Earlier this offseason, the Phillies put together a press release of the Hall of Fame credentials of third baseman Scott Rolen, just as they previously did with Bobby Abreu. We went through Abreu's case objectively, and now it's time to do the same with Rolen.
First things first, Rolen definitely has a better chance to make it than Abreu, given what we've seen so far from the BBWAA voting body. Rolen in his first three tries on the ballot has gained some serious steam with the ballot clearing out candidates at a historic clip. He's gone from 10.2 to 17.2 to 35.3 percent. He needs to get to 75 percent of the vote before he gets through 10 tries, but he should continue to gain votes with so many recent Hall of Famers having come off the ballot and likely no new ones coming on this year (more on that here in our Hall of Fame storylines).
As for his Hall case itself, let's dive in.
In parts of 17 seasons -- spent in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Toronto and Cincinnati -- Rolen hit .281/.364/.490 (122 OPS+) with 2,077 hits, 517 doubles, 43 triples, 316 home runs, 1,287 RBI, 1,211 runs, 118 steals and 70.1 WAR. He was the 1997 Rookie of the Year, won seven Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger and was a seven-time All-Star.
Rolen does have a World Series ring, which he won in 2006 with the Cardinals. He was 8 for 19 (.421) with three doubles, a home run, two RBI, five runs and two walks in the series. He led his team in runs, hits (tied), doubles (tied), home runs (tied), average, slugging and OPS. An argument could've been made for him to take MVP, but David Eckstein's timely hits in Games 4 and 5 (the series only went five games) prevented as much. Still, it was quite the signature postseason series for Rolen and merits mention when discussing his Hall of Fame credentials.
As the Phillies did with Abreu (RF), they compared Rolen with current Hall of Fame third basemen and he comes out favorably. Among the 15 Hall of Fame MLB third basemen, they point out Rolen ranks fourth in slugging, sixth in OPS, sixth in homers, sixth in extra-base hits, and fourth in isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average). Only Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt have more Gold Gloves at third base.
By the way, 15 Hall of Fame third baseman from MLB is it? Really? It's long been the most underrepresented position and that remains the case, though lots of ground has been made up the last several decades with the likes of Schmidt, George Brett, Wade Boggs, Paul Molitor, Ron Santo and Chipper Jones getting in. This is another notch in Rolen's favor. At least it should be. There are 21 first basemen, 20 second basemen and 23 shortstops compared to the 15 third basemen.
The advanced metrics love Rolen, too.
In the JAWS system, Rolen is 10th all-time among third baseman, sitting above the average Hall of Fame number. Same with WAR, where he compares nicely to Ron Santo by several measures.
Rolen was truly an all-around great player. For a quick look, how about this one: Among third baseman, only Robinson, Adrian Beltre (who will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer), Buddy Bell, Clete Boyer and Graig Nettles have more defensive WAR in their careers. Of this group, Rolen had the highest OPS+ at 122 and stole 118 bases. Among the others, only Beltre (122) had more than 55 career steals.
Injuries -- notably to his left shoulder -- hampered Rolen through much of his career, but he was still very consistent. From 1997-2010, he averaged 42 doubles, 27 homers, 106 RBI, 101 runs and 11 steals per 162 games while slashing .284/.370/.500.
Some might point to the lack of MVP hardware on Rolen's case, but that's hardly a disqualification. Eddie Mathews, Beltre, Boggs, Molitor and Santo are among third basemen in the Hall (or headed that way, in Beltre's case) who never won an MVP. Rolen finished fourth in 2004 (and go look at the names and numbers on the top three).
Then there's the whole "feel" test some people like to use. You should just know by hearing the name, they say. The people who view it like this aren't talking about the actual Hall of Fame, by the way. They are talking about inner-circle all-time greats. Let's also note that Rolen was overshadowed because he started his career and played a portion of his prime in the wild west of PEDs when prolific home run numbers were being put on the board. He had good power, but it wasn't his calling card, topping out at 34 home runs and only surpassing 30 three times. Instead, he was steady with average, getting on base, hitting for said power, being a good baserunner and playing among the best defense we've ever seen at the hot corner.
He did it for a long time, too. He won a Gold Glove while getting MVP votes at age 23. He did the same at age 35. He was last an All-Star at age 36 after having won Rookie of the Year at age 22.
Rolen won't be mistaken for an inner-circle type like Chipper Jones anytime soon, but that doesn't mean he doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame. There are established standards set decades ago about what a Hall of Famer is. Rolen makes the cut. Let's hope the vote totals align sometime soon.