Scott Rolen – Hall Bound?
For several years after the retirement of Michael Jack Schmidt, arguably the best overall third baseman in the history of major league baseball, the Phills had tried filling the void at the hot corner with what can be described only as 2nd tier players at best. Kim Batiste, Dave Hollins, Charlie Hayes, Milt Thompson and Todd Zeile would play the majority of the 7 seasons following his retirement.
It was in 1997 that a former Phillies second round draft pick just four years prior would take over the helm and win National League Rookie of the Year Award, the first Phillie to receive the honor since Dick Allen won in 1964. Phillies fans thought that Scott Rolen was the second coming of the much heralded and now current Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt.
Through his first five full seasons with the ball club Rolen averaged 150 hits, 36 doubles, 26 home runs, 95 rbi’s, 94 runs, 13 stolen bases and a .286avg, .378obp, and a .514slg. Then came the news that he wished to be traded because he did not believe the Phillies were an organization dedicated to winning.
Now we flash forward through a couple of trades from the Phillies to the Cardinals to the Blue Jays to the Reds and look back at someone with 7 Gold Glove awards, 5 all-star appearances, a Rookie of the Year Award, a Silver Slugger Award, and a World Series victory, in which he hit .421/.476/.737. At 34 years of age Scott Rolen already has decent career numbers, but are they good enough to make it to the Hall of Fame?
3rd basemen, just like every other position in baseball, have players that make the Hall of Fame for different reasons. There are those who were the best of the best defensively like Brooks Robinson who won 16 Gold Glove awards. There are those who had power like Mike Schmidt who hit 548 home runs. There are those who had speed like Fred Baker who stole 235 bases. And, there are those who hit for average like Wade Boggs whose career .328 batting average and .415 on-base percentage are both bests at his position.
Scott Rolen is a guy who is not going to retire leading any major statistical category at his position. However, he has a higher average than Mike Schmidt, Brooks Robinson and Eddie Mathews, a higher on base percentage than Frank Baker, Jimmy Collins, George Kell, Freddie Lindsrom, Brooks Robinson, and Pie Traynor, and a higher slugging percentage than all but Eddie Matthews and Mike Schmidt. He already has more home runs than everyone but George Brett, Eddie Matthews and Mike Schmidt and is only 38 short of passing Brett for 3rd on the list. He already has more runs batted in than all but Brett, Matthews, Robinson, Schmidt and Traynor. And his 114 stolen bases better Brett, Kell, Lindstrom, Matthews and Robinson.
Unfortunately, Rolen has been plagued with injuries throughout his career and has only reached 150 games played 5 times and averages only 131 games played since his ROY winning season. Let’s say he stays injury prone for the next 5 seasons and only averages 60 runs, 125 hits, 27 doubles, 10 home runs and 65 runs batted in. Compared to current 3rd base Hall of Famers, he will end his career ranked 3rd in home runs, 3rd in runs batted in, 4th in runs scored, 3rd in hits, 2nd in doubles, 5th in batting average, 4th in obp and 4th in slg. And that is not taking into account his 7 gold gloves.
So where does a guy who hits more home runs than all HOF 3rd baseman but the power hitters, has more stolen bases than all but the base stealers, more gold gloves than all but the defense oriented players, and a better batting average and on-base-percentage then all but the ones who hit for average fit in the equation? It is a good question and up for the Hall of Fame voters to decide.