was under the impression that he was using up until closer to the Pittsburgh drug trials. I'm still not sure I believe his use ended after this one season. Considering the rampant use of cocaine in all major sports at the time (see NBA especially), I think there were a lot of players (Keith Hernandez was originally quoted saying 40 percent) who used coke. There are examples of athletes who seemed to really perform well using coke. (see Lawrence Taylor) To have a drug that helps you have bursts of energy and also to be in a state of euphoric confidence, would seem to be a benefit to a basestealer.

Specific to Raines, to automatically claim that it was his worst year and this was because of his cocaine use is naive, especially for someone who is all things statistical. 1982 was the first full season of his career. He was 22 years old. Could cocaine have been a factor in him not playing well? Maybe. I guess the whole story of Raines using coke for a year, it being his downfall, and then him getting off it and everything going in an upswing seems a bit TV movie or something out of a Fellowship of Christian Athletes pamphlet.

I don't recommend drugs, but I do think some great things have happened to people while under the influence. Without reciting Bill Hick's material on the subject, think of all the great music and art which has been created while people were really f-ing high. I would love to have an honest conversation with some of the basestealers of the time and find out if they thought they were helped by being under the influence of coke. Don't see where that will happen, but I do think it is as fair of an argument to bring up than it would be to align success at slugging and the use of steroids.

2007-11-29 12:53:12
19.   Tangotiger
It may be TV movie, but that's exactly what happened.

1981 was his first full year. He was #2 in ROY! Playing 88 out of 108 games (81%) qualifies as a full year to me.

Can you name me any pro athlete who is under 25, voluntarily enters rehab, and then opens himself up completely right after?

I suggest you read the award-winning article by Michael Farber in the Montreal Gazette (go to your local library), or pick up the book:
"The Way It Looks from Here"
which contains this story among many other Canadian sports stories.

Your inferences, as applied to Raines, simply are invalid. They are based on group data, and are irrelevant in this case.

2007-11-29 16:29:24
20.   Isaac Lin
My understanding is that as part of his rehab, Raines was regularly drug tested from then on, so I see no compelling reason to suspect that he was using drugs after 1982.
2007-11-29 16:46:13
21.   Isaac Lin
I stand corrected: Raines's drug testing was mandated by Commissioner Ueberroth after the Pittsburgh drug trials, starting with the 1986 season.
2007-11-29 17:32:07
22.   Isaac Lin
Unfortunately, I'll correct myself again: the 1986 arbitration ruling against drug testing clauses appears to have been applied to the disciplinary actions handed out by Commissioner Ueberroth.
2007-11-30 04:47:34
23.   williamnyy23
Several points seem to me to be way off base here:

1) First off, as was pointed out, Raines best seasons came after his admitted cocaine use. Now, you could argue that Raines was still taking the drug well after his rehab stint, but it would be nice to have some proof to back that accusation up. What's more, why would Raines go public about his use and then secretly resume the drug again? Also, how would he have been able to keep his relapse so quiet for so long?

2) While you mentioned Molitor, I don't see how one could brush that mention aside? If Molitor, or other suspected recreational drug users are enshrined, then why draw the line at Raines? Also, if your argument is that cocaine is a stimulant, well, then you have to reconsider every player who toiled during the amphetamine era (beginning with Mantle and on down the long list).

3) Comparing cocaine to steroids is apples to oranges. It doesn't matter which drug is worse from a societal view. What matters is what drug has the biggest impact on baseball performance. Personally, I don't fret too much about steroid use, but I think it's clear that steroids and HGH would be far more likely to benefit a player than would cocaine. As mentioned, if you want to consider cocaine a stimulant, then you can lump Raines in with the greenie crowd of the previous generation. Trying to equate his actions to steroid use is a major stretch.

4) Finally, the notion that base stealing would be helped by cocaine seems silly to me. Sure, being high on coke might offer a burst, but that dismisses all of the other elements that go into stealing bases. First off, the player needs to get on base (often by having the patience to draw a walk). Then, he needs to study and time the pitcher's move to determine the appropriate lead. Finally, he needs to think with the game and pick a pitch on which to run. It seems to me as if a hyper coke high would seriously detract from those other elements.

Finally, here is how The Partnership of a Drug-Free America describes the short-term effects of cocaine use. Sure, more energy and clarity could be seen as positive attributes...but the benefits are so brief. Player's would literally have to partake during the game action. I know Raines stated he kept a vile in his back pocket, but did he really snort a line before his ABs? Also, if he did, wouldn't that wind up detracting from his performance for the rest of the game. I don't see how one could benefit when they'd essentially be sacrificing three ABs for better performance in one.

Short-term effects of cocaine include constricted peripheral blood vessels, dilated pupils, increased temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, insomnia, loss of appetite, feelings of restlessness, irritability, and anxiety. Duration of cocaine's immediate euphoric effects, which include energy, reduced fatigue, and mental clarity, depends on how it is used. The faster the absorption, the more intense the high. However, the faster the absorption, the shorter the high lasts.The high from snorting may last 15 to 30 minutes, while that from smoking may last 5 to 10 minutes. Cocaine's effects are short lived, and once the drug leaves the brain, the user experiences a "coke crash" that includes depression, irritability, and fatigue.

2007-11-30 11:36:31
24.   Scott Long
I have put a postnote on this piece, explaining that the original piece was based on my thoughts that Raines had used up until 1985, not as the article that Tango Tiger quotes from would dispute. As I wrote in the piece, I think Raines belongs in the hall of fame. I'm not just pointing to him, as I believe a lot of players were using coke during this time period. Many of the leading basestealers of the time were at the least implicated in its use.

Now to the second part. I don't believe quoting the Partnership for a Drug-Free America is the best way to describe any narcotic. They have their own agenda. As I said, I haven't used the substance in 20 years, but I have enough memory of its affects that I can see where it could have been helpful in athletic performance. I did play tennis while using and I can't say I could tell any negative effects and did have more energy. (The 80's tennis tour was supposedly filled with coke fiends. Vitas Gerulaitis was prominent on this list, but there were plenty others)

The negative effects you list for cocaine also happen to be prevalent in steroid use. This is my major point. I agree that amphetamines have similar reactions and I have pointed out in the past that those players from the 60's and 70's who knock steroid use as wrecking the record book, should look closely at themselves. I would guess that most of the great players from this time period were popping greenies to deal with the travel issues. Books like Ball 4 and others blew the lid off of this a long-time ago.

I apologize for not knowing more specifics about the Raines case, as my goal was to open minds to the hypocrisy I consider has gone on with steroids. I do believe the idea that cocaine could have made Raines play that badly for just one season is pretty crazy, considering there are endless other athletes who continued to perform at high levels under its influence. I am by no means suggesting that cocaine is a good thing for people to use. I'm just trying to take a rationale approach to the subject and not acting like just steroids is some kind of magical drug that should mean automatic banning.

2007-11-30 20:39:54
25.   jgpyke
As long as you're adding postscripts and apologies, how about apologizing for coining the word "inductment"?

j/k. Great post.

2007-11-30 23:57:29
26.   Scott Long
That word was a bit unfortunate, though it does seem like a logical word, even if it doesn't exist. Just call me Anthony Burgess, creating my own language as I go.

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