Scott Rolen elected to Hall of Fame on 2023 BBWAA ballot

The hot corner has historically had a high bar for National Baseball Hall of Fame entry. But in 2023, Scott Rolen made the cut and completed a meteoric rise in support in his time on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot.

Rolen was the only one of the 28 candidates on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot to reach the necessary 75% support in results, which were revealed Tuesday night on MLB Network. Rolen will join first baseman Fred McGriff in the Class of 2023 after McGriff’s selection in December by the Contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee.

Induction ceremonies will be held July 23 in Cooperstown, NY

“You don’t think about this,” Rolen said of his playing days. “You think about trying to do the best you can and play for your team and do the best you can. It’s such a long road, and I never thought the Hall of Fame would be the answer.”

For the 47-year-old Rolen, who played for the Phillies, Cardinals, Reds and Blue Jays, this was the sixth of a possible 10 appearances on the BBWAA ballot. Support for his case has increased dramatically in recent years. His progression was as follows:

2018: 10.2%
2019: 17.2%
2020: 35.3%
2021: 52.9%
2022: 63.2%
2023: 76.3%

In the history of the BBWAA voting process, no player had ever gotten less than 15% support on his first ballot and went on to be elected by the writers.

But as the ballot became less congested with clear candidates in recent years, Rolen’s case was given a much closer look.

Although Rolen was the BBWAA’s only electee for 2023, he was not the only one to continue a major surge. Todd Helton jumped from 52% in 2022 to 72.2% in his fifth of 10 possible appearances on the ballot, falling just 11 votes shy of what would have been one of the biggest final flourishes for an electee in history. Billy Wagner went from 51% to 68.1% in his eighth year, and Andrew Jones (58.1%), in his sixth year, and Gary Sheffield (55%), in his ninth, both made the important cross above the 50% threshold for the first time.

Carlos Beltrán had a solid 46.5% showing on his first ballot, (Francisco Rodríguez, at 10.8%, was the only other first-timer to receive the necessary 5% to remain on next year’s ballot), while Jeff Kent had the exact same percentage on his 10th and final try with the BBWAA. Kent’s case will go to the Historical Overview Committee for potential inclusion on the 2025 Contemporary Baseball Era ballot.

Rolen will become just the 18th third baseman in the Hall — still the lowest total of any fielding position — and only the ninth elected by the BBWAA. He will be the first third base inductee since Chipper Jones in 2018. They are the only third basemen to have debuted in the last 40 years and reach the Hall.

“I was a shortstop and pitched a little bit [in high school],” Rolen said. “Then, through high school, I played right field, center field, left field, second, third and short in the same year. I kind of kept growing and there was another kid that played shortstop and was just kind of an infielder, and [I] got moved over to third base. I caught a little attention in the summer [between sophomore and junior year]and they just kind of kept me there.”

Rolen won eight Gold Glove Awards — the fourth most all-time among third basemen behind Brooks Robinson (16), Mike Schmidt (10) and Nolan Arenado (10).

He said defense was what he took the most pride in.

“It’s the one thing that, if the ball is hit to you at your defensive position, it affects your team immediately,” Rolen said. “It affects your pitcher, it affects your team, you save runs.”

But Rolen was no slouch at the plate. He was one of only 35 players with at least 2,000 hits, 300 homers and 500 doubles. The elite defense combined with the above-average offense to make Rolen worth 70.1 Wins Above Replacement in his career, according to Baseball Reference. That figure ranks 10th all time among third basemen, with eight of the top nine in the Hall of Fame (the only exception is Adrian Beltré, who will be Hall-eligible next year and is considered a Cooperstown lock).

All told, Rolen was a career .281 hitter with an .855 OPS, 316 homers, 517 doubles and 1,287 RBIs. He was a seven-time All-Star, a member of the 2006 World Series champion Cardinals (going 8-for-19 with a homer and three doubles in the Series against the Tigers), a Silver Slugger winner in 2002 and the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year with Philadelphia.

After an emotional Rolen got the call Tuesday, the first thing his son, Finn, asked him was if he wanted to play catch.

“It’s 30 degrees here, and it’s gonna snow about 12 inches tomorrow, and my son and I were in the driveway playing catch about 10-15 minutes after we got the phone call,” Rolen said. “So that’s going to be a pretty special memory when I get to stop and think about it all.”

After an emotional Rolen got the call Tuesday, the first thing his son, Finn, asked him was if he wanted to play catch.

“It’s 30 degrees here, and it’s gonna snow about 12 inches tomorrow, and my son and I were in the driveway playing catch about 10-15 minutes after we got the phone call,” Rolen said. “So that’s going to be a pretty special memory when I get to stop and think about it all.”

This marks the second straight year in which the BBWAA only elected one player, after David Ortiz was the lone selection in his first year on the ballot in 2022. Nobody was elected from the BBWAA ballot in 2021.

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