Arizona Baseball

Scream this from a mountaintop: If Tim Raines is still on the Hall of Fame ballot, why isn’t Kenny Lofton?





Kenny Lofton had only one  chance on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot despite some impressive achievements

Kenny Lofton had only one chance on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot despite some impressive achievements

Kenny Lofton went alone to a mountain range and screamed at the top of his lungs after not winning the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1992. Note to park rangers: That scream you heard today from the mountaintop was likely from Lofton.

The Baseball Hall of Fame voters determined today that Lofton, a 17-year major-league veteran as a center fielder, is not deserving of more than one chance to be on the ballot.

By receiving only 18 votes — 3.2 percent of the ballots — Lofton’s chance for Hall of Fame consideration is over. A player needs at least 5 percent of the vote to remain on the ballot for the following year. If after 15 tries a player does not achieve the necessary mark of 75 percent of the vote, he can no longer earn a spot in the Hall unless a Veterans Committee makes a determination otherwise.

Lofton finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting in 1992, his first year with Cleveland. Pat Listach, a former ASU player, took the award in his first season with Milwaukee. Lofton had 66 stolen bases and 164 hits that season while batting .285. Listach had 54 stolen bases and 168 hits while batting .290.

“I had to let it out,” Lofton said of his mountaintop scream in the YouTube video accompanying this blog. “It was something that I felt I did what I had to do to try to win and it didn’t work so … I had to let it out but no one heard me. So it was pretty good.”

Tim Raines, a 23-year veteran outfielder, received 52.2 percent of the Hall of Fame vote on his sixth try this year. If Raines is still under consideration, why is Lofton out after one year?

Lofton, who played for UA’s first Final Four team in 1987-88 but found his calling in baseball after he left the school, played for 11 different playoff teams and ranks 15th in career stolen bases. He was a six-time All-Star and won four Gold Gloves. He had a career .299 batting average and .372 on-base percentage. He also scored 1,528 runs.

Despite playing in 399 more games than Lofton, Raines had only 177 more hits than Lofton (2,605 to 2,428). Raines had only 43 more career runs than Lofton (1,571 to 1,528). Lofton had more triples (116 to 113) and a better career batting average (.299 to .294).

In Raines’ favor was his National League batting title in 1986 and his three World Series titles. But he had no Gold Glove awards. Lofton was decidedly a more versatile player.

Lofton led the majors in stolen bases three times and topped the American League twice. In 1994, he led the American League in hits with 160. Lofton broke Rickey Henderson’s record of 33 career post-season stolen bases in 2007.

Lofton’s exclusion from the Hall of Fame is a Catch-22 for the former UA hoops star.

Raines played parts of six more years in the majors because he was 19 when he first played for Montreal in 1979. Lofton’s first big-league experience was in 1991 with Houston, when he was 24. When Lofton was 19 he was a sophomore with the Wildcats. A year later, he was playing for the Wildcats in the Final Four with Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr, Tom Tolbert, Jud Buechler and Co.

Given Lofton’s close relationship with members of the Wildcats from that era, he would not trade the opportunity to play hoops at Arizona for an earlier chance to start his baseball career.

And although it’s not as grand on a national scale, Lofton is an Arizona Sports Hall of Famer (inducted in 1995).

Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner

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