Scott Rolen got perhaps the second-best news he could have gotten on Tuesday night.
Rolen did not receive votes on the 75% of ballots necessary for Hall of Fame induction, but his 63.2% mark is another step in an upward trajectory that has him in prime position to crack that three-quarters mark in the coming years.
Rolen debuted on the ballot by earning 10.2% of votes in 2018, then followed that up with 17.2% the following year, 35.3% the next and 51% in 2021. Now, Rolen has used up half of his allotted 10 years on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot, but if his progress in his first five years is any indication of how he’ll fare moving forward, he’s highly likely to ultimately be enshrined.
Due to the 10-player selection limit on individual writers’ ballots and all the attention on hotly debated players in their final year — most notably Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling, all of whom missed the cut — anyone who survived and advanced in 2022 should face a much kinder climate in future voting.
The drop-off of those names from the ballot should make way for players such as Rolen to make significant headway in 2023. And given the progress Rolen has already made even with his name alongside those others, and the relatively small gap he now has to close, confidence should be high.
Rolen’s momentum also may indicate a growing level of importance writers place on advanced metrics, which help Rolen’s case. He ranks 68th all-time among position players in WAR and 10th among third basemen in JAWS, which measures the relative strength of a player’s seven-year peak.
Rolen would most likely don a St. Louis Cardinals hat on a potential Hall of Fame plaque, despite playing more seasons (seven) with the Phillies than any other team and posting nearly identical offensive numbers between his Philadelphia and St. Louis tenures. That said, his Hall of Fame credentials rest primarily on his defensive resume; Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt are the only third basemen in MLB history to win more Gold Gloves than Rolen’s eight.
Rolen compiled a .282/.373/.504 slash line along with three Gold Gloves and a Rookie of the Year Award with the Phillies, but skepticism about the team’s commitment to winning, a 2002 trade request out of Philadelphia and a comment describing St. Louis as “baseball heaven” ended his relationship with the Phillies on a rocky note; he’s still not a Wall of Famer. In addition, a 2006 World Series championship with St. Louis certainly won’t hurt the Cardinals’ chances to plaster their insignia on Rolen’s Hall of Fame hardware.
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