Sports | January 25, 2023 11:38 am

Baseball Hall of Fame Makes Lame Call With Election of Scott Rolen

The third baseman batted .281 with 316 homers, 1,287 RBIs and 2,077 hits in 17 seasons

Scott Rolen of the Phillies during a game in 1997.
Scott Rolen was good but he is not Cooperstown material.
Mitchell Layton/Getty

Receiving 72.2% of the vote from the 400 or so members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, Todd Helton wound up missing being elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday by only 11 votes. That’d be the same Todd Helton who played first base and batted .316 with 369 homers, 1,406 RBIs and 2,519 hits in 17 seasons with the Colorado Rockies.

According to Baseball Reference, similar batters include Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Luis Gonzalez, Vladimir Guerrero, Orlando Cepeda, Andres Galarraga, Larry Walker, Jim Rice, Joey Votto and Fred McGriff. Of those players, Bagwell, Martinez, Guerrero, Cepeda, Walker, Rice and McGriff are in the Hall of Fame. (Some fairly questionably.)

Receiving 76.3% of the vote from the 400 or so members of the BBWAA, Scott Rolen wound up being elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday by just five votes. That’d be the same Scott Rolen who played third base and batted .281 with 316 homers, 1,287 RBIs and 2,077 hits in 17 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds.

According to Baseball Reference, similar batters include Matt Holliday, Paul O’Neill, Shawn Green, Bobby Bonilla, Reggie Smith, Aramis Ramirez, Ron Santo, Fred Lynn, Ken Boyer and Ellis Burks. Of those players, only Santo is in the Hall of Fame.

“You don’t think about this,” Rolen said after being elected. “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.”

It shouldn’t have been.

Based on how many votes he received and the fact that he still has five years of eligibility for induction into the Hall of Fame, Helton is likely headed to Cooperstown eventually — but he shouldn’t be. Rolen, a seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove winner, is already there, but he shouldn’t be either as he was never the best player at his position nor did he ever lead baseball in any one statistical category. If you care about WAR, which is probably the major driving force behind his candidacy and induction, he only led his own team in that category three times in 17 seasons.

Curt Schilling Gets More Hall of Fame Votes Than Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens

The Contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee put Fred McGriff in Cooperstown on Sunday

There’s one more stat that shows no one really thinks of Rolen as a Hall of Famer and thus proves he shouldn’t be one. When Rolen first appeared on the ballot in 2018, he only got 10.2% of the vote. In the history of the BBWAA voting process, no player had ever gotten less than 15% support on his first ballot and gone on to be elected by the writers. No player until Rolen.

To really get a sense of why Rolen deserved to be kept out of Cooperstown over more worthy candidates, just take a look at some of the players other than Helton who were on yesterday’s ballot who were rejected by the BBWAA.

Ramirez. A-Rod. Sheffield. Kent.

Those were names that struck fear in your heart if you were an opposing fan and they stepped into the on-deck circle, let alone into the batter’s box. Causing fear makes you infamous — and it can make you a Hall-of-Famer. Rolen, as strong as he was in the field and as competent as he was swinging the stick, was never a scary prospect to face. He was good. He was very good. But it isn’t the Hall of Very Good. It’s the Hall of Fame and, unlike David Ortiz, Rolen does not belong in it.