Scott Rolen deserves greater support for the Hall of Fame than he is getting
Rolen is one of the best third basemen of all time, but you wouldn't know it based on this winter
Scott Rolen entered Sunday having been included on just over 12 percent of ballots in his first winter of eligibility. His floundering candidacy is the disappointment of the voting season.
Rolen spent 17 seasons in the majors, playing for the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, and Cincinnati Reds. He recorded 2,077 hits and 316 home runs, and he posted a 122 OPS+. His fielding earned him the reputation for being one of the best defensive third basemen -- in his era, and all-time. He finished with 70 Wins Above Replacement, nestling right above the line for the average third baseman who is already in Cooperstown. He also appeared in seven All-Star Games and scooped up eight Gold Glove Awards. By most any measure, save for those entirely reliant on magic numbers, Rolen deserves enshrinement.
Consider a comparison with Omar Vizquel. No, it's not fair to always pick on Vizquel, and there's more to this process than numbers alone, but he's earning more than twice as many votes as Rolen despite being a far worse player statistically. Vizquel finished with 800 more hits than Rolen over seven additional seasons, yet had far lower marks in OPS+ (82) and WAR. Vizquel did play a tougher position, shortstop, however the gap between the two in WAR is 25 wins -- maybe defensive metrics are too sweet on Rolen and too sour on Vizquel … to that extent, though? There's almost no way to make a compelling argument that favors Vizquel and stands up when checked against the stats -- especially not to the degree voters are suggesting.
So why is Vizquel being conditioned for a future enshrinement while Rolen is uncomfortably close to falling into single digits?
Perhaps it has to do with those magic numbers, and how Rolen barely topped 2,000. Maybe it has to do with his relatively thin Black Ink case -- that is, how rarely he led the league in any category. It's possible voters simply won't romanticize third-base defense the way they do with shortstop and catcher. But sheesh, Rolen has the 10th-most WAR of any third baseman, and everyone ahead of him is either in the Hall or heading there (Chipper Jones and Adrian Beltre). What else do voters want?
There's no telling. But here's hoping they find it in Rolen's career before next winter rolls around.
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