I always despised when a baseball announcer used the words, “future Hall of Famer.”
Were they attempting prognostication or trying to be a modern day Nostradamus?
The times that phrase was uttered about baseball great Pete Rose is incalculable. Of course, as everyone now knows, Rose shot himself in the foot by gambling on baseball games. That action proved to fail the litmus test for all those Cooperstown prophets.
I must admit, even though I am a self-proclaimed baseball purist, it is titillating to engage in conversation about marginal players.
As a purist (and not a homer), I would give you a quick two-thumbs down on Rolen.
He has nowhere near 3,000 hits. He isn’t close to 500 HR and he probably won’t get 1,500 RBI. He currently possesses a lifetime BA of .284 with 305 HR and 1,228 RBI.
He hasn’t won any offensive titles or crowns, he never was an MVP and never led the league in any category. He was, however, the National League Rookie of the Year in 1997 with the Philadelphia Phillies.
He was also the winner of the Silver Slugger award in 2002 and was named to six All-Star teams. Not enough to get in the Museum without a ticket, right?
Not so fast there, Mr. Baseball Writer of America.
Should not we take a look at his defense? I mean, were it not for his outstanding glove, Ozzie Smith doesn’t belong there much more than I. Yet, there he is and there he shall be.
He does have eight Gold Glove awards, winning the last one just last season with the Reds. He trails only Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt in the number of years receiving the award. Robby had 16 and Schmidt had 10—both are firmly entrenched in the Hall of Fame and baseball lore as well.
I am not an avid fan (still trying, though) of sabermetrics, but I will throw one out for good measure. Rolen ranks fifth all time in total zone runs for third basemen with 142
Let us recap what we now have. His offense is probably lacking so he can’t go in on that alone. His defense is superb and as good as it gets at the hot corner.
So, offense no and defense yes, yes?
Rolen appeared in two World Series while with the Cardinals. They were swept in 2004 by the Boston Red Sox and won in 2006 against the Detroit Tigers. Postseason is a team effort, but that notwithstanding, he has a ring on his hand.
Let us now scroll through the Hall of Fame roster and see who got there from the hot corner. Let’s just filter out pitchers and only use position players.
Out of 158 players, third basemen are the loneliest lot of all. There are only 14, or 8.8 percent Hall of Fame third basemen. Even catchers, who can get in with .262 averages, have more with 16.
The last third baseman to be voted in (Negro League players notwithstanding) was Wade Boggs in 2005.
The timing is right, wouldn’t you think?
Look at this table I prepared:
If you throw Rolen in the mix with the existing 3B in the HOF (excluding Negro League players because of lack of data) it becomes interesting. If you allow 12 points for each of the categories shown to the leader, give 11 to the next and so on, and add the total points, Rolen would finish 6th among them. How is that for measuring up?
Hey, Rolen isn’t finished yet, friends. He is still a vital cog in the New Red Machine. He is a team leader in every sense of the word. His value as a clubhouse leader cannot be measured.
I realize intangibles do not count, but we are only pretending to be members of the BBWAA right now.
You vote your way and I will vote mine. I must give him a big thumbs UP!
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