Seven-time all-star Scott Rolen is elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame

By Chelsea Janes Updated January 24, 2023 at 6:37 p.m. EST | Published January 24, 2023 at 6:18 p.m. EST
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Scott Rolen, an elite defensive third baseman who was one of baseball’s steadiest offensive producers in his prime, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Rolen will join Fred McGriff, who was voted in by a veterans’ committee in December, when the Class of 2023 is inducted this summer.

Third basemen are the rarest of Cooperstown breeds, and Rolen became just the 18th Hall of Famer to play most of his career there. He received 76.3 percent of the vote during his sixth year on the ballot to clear the 75 percent needed for induction by five votes. He had been on 63.2 percent of the ballots last year.

His eight Gold Gloves trail only Brooks Robinson (16), Mike Schmidt (10) and current St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado (10) for most at the position. Among third basemen from the past half-century, Rolen is seventh in Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs. Of those ahead of him, the only players not in the Hall of Fame are not yet eligible or had their careers tainted by performance-enhancing drugs.

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Rolen, who played for the Philadelphia Phillies, Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds, finished his career with a.281 batting average, an.855 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 316 home runs and 2,077 hits, numbers affected substantially by injuries that limited him in his 30s.

But when he was healthy, Rolen was an annual MVP candidate. From his rookie of the year season in 1997 until his age-30 season in 2005, only three players accumulated more FanGraphs WAR: Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds and fellow 2023 Hall of Fame ballot member Andruw Jones. Jones, known as even more of a glove-first star than Rolen, was named on 58.1 percent of the ballots this year.

Rolen, who helped the Cardinals to a World Series title in 2006, is just the second player elected by the writers in the past three years. They voted in former Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz last year. The year before that, nobody was voted in.

The relative dearth is in part the product of voters’ continued grappling with steroid era stars such as Rodriguez as they reach eligibility. Rodriguez landed on just 35.7 percent of the ballots this time as a year’s suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drug use continues to overshadow his legacy as one of the more prolific offensive producers of his era. Rodriguez is fifth all-time in homers and fourth all-time in RBI, numbers that would otherwise qualify him as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Accused steroid users Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, statistical Hall of Fame locks, went 10 years apiece without reaching 75 percent; they fell off the ballot last year.

Other complicated candidacies, such as that of postseason ace Curt Schilling and first-time-eligible outfielder Carlos Beltrán, also have tarnished some of the more impressive on-field résumés of the past two decades. This year, Beltrán became the first member of the 2017 Houston Astros to hit the Hall of Fame ballot, meaning his candidacy gave voters their first opportunity to grapple with the legacy of those involved in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. He received 46.5 percent of the vote.

But neither Rolen, nor the man who came closest to joining him in the Class of 2023, Todd Helton, was tied to off-field controversy. Helton, the biggest star in Colorado Rockies history, was always discredited somewhat because he played half of his career at offense-friendly Coors Field, though his numbers — such as a.316 career batting average and a.953 OPS — suggest he wasn’t a fluke. Helton received 72.2 percent of the vote and will be back on the ballot next year. So will closer Billy Wagner (68.1 percent) and slugger Gary Sheffield (55 percent).

This is a developing story and will be updated.