Thursday, January 27, 2022

Baseball Hall of Fame voting: Scott Rolen is on his way to Cooperstown; is 2022 the year he gets in?

Scott Rolen is going to be a Hall of Famer. Given the momentum he’s seen the past two years and continues to see, I’m confident this is a statement of fact. It’s a matter of when and not if. He’s going to get to 75 percent in the BBWAA Hall of Fame vote, whether it’s this voting cycle, next or the year after. 

Rolen debuted on the ballot in the 2018 cycle with just 10.2 percent of the vote. It was awfully crowded and he’s seen a lot of people convince others he’s worthy of enshrinement since. The percentage grew to 17.2 percent in 2019, then 35.3 percent in 2020 and last year leapt to 52.9 percent. 

Over on Ryan Thibodeux’s ballot tracker, we can see that almost 40 percent of the ballots have been publicly revealed and Rolen is polling at 72 percent. If past behavior of the voting body is any indicator, Rolen will miss out on the 2022 party while getting somewhere in the ballpark of, say, 65 percent. Still, it’s entirely possible there are a group of new voters who haven’t revealed their vote and will add Rolen and push him up over the 75-percent threshold, making him a member of the 2022 Hall of Fame class. 

Should he make it? 

In parts of 17 seasons, 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. He won a World Series with the 2006 Cardinals and it could be argued he should have won the MVP that series, as he went 8 for 19 (.421) with three doubles, a home run, two RBI and five runs in the five-game series. 

Let’s zero in on how Rolen compares to other third basemen. 

The hot corner remains under-represented in the Hall. Here are the number of players by infield position currently in the Hall of Fame: 

First base: 22

Second base: 20

Shortstop: 23

Third base: 15

If we included Rolen with the 15 third basemen already in the Hall, he ranks fourth in slugging, sixth in OPS, sixth in homers and sixth in extra-base hits. Only legendary defenders Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt have more Gold Gloves at the position. Rolen sits 10th in WAR behind eight Hall of Famers and Adrian Beltre (who surely will get in the Hall on his first ballot). And though his case is mostly longevity and compiling, his peak was great enough to leave him in the No. 10 spot in JAWS

For a more in-depth study on Rolen, I worked up a full case on him last year

I think the strongest points, however, would be that Rolen was a very good to great player for nearly two decades and that he was an all-around player, a five-tool star in his prime. And also, regarding the position, if he’s the 10th best third basemen of all-time, that’s an easy Hall of Famer — a point made even clearer by the fact that third base has lagged behind the other positions in Hall of Fame representation. 

To reiterate, Scott Rolen is going to be in the Hall of Fame. It’s just a matter of which year. And he deserves it. 

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