Last Updated on October 22, 2022 by Lil Ginge
Scott Rolen might have been the best third baseman of his era. But does he belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame? In this article, we will examine Rolen’s Hall of Fame case to determine if the voters should and will elect him to MLB’s most hallowed honorarium.
Scott Rolen’s Early Life and Career
Scott Bruce Rolen was born on April 4, 1975, in Evansville, Indiana. He grew up in Jasper, Indiana, a small town in between St. Louis and Cincinnati. His family would often take summer trips to the ballpark or based around the game of baseball.
By the time he was in high school, Rolen was playing baseball as well as basketball and tennis, and he excelled at all three sports. He was named “Mr. Baseball” in the State of Indiana his senior year and was also runner-up for “Mr. Basketball.”
Due to his high school performance, Rolen was recruited to play basketball in college. At first, the 6’4” Scott Rolen committed to playing basketball at U Georgia. However, he backed out of that deal when he was awarded a $250,000 signing bonus to sign with the National League East’s Philadelphia Phillies minor league organization. In 1993, Rolen became the Phillies’ second-round draft pick.
Rolen excelled in the minors. Between his stints in AA Reading and AAA Scranton / Wilkes Barre, he slashed .324/.416/.515. And on August 1st, 1996, Rolen made his Major League debut. He became the Phillies’ starting third baseman immediately, although his season was shortened by an unfortunate hit-by-pitch from the arm of Steve Trachsel.
As a result of that injury, 1996 did not count as Rolen’s Rookie year because he did not have enough at-bats. In 1997, he would tear it up to the tune of 21 homers, 92 RBIs, 93 runs, and a 121 OPS+ in the process on his way to winning Rookie of the Year. He put up an all-star level 4.5 WAR that year.
On July 28th, 2002, Scott Rolen was traded from Philadelphia to St. Louis. The Cardinals were the team that he rooted for as a child growing up in middle America. Rolen would be playing alongside stars like Albert Pujols and Jim Edmunds. And by the end of his first season with the Cardinals, Rolens inked a $90 million dollar contract extension with St. Louis due to his stellar level of play.
Reasons to Support Scott Rolen’s Hall of Fame Case
Ultimately, Scott Rolen played for 17 seasons in Major League Baseball, retiring after age 37 and garnering 2,038 games played and 8,518 total plate appearances. His career batting totals included a slashy of .281/.364/.490 with 2,077 hits, 1,287 RBIs, and 316 home runs. Offensively he finished with a 122 wRC+ and his total value was worth 69.9 fWAR based on strong all-around offense, defense, and speed.
All-time, Scott Rolen is the 11th most valuable third baseman by fWAR at just under 70, coming in right behind Miguel Cabrera (70.3), Ron Santo (70.9), and Brooks Robinson (80.2). His defense among third basemen fares even more impressively than his offense. His defensive share of fWAR is fifth-best among third basemen with 180.3. Only Buddy Bell (200.9), Clete Boyer (203), Adrian Beltre (218.4), and Brooks Robinson (359.8) finish ahead.
Rolen was an essential part of the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals which lost the World Series that year after defeating the Mets in a Queens, New York heartbreaker for the Metropolitans. In his clutch World Series play, Rolen hit .421/.476/.737, going 8-19 with three doubles, one homer, two RBIs, and five runs scored against the Detroit Tigers.
In terms of his defensive awards, the only third baseman with more than Rolen’s eight gold gloves includes Brooks Robinson (16), Mike Schmidt (10), and Nolan Arenado (9). Only 15 total infielders have ever won 8 or more Gold Gloves.
Overall, Rolen is the 61st best player of all time according to Fangraphs fWAR. He finishes just ahead of Gary Carter (69.4) and Al Simmons (69.3), and right behind Rafael Palmeiro (70) and Miguel Cabrera (70.3, tied with Billy Hamilton). And unlike another player or so on this list, there have never been whispers of performance-enhancing drugs when it comes to Scott Rolen.
Reasons Not To Support Rolen’s Hall of Fame Case
There aren’t many reasons against the case for Scott Rolen to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. One knock against Rolen is that he did experience a number of injuries that ate into his playing time. But during his peak Hall of Fame years, he did play over 150 games 5 times. One shouldn’t penalize a Hall of Fame career based on weaker numbers outside of their main peak years and because they held on too long to a game they loved playing. (Or loved being paid by).
Another knock on Rolen is that he was more of a “tier 2 “ superstar. He tended to play supporting roles to flashier stars like Albert Pujols. But that does not lessen Rolen’s own achievements. You also should not be penalized for not being the best player in baseball when you are playing at the same time as stars like Pujols and Barry Bonds. You don’t control what era you play in or who your competition is, and Rolen stacks up pretty well regardless.
Most insiders tend to think Rolen will be elected to the Hall before all is said and done. He doesn’t have the steroid controversy attached to him unlike stars such as Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa have. And David Ortiz just got elected to the Hall with a steroids controversy. Without steroid baggage, Rolen’s case – at least among the BBWAA who have generally voted against known steroid users, becomes even more of a no-brainer.
Should Scott Rolen Be In The Baseball Hall of Fame?
Scott Rolen has gotten closer to making the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2022. But he didn’t quite get there. He was just a little bit shy of the right-field porch, one might say. Rolen finished with 249 votes (63.2%). That makes him one of the few players to garner above 50% this year. The others were Barry Bonds (66%), Roger Clemens (65.2%), Curt Schilling (58.6%), Todd Helton (52%), and Billy Wagner (51%), along with David “Big Papi” Ortiz, the only player to actually be elected this year with 77.9%.
Scott Rolen has been on the Hall of Fame ballot for five years now but has yet to be elected. In his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility in 2018, Rolen received 43 out of 422 votes (10.2%). Very few candidates who start with such a low percentage of the vote eventually make it into the Hall of Fame. But Rolen’s climb to 63.2% in just five years is extremely impressive and seems to reflect changing attitudes towards his candidacy.
In 2019, Rolen had 17.2% of the vote. In 2020 he had 35.3%. And in 2021 he had 52.9%, appearing above the 50% mark for the first time. Candidates must reach the 75% threshold within ten years of eligibility to be elected into the Hall of Fame. Only one player in the last 45 years has climbed from a number as low as Rolen debuted to an eventual election, and that is Larry Walker, who climbed all the way from 10%.
If Scott Rolen is not elected into the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA, he can also be inducted later through the Eras Committee (formerly the Veterans Committee). In August 2019, Rolen was inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame where he definitely belongs. But, Scott Rolen belongs in the Baseball hall of fame just as much.
Scott Rolen MLB Facts & Statistics of Note
- Phillies (1996-2022)
- Cardinals (2002-2007)
- Blue Jays (2009-2009)
- Red (2009-2012)
- Career Stats
- .281/.364/.490 batting average/on-base percentage/slugging
- 316 home runs
- 1,287 RBIs
- 2,077 hits
- 70.1 WAR (wins above replacement)
- 8-time Gold Glove winner – third most for a third baseman behind Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt
- 1997 Rookie of the Year
- Word Series Stats from 2006
- .421 batting average
- 1.213 OPS
If you found this article interesting, please be sure to check out this related article: “The Andruw Jones Hall of Fame Case”.