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Slick-Fielding Third Baseman Scott Rolen Enters Hall of Fame


Scott Rolen played nearly 18,000 innings in the field during his 17-season career, and every one of them went to third base. A star infielder known as much for his glove and reach as his mighty bat, Rolen was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday when the results of the annual Writers’ Ballot were announced.

Rolen, in his sixth year of eligibility, was named on 76.3% of the ballots in an election in which 75% must be inducted.

Longtime Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton was second, at 72.2%, and Billy Wagner, a star closer to multiple clubs, was third at 68.1%.

Carlos Beltrán, a Mets and Yankees outfielder who was the most important first-time finalist this year, was named on 46.5% of the ballots. The result was somewhat disappointing for the former all-around star, and it may have been influenced by his connection to the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal.

Following Tuesday’s election, Rolen will join Fred McGriff, a powerhouse first baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays, Atlanta Braves and four other teams, at the Hall’s annual induction ceremony in Cooperstown. , NY, this summer. McGriff, who lost the Writers’ Ballot after his 10th try in 2019, was unanimously selected by Hall’s Contemporary Baseball Era Committee, which reviews cases of players who failed to get Writers’ Votes.

For Rolen, the election came after a steady increase in his vote tally over the years. He was named on just 10.2% of ballots in 2018, his first year of eligibility, but has seen that percentage rise every year. Last year he reached 63.2% and was elected this year when he improved by more than 10 percentage points.

Having spent most of his career in the National League, Rolen was a third baseman in the truest sense of the word. He never appeared at any other position, and he never played a designated hitter game, with his only appearances as a third baseman or pinch hitter. The defensive commitment was warranted as Rolen finished his career with eight Gold Glove awards and 21.2 defensive wins above substitution, as Baseball Reference put it.

Rolen was also a star with his bat, hitting .281 for his career with 316 home runs and 1,287 RBIs. He helped lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title in 2006 by batting .421 in the five-game series against the Detroit Tigers.

While Helton had no doubt hoped to join Rolen and McGriff on the Cooperstown stage, his disappointment on Tuesday may be tempered by the huge jump he has made in the votes. The rare star who has spent his entire career with one team, Helton hit .3724 in 2000 – the fifth-highest single-season batting average since 1960 – and helped lead his team to the 2007 World Series. however, questioned the wide gap between his home numbers at Coors Field and what he was able to do on the road. He got 16.5% of the vote in 2019, his first eligible year and worked up to 52% last year. With his percentage rising again this year, he has gone from being a draw candidate to one expected to be elected in years to come.

Wagner, a top closer to the Houston Astros, Mets and three other teams, has also come closer this year and could eventually become the ninth reliever elected to Cooperstown. With 422 saves and a career 2.31 ERA, Wagner has always been a dominant force, but faces the same hurdles as other relievers who have to contend with the feeling that their role is not as valuable as that of a better starting pitcher.

For Beltrán, who in his prime was one of the best mixes of power, speed and defense in the game, a failure to be elected this year does not jeopardize his future prospects. The sign-stealing scandal will linger for years to come, but he has less ground to make up for than players with strong ties to steroids, such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire, who each received less than 40% of the voice. in their first year of eligibility.

In a similar vein, the remaining candidates with established links to performance-enhancing drugs continued to struggle in this year’s vote. Alex Rodriguez, who led all finalists with 117.6 career wins over substitution and won the AL Most Valuable Player award three times, was named on just 35.7% ballot papers. Manny Ramirez, a 12-time All-Star who hit 555 homers, had 33.2%.

Things won’t be any easier for the finalists next year, as the ballot will add a decorated group of first-time candidates that includes Adrián Beltré, Joe Mauer, Chase Utley and David Wright.

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