Cardinal fans rejoice! One of the best Third Basemen to wear the Birds on the Bat is finally getting his due! Scott Rolen has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, though he was elected with just 76.3% of the vote – five votes above the mandatory 75% needed for election. He will be joining former Blue Jays and Braves First Baseman Fred “Crime Dog” McGriff. Former Colorado Rockies First Baseman Todd Helton fell just short of election this time out.
Born in Evansville, Indiana on April 4, 1975, he grew up in nearby Jasper and attended Jasper High School. He was voted Mr. High School Baseball Indiana in his senior year in 1993 and was runner-up for Mr. High School Basketball Indiana. He received offers to play college baseball at places like the University of Alabama and Oklahoma State before deciding to commit to the University of Georgia (the same school that almost landed Cardinal pitching legend and future teammate Adam Wainwright). He decided to forego his commitment to UGA to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies who selected him in the Second Round of the 1993 MLB Draft. He rose rapidly through the Phillies’ Farm System and made his MLB Debut on August 1, 1996 against the team with whom he would, arguably, have his greatest success – the St. Louis Cardinals. He missed on eligibility for the 1996 Rookie of the Year award when he fractured his arm while being hit by a pitch in his final plate appearance of the 1996 Season. The next year, 1997, he became the first Phillie to win the Rookie of the Year since Dick Allen in 1964. That year, he hit .283 with 21 home runs and 92 RBI’s. In 1998, he won the first of his eight career Gold Gloves. In 2000, he was awarded the Gold Glove at Third Base, the first of two in a row and the third of three he would win solely with the Phils. In 2002, he would make the first of his SIX National League All Star teams.
On July 29, 2002, Rolen was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals along with pitcher Doug Nickle for infielder Placido Polanco and pitchers Mike Timlin and Bud Smith. That year, he would be awarded his third Gold Glove after being traded from Philadelphia. His impact on the Cardinal lineup was felt almost immediately as in 2003, he hit. 286 with 28 home runs and 104 RBI’s. The next year, he enjoyed arguably his best year in a Cardinal (or, for that matter, any) uniform as he hit. 314 with 34 home runs and 124 RBI’s as he helped lead the Cards to the 2004 National League Pennant, though they would lose the World Series to the Boston Red Sox in four straight games. Along with Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds, he was part of the famous “MV3” trio. he had an injury-plagued year in 2005, but rebounded to have another fine season in 2006 as he hit .296 with 22 home runs and 95 RBI’s in helping lead his team to the 2006 World Championship over the Detroit Tigers. In a memorable play in Game Seven on the 2006 NLCS against the Mets, he was robbed of what would have been a go ahead home run by Mets outfielder Endy Chavez.
2007 was a bit of a down year for Rolen as he dealt with recurring shoulder problems. He was placed on the 15 day Disabled List on August 31 and has season ending shoulder surgery on September 11. On January 12, 2008, in somewhat surprising move, Rolen was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for fellow Third Basemen and 1996 Olympic Bronze Medalist Troy Glaus. In five full seasons in St. Louis, he would win three more Gold Gloves, bringing his career total to six. Scott’s season and a half in Canada was mostly marred by injuries – one to his finger and another to shoulder. On July 31, 2009, Scott Rolen was traded to his fourth team as he was sent to the Cincinnati Reds for Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart.
With Cincinnati for the rest of 2009, he hit. 270, but with only 3 home runs and 24 RBI’s. in 2010, Rolen experienced a bit of a renaissance with the Reds as he hit .285 with 20 home runs and 83 RBI’s in helping lead the Reds to a division title over his former team the Cardinals. He capped off another fine season by winning his eighth career Gold Glove. His last two years in Cincinnati were a little below par as his power numbers fell off. In those two years, he hit only 13 home runs and drove in 75. He final career appearance came in Game Five of the NLDS against the Giants as he struck on the final at bat of the game, clinching a trip to the NLCS for the Giants. He was granted free agency after the 2012 Season, but was never offered a contract.
Rolen ended his career with a .281 average, 2077 hits, 316 home runs and 1287 RBI’s – all VERY respectable numbers for a Third baseman. His eight career Gold Gloves trailed only Brooks Robinson (16) and former Phillie Mike Schmidt (10). In 1999, he established the Enis Furley Foundation, which is active in community outreach programs mainly for kids. In 2018, he was hired as the Director of Player Development for the Indiana University Baseball Program
*The featured image comes courtesy of Barbie Schultz of Interstate 70 Sports Media.