It took six tries and one harrowing result, but Scott Rolen is forever a Hall of Famer.
Rolen was named to baseball’s Hall of Fame Tuesday night earning a vote on 76.3% of ballots – just five more than needed to vault the 75% required for induction.
Rolen’s election averts a Hall of Fame shutout for the second time in three years and just the 10th time in nearly a century in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Assn. of America.
Rolen was named on 297 ballots, five more than the 292 required for election among the 389 submitted. Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton wasn’t quite as fortunate: He was named on 281 of 389 ballots – just 11 shy of induction. Helton’s 72.3% vote total in just his fifth year on the ballot all but cinches his eventual election, with five more shots at it to come.
Relief pitcher Billy Wagner also knocked on the door – garnering 265 votes, or 68.1%.
Rolen’s nod means slugger Fred McGriff will have company during annual induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, New York on July 23. McGriff, whose highest vote total on the writers’ ballot was 39.8%, was voted in by the Hall’s Contemporary Era Committee in December.
What’s next for ballot holdovers?
Like McGriff, Helton and Wagner will have 10 chances to earn induction from the writers and although they came up short Tuesday, should earn induction in one of their final shots on the ballot. Rolen received just 10.2% of the vote in his first year on the ballot, but it doubled to 35.3% in his third year and reached 62% in 2022, all trends pointing toward his eventual induction.
Helton (five more attempts) and Wagner (two more shots) should be similarly heartened. Center fielder Andruw Jones – who hit 434 home runs and claimed 10 Gold Gloves – also saw a nice bump, leaping from 41.4% to 58.1% in this, his sixth year.
Rolen had just one top 10 MVP finish – fourth in 2004 – but was a seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover for the Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Reds. He was a World Series champion with the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals.
Rolen’s 70.1 career Wins Above Replacement ranks tied for 69th and puts him ahead of several Hall of Famers, the high number a testament to modern metrics’ ability to better quantify Rolen’s all-around value to his teams.
Oddly enough, Rolen is tied in career WAR with Carlos Beltran, who made his ballot debut and received 46.5% of the votes, a somewhat discouraging but not crushing first effort. Beltran, a switch-hitting center fielder who hit 435 career home runs, is one of just five players with at least 400 career homers and 300 steals. But his role as the ringleader in the 2017 Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal – Beltran’s final season – was expected to be at least a slight drag on his candidacy.
Helton, who hit 369 home runs with 2,519 hits over 17 years while playing home games at Denver’s Coors Field, should see his number called in 2024. The same can’t be said for infielder Jeff Kent, who was the 2000 NL MVP and finished with 377 home runs, a .356 career on-base percentage and .855 OPS.
Kent matched Beltran’s 181 votes and received 46.5% of the votes in his 10th and final year on the ballot. Farewell, as well, to slugger Gary Sheffield, whose 10th ballot saw him earn 55% of the vote.
Hall of Fame shutout averted
This could have been the third time in 11 years that no players were elected on the writers’ ballot. In 2013, a gaggle of stars who played through the heart of baseball’s so-called steroids era – such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa and Craig Biggio – debuted on the ballot and collided with five holdovers in at least their 11th year.
The resulting gridlock in part inspired the Hall of Fame to reduce the number of eligible years from 15 to 10, hastening exits for Bonds, Clemens and McGriff but also, ostensibly, enhancing the chances for others.
That lane should be plenty clear for Helton next year, along with a Cooperstown rarity – the surefire candidacy of third baseman Adrian Beltre.