February 3, 2023

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Eight-time Gold Glove 3B Scott Rolen inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame

Scott Rolen was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, sneaking across the threshold by the narrowest of margins.

Rollin, one of the game’s greatest players, was selected with 76.3% of the vote in his sixth year of eligibility to earn the honor. Just missing out was former Rockies frontman Todd Hilton, who received support with 72.2% of the vote in his fifth attempt at the election.

None of the other 27 players on the Hall’s 2023 ballot passed the minimum 75 percent mark for election, despite a couple of near misses. The poll results were announced Tuesday during a broadcast on MLB.com.

Players can appear on the ballot for 10 seasons after a five-year waiting period following their retirement, provided they are named to at least 5% of the ballot during the voting cycle.

“Don’t even think about it,” Rollin told MLB Network. “You’re thinking about trying to do your best, playing for your team and playing the best you can, and there’s a long way to go. I never thought the Hall of Fame would be the answer.”

Rollin was a seven-time All-Star during his 17-year career, playing for the Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Reds. His eight Gold Gloves rank fourth for a third baseman. The 1997 NL Rookie of the Year was a member of the Cardinals when the club won the 2006 World Series.

Rollin, who ranks fifth in WWII among third basemen according to Baseball-Reference.com, was selected on just 10.2% of the ballot during his first year of eligibility in 2018 but quickly gained support with each passing voting cycle.

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When asked for his thoughts on his unusual route to Cooperstown, Rollin prefaced his comments with his typical acts of humility, saying, “There was really no point in my life when I thought I was going to be a Hall of Fame baseball player.”

However, in that first year of polling, Rollin could only hope to stay on the ballot and when he crossed the 5% mark, he told his young son, “We won.”

Online tracking has been up 75% of Rolen and Helton all winter but close enough to make the outcome uncertain, as these numbers often drop when final numbers are released due to unannounced ballots.

Rollin said he didn’t track the trackers because he didn’t have to: His family and friends kept him well informed, and they “blew up” his phone every time there was a change in numbers.

One of the reasons Rollin’s case gained momentum so quickly was his standing on the Advanced Scale, by which he ranks ninth all-time among third basemen, according to WAR.

Rollin said he didn’t pursue advanced numbers until he was educated about them long after he retired, and he benefited from the metrics’ high ratings for him on defense and on the ball. His brilliance in those areas was no coincidence.

“I pride myself on defense and finesse,” Rollin said. “It was these two aspects that I could contribute daily on the field.”

The same upward trajectory in support was true for Helton, who started with a 16.5% percentage in 2019. A. 316 in his career over 17 seasons, all spent with the Colorado Rockies, Helton was a four-time Silver Slugger winner and three-time Gold Glover for his work At first base.

Other players named with at least half of the votes included Billy Wagner (68.1%), Andrew Jones (58.1%) and Gary Sheffield (55%).

Wagner, one of the most popular relievers of his era, has steadily gained support. He received support with 51% of the polls last year. Next year will be his ninth season of eligibility.

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Rollin’s narrow election—he cleared the 75% barrier with just five votes—means that the BBWAA still has refused to elect any new members only nine times in polling history. The writers haven’t elected anyone in 2021, and last year, only David Ortiz was selected by the Red Sox greats.

The three-year period in which the BBWAA has elected only two players matches an all-time low. Since annual voting became permanent in 1966, writers have never failed to elect at least two players during any three-year period. They also elected players only during the three-year terms ending in 1968 and in each season from 1996 to 1998.

Ironically, the rarity of the elect comes only a few years after a certain fertile period of voting by the writers. During the three-year period ending in 2019, the BBWAA elected 11 new Hall of Famers and during the five-year period from 2015 to 2019, 17 new Hall of Famers were inducted by the writers.

Unlike in 2021, when no new Hall of Famers will be elected by writers or an era committee — for the first time since 1960 — there will be at least two inductees giving a speech in Cooperstown during the induction ceremonies on July 23. Soft-spoken Fred McGriff will enter the hall alongside Rolen after being selected by the era committee at the December Winter Meetings in San Diego.

“I thought he should have been in a long time ago,” Rollin said of his fellow Hall member, who retired after the 2004 season.

Progress has been slow for a few controversial candidates whose performance meets traditional Hall of Fame criteria but who have seen their cases undermined by associations with PEDs.

Alex Rodriguez, who racked up a whopping career total of 3,115 hits, 696 homers and 2,086 RBI, was selected to 35.7% of the vote during his second year of eligibility, up from 34.3%. Rodriguez missed the 2014 season under suspension for violating MLB’s PED policies.

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Similarly, Manny Ramirez, who hit 555 batters while raising a career-high 0.312 career batting average but was suspended twice for PED violations, has a slight lead during his seventh time on the ballot. After falling 28.9% last year, Ramirez has moved up to 33.2% this time around.

Conversely, the feared Sheffield basketball player gained little traction in his ninth year of eligibility. It was 40.6% last year. Sheffield, who injured 509 homeowners but was named in the 2007 Mitchell Report, was not disciplined for PED use. Next season will be his tenth and final chance to win election via writers’ ballot.

Of the 14 first-timers on the ballot, only two had the 5% support necessary to be carried over for next consideration.

Carlos Beltran was one of the first to receive 46.5% of the vote. Beltran Hall’s case is solid on the merits of a career that has seen 435 homers, 312 steals, 2,725 hits and one of baseball’s most brilliant postseason records.

Beltran was a central figure in the controversial signal theft scandal that marred the 2017 World Series title for the Houston Astros, with whom Beltran played. His association with the controversy later led to his resignation as manager of the New York Mets prior to his first season in the role.

While it’s uncertain what role the scandal played in Beltran on his first ballot, his level of support bodes well for the future, and perhaps for candidates along the line for other Astros appearances.

Another senior timer who would remain on the ballot is exempt Francisco Rodriguez, whose 437 saves was enough to get 10.8% of the ballot.

While voters have been stingy in recent years, next year could see a more active induction week as a number of interesting candidates become eligible. The list of newcomers is headed by third baseman Adrian Belter, catcher Joe Mauer, and second baseman Chase Utley.