Scott Rolen was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, sneaking in the door by a very narrow margin.
Rolan, one of the best third basemen in the game, was named in his sixth year with 76.3% of the votes cast. The only absentee is former Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who received 72.2% of the vote in his fifth attempt at the election.
None of the other 27 players listed in the 2023 Hall poll cleared the 75 percent minimum for election, though there were a couple of misses. Results of the poll, which was broadcast on MLB.com, were released Tuesday.
Players can appear on the ballot for 10 seasons after a five-year waiting period after their retirement if they are named in at least 5% of the votes during the voting cycle.
“You don’t think about it,” Rollen said on MLB Network. “You just try to do your best, play for your team and play as well as you can, there’s such a long road. I never thought the Hall of Fame would be the answer.”
Rolan was a seven-time All-Star during his 17-year career, playing for the Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Reds. His eight Gold Gloves are the fourth most for a third baseman. He was a member of the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year Cardinals when the club won the 2006 World Series.
Rolen, who ranks fifth in WAR among career third basemen according to Baseball-Reference.com, was named to just 10.2% of the vote in his first year of eligibility in 2018, but quickly gained favor in each voting cycle.
When asked about his thoughts on his unusual path to Cooperstown, Rolan offered his comments with his usual humility, “”There was never really a point in my life when I thought I was going to be a Hall of Fame baseball player. .”
Still, in the first year of voting, Rollen remained hopeful of remaining on the ballot, and when he cleared the 5% barrier, he told his young son, “We won.”
Online tracking was above 75% all winter, but was close enough to make the outcome uncertain because those figures often fall when the final numbers are released due to ballots not made public.
Rolan said he didn’t track trackers because he didn’t need them: his family and friends kept him well informed, “blowing up” his phone every time the numbers changed.
Part of the reason Rolen’s case gained momentum so quickly was because he stood out in advanced metrics that ranked him ninth among third basemen, according to Battle.
Rollen said he didn’t follow through until he studied advanced numbers long after he retired, benefiting from higher ratings for him on defense and base running. It is no coincidence that he shined in those areas.
“I pride myself on defense and base running,” Rollen said. “Those are two aspects that I can contribute to on the pitch on a daily basis.”
The same upward trajectory applies to Helton, which started 2019 at 16.5%. A .316 career hitter in 17 seasons spent with the Colorado Rockies, Helton was a four-time Silver Slugger winner and three-time Gold Slugger. Glover for his work on the first floor.
Billy Wagner (68.1%), Andrew Jones (58.1%) and Gary Sheffield (55%) were the other players named in at least half of the vote.
One of the most dominant relievers of his era, Wagner has continued to receive support. Last year he received 51% of the vote. Next year will be his ninth season of eligibility.
Rollen’s narrow election — he cleared the 75% barrier by just five votes — means the BBWAA has declined to elect new members nine more times in its voting history. The writers didn’t pick anyone in 2021, and last year, Red Sox great David Ortiz was the only one picked by the writers.
The three-year span in which the BBWAA has selected two players is the shortest span in history. Since the annual ballot became permanent in 1966, writers have never failed to select at least two players in any three-year period. In the three years ending in 1968 and in each season from 1996 to 1998, they selected just two players.
Ironically, the dearth of electors comes after a period of years in which writers vote. In the three-year period ending in 2019, the BBWAA elected 11 new Hall members and in the five-year period from 2015 to 2019, 17 new Hall of Famers were elected by the writers.
Unlike in 2021, when the new Hall of Famers are not selected by the writers or an era committee — the first time since 1960 — at least two new inductees will speak at the July 23 induction ceremonies in Cooperstown. The soft-spoken Fred McGriff will join Rolan in the hall after being elected by an all-time committee at the Winter Meetings in San Diego in December.
“I thought he should have been around a long time ago,” Rollen said of his Hall classmate, who retired after the 2004 season.
Progress has been slow for some more controversial candidates, whose performance meets traditional Hall of Fame standards but whose cases have been undermined by connections to PEDs.
Alex Rodriguez, who had a career high of 3,115 hits, 696 homers and 2,086 RBIs, was named with 35.7% of the vote, up from 34.3% during his second year of eligibility. Rodriguez missed the 2014 season under suspension for violating MLB’s PED policies.
Similarly, Manny Ramirez, who hit 555 homers while rolling a .312 career batting average but was suspended twice for PED violations, made a slight improvement in his seventh season at the polls. After dropping to 28.9% last year, Ramirez improved to 33.2% this time around.
Instead, the frighteningly lazy Sheffield picked up some momentum in his ninth year of eligibility. Last year he was 40.6%. Sheffield, who hit 509 homers but was named in the 2007 Mitchell Report, was never disciplined for PED use. Next season will be his 10th and final chance to win the election via the writers’ ballot.
Of the 14 first-choice candidates in the poll, only two received the 5% support needed to be considered for the next round.
One of those first-timers was Carlos Beltran, who landed with 46.5% of the vote. Beltran’s Hall case is solid on the merits of a career that saw 435 homers, 312 steals, 2,725 hits and one of baseball’s most dazzling postseason records.
Beltran was a key figure in the controversial identity-theft scandal that tarnished the Houston Astros’ 2017 World Series title, for which Beltran played. His association with controversy later led to his resignation as manager of the New York Mets before his first season in the role.
While it’s uncertain what role the scandal played in Beltran’s first-ballot miss, his endorsement status bodes well for the future and, perhaps, the candidacies of other standouts on that Astros team.
The other first baseman to remain on the ballot was reliever Francisco Rodriguez, whose 437 saves were enough to earn him 10.8% of the vote.
While voters have been stingy in recent years, next year could see a more active intake week, and many more interesting candidates will qualify. Third baseman Adrian Beltre, catcher Joe Mauer and second baseman Chase Woodley lead the list of freshmen.