Will the Baseball Writers Elect Scott Rolen in 2023?
This past week, the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee elected Fred McGriff as a member of the 2023 Hall of Fame class. While I remember him to be one of the great players of his era, I had to dive a littler deeper into his numbers to better understand his Cooperstown credentials. So, I wrote The Crime Dog Goes to Cooperstown.
When I glanced at the remainder of the 2023 ballot, there were not a ton of names that jumped off the page. However, when you look at returning candidates, the one with the highest previous vote was third baseman Scott Rolen (63.2%). He needs 75% to be elected. Upon further investigation, 2022 was Rolen’s fifth year on the ballot. In his first year eligible, he received just 10.2% and has steadily climbed each year. So, why are members of the BBWAA reconsidering Scott Rolen?
Cooperstown is Light at Third
If position played has any impact on selection to the Hall, as it should, Scott Rolen could be a major beneficiary. There are a total of 17 third basemen in the HOF, the fewest number at any position (excluding DH). Among all-time third baseman, Scott Rolen ranks #9 in terms of WAR (wins above replacement) at a 70.1. More and more, WAR is seen as one of the most important considerations for HOF selection.
Rather than run all the numbers myself, I strongly recommend checking out the article, Scott Rolen’s Hall of Fame Case: It’s a Matter of WAR over at Cooperstown Credentials. There you’ll find all the numbers to sort through and form some of your own conclusions. But, there are a few things about Rolen’s career that really standout. In order to do this, I will put Rolen up against first ballot Hall of Fame third baseman, Chipper Jones.
Jones was, without a doubt, one of the best players of his era. He also has 152 more home runs and 350 more RBIs than Rolen. Jones was an eight time All-Star, Rolen was a seven time All-Star. However, Chipper Jones does not have a Gold Glove. Scott Rolen, on the other hand, has eight, including five consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 2000-2004. Only Brooks Robinson (16), Mike Schmidt (10) and Nolan Arenado (10) have more.
One of the most persuasive comparison the Cooperstown Credentials article makes is that between Scott Rolen and Hall of Famer, Ron Santo. As you can see below, the two players had nearly identical statistics. Santo played fifteen years in the big leagues, primarily for the Chicago Cubs, from 1960-1974. Like Rolen, Santo won five consecutive Gold Gloves, between 1963-1968. Rolen won three more than Santo overall. Santo went to nine All-Star Games, to Rolen’s seven.
I would also like to throw legendary third baseman Brooks Robinson into this equation. Robinson may have everyone beat defensively, but on the offensive side their numbers are strikingly similar. Keep in mind, Robinson played six more seasons than Rolen.
Rolen played seventeen years with the Phillies (1996-2002), Cardinals (2002-2007), Toronto Blue Jays (2008-2009) and Cincinnati Reds (2009-2012). He was named NL Rookie of the Year in 1997 and won a World Series with the Cardinals in 2006. All of this suggests that Scott Rolen’s career accomplishments seem to place him among a select group of elite third basemen. By most measures and rankings, Rolen is found in the top ten. If there are currently 17 third basemen enshrined in Cooperstown, Scott Rolen certainly deserves his place. The vote is January 24, 2023!
***Photo from Sports Info Solutions***