THE 58TH ALL-STAR GAME : Raines Emphasizes Point : All-Star Game’s MVP Again Shows His Worth With Three Hits in Three At-Bats
No, he wasn’t trying to send a message or make a statement, Tim Raines kept insisting. No, he hadn’t planned to use Tuesday night’s All-Star game as a personal platform, displaying the wares that the Dodgers and 24 other clubs decided to pass on last winter.
They probably noticed anyway.
On a night when the greatest offensive talent in baseball could not score a run in 12 innings, Raines had three hits in three at-bats--including the 13th-inning triple that finally ended the longest double-shutout in All-Star history and gave the National League a 2-0 victory.
Raines, who entered the game in the seventh inning, didn’t bat until the top of the ninth. He got his first hit there, singling off Milwaukee Brewers reliever Dan Plesac and becoming the first National League batter to reach third base.
He failed to score, however, judging a potential sacrifice fly to right by Juan Samuel too shallow. It proved a shrewd move because right fielder Dwight Evans made a perfect throw home to catcher Matt Nokes.
Raines also singled in the 11th, only to be stranded again, then stepped to the plate in the 13th with Ozzie Virgil on second base, Hubie Brooks on first and two outs.
Raines drove a 2-and-0 pitch by Oakland A’s reliever Jay Howell into the gap in left-center field, scoring both runners to win both the game and the most valuable player trophy.
Afterward, Raines held the gold-plated cup over his head, like Pat Cash at Wimbledon, grinning broadly for the flashing cameras. Taking in that scene, it was not difficult to imagine Raines thinking, “Take that, baseball.”
Yet, Raines, when asked for the record if his free-agent freeze-out had served as motivation on this night, answered: “Not necessarily.”
“I’ve played six years in the major leagues and I’ve proved what I could do as a player,” Raines said. “I don’t think I have to prove anything more to anybody else. If people haven’t recognized that by now, that’s their fault.”
Raines played his seventh All-Star game Tuesday night. He entered the game with a career batting average of .305. He’s not yet 28 years old.
Yet when Raines played out his option with the Montreal Expos after the 1986 season, he couldn’t find work. If major league owners had recognized what Raines could do on the baseball diamond, they did a fair job of ignoring it. Raines could find no takers--not even the Dodgers, who opened the 1987 with Mike Ramsey as their starting center fielder.
While Raines was getting his three hits against some of the finest pitchers in the American League, Ramsey was readying for another Texas League bus ride. Ramsey now plays for the Dodgers’ Double-A farm team in San Antonio.
When Raines failed to sign with another team, he re-upped with the Expos on May 1. That cost Raines a month of playing time plus his customary spot on the All-Star ballot.
To vote for Tim Raines this summer, you had to write in his name. Raines made it worth the effort--he is batting .346 with 37 RBIs and 25 stolen bases--but more fans found it simpler to punch holes next to the names of Eric Davis, Darryl Strawberry and Andre Dawson.
So Raines had to sit and wait for his chance. He barely got it, too.
“If (the American League) had scored that run in the ninth,” Raines said, alluding to Dave Winfield’s being thrown out at the plate, “I would have only gotten one hit.”
But when Steve Bedrosian gunned down Winfield at the plate on a spectacular dive-catch-and-throw double play, Raines received two more at-bats.
Raines had an opportunity to end the game himself in the top of the ninth. After singling and moving to third base with one out, Raines watched Samuel loft a fly ball to Evans in right, tagged, took a couple of steps down the line and then retreated to the base.
Jeffrey Leonard then fouled out to Nokes and the National League’s best threat through regulation play was snuffed.
Evans said he wished Raines had tested him there.
“It was a perfect situation for me, a perfect situation for Tim Raines,” Evans said. “I was hoping he would have challenged me.”
Raines figured Evans was.
“I know Dwight has a great arm in right field, one of the strongest in baseball,” Raines said. “I’ve followed his career for a long time. I thought about challenging him, but then again, there was only one out.
“The ball wasn’t deep enough for me to take a chance. When I saw the throw he made into the infield, I knew it was the right decision.”
Four innings later, Raines would close the game out with his two-run triple.
Raines’ third hit of the evening, it was also his third hit as an All-Star. Before Tuesday, Raines was 0 for 7 against American League pitching.
“Some of the guys were kidding me about it,” Raines said. “Six years and no hits. Even my wife was getting on me about it. I finally told her, ‘I’ll get a hit for you tonight.’
“I wanted to get one. I ended up with three.”
And maybe, just maybe, an ounce of satisfaction after a long, cold winter?
“Yeah, it was satisfying,” Raines admitted. “But it wasn’t meant as a slur at any owner or any organization.
“I’m still in love with baseball. This is just a great feeling.”
As Raines put it, he didn’t need to prove his ability to anyone. Tuesday night, he merely provided a reminder.