When the 1986 season came to an end, Tim Raines was one of the best players in baseball and he was a free agent. He was ready to cash in. Little did Raines know, tinpot dictator and commissioner, the odious paper bag of dog crap named Peter Ueberroth had bullied the owners into refusing to sign free agents from other teams for the second straight year. Teams would talk to Raines and his agent, but there were no offers from anyone but the Montreal Expos.
As a scandal, collusion is every bit as bad as the drug scandals of the 70s and 80s, the gambling scandals of the early 20th century, and the PED scandals of more recent vintage. It was essentially every owner, of every team, refusing to complete. It was also illegal. They ended up paying the players millions upon millions of dollars in penalties and poisoned the well. It was, as future commissioner Fay Vincent put it, organized theft from the players. Fuck the owners.
Well, Tim Raines had no offers except from the Expos and he didn’t like what they were offering. When January 8, 1987 passed, Raines was forbidden fro signing with the Expos until May 1. Eventually, the Expos would come to a deal with Raines on May 1. That day, Raines would play a single game of A baseball where he was allowed to lead off every inning of the first six innings. The next day, he made his return for the Expos against the World Champion Mets.
David Cone, who was not yet “David Cone” was on the mound for the Mets. On the first pitch he threw to Raines, Rock raked it down the first baseball line into the corner for a triple. Next time up, he walks and later scores. A single in the sixth. Another single in the 9th that would again lead to a score as the Expos would tie up the game 6-6. Who needs spring training? Not Tim Raines it would appear.
In the 10th, the Expos would start the inning with three straight singles off Jesse Orosco to bring Rock to the plate. He took the first pitch high. The next pitch was right over the fat part of the plate and Raines drilled a low, screaming line drive over the left field fence for a grand slam and sending the Shea Stadium crowd toward the exits. It was a Hall of Fame performance from one of the great players.
I was fortunate enough to get to see Tim Raines play second base in AA for the Memphis Chicks. He’s been one of my favorite baseball players since. It’s great to see that the baseball world as a whole recognizes just how great he was.