COOPERSTOUN, New York. Scott Rolen is an old school baseball player, but he’s grateful for today’s game analysis. Perhaps they helped him get into the Hall of Fame.
Rolen, who made it on his sixth try, and Fred McGriff, unanimously elected by the Modern Baseball Players’ Committee, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday.
“I have learned a lot more about the process in the last two years. I don’t understand all the metrics and numbers, advanced statistics and other things, but apparently they helped me, so I love them, ”Rolin joked on Saturday.
Rolen, a seven-time All-Star and eight-time Golden Glove winner, was selected by 297 out of 389 ballots cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America, or 76.3%. In his first year of eligibility, Rolen received only 10.2%, the lowest first-round percentage of any later-elected players. His voices in the hall grew steadily. It was only last year that Rolin felt that he had a great chance to get into the team. Along with this realization came stress.
“For the first five years, there was not much pressure,” Rolen said. “In the first year, we tried to reach a certain number [to stay on the ballot]. Last year, yes, I knew there was a chance. This last one caught up with me when I thought it would be the real thing. Your chest gets a little tight and then you hear the news.
Rolen batted .281 with 316 homers and 1,287 RBIs for Philadelphia (1996-2002), St. Louis (2002-07), Toronto (2008-09), and Cincinnati (2009-12). He was unanimously selected as the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year and hit .314 in 2006 when the Cardinals won the World Series.
His time in the Phillies ended on a sad note, but over time came recognition for his time in Philadelphia.
“I feel like I’ve always treasured my time in Philadelphia,” Rolen said. “I still have lifelong friends from Philadelphia. I sincerely believe that I learned to play this game there. … You have been instilled with the toughness to play right and hard. It has carried through my entire career.”
A multisport athlete who was offered a basketball scholarship in Georgia, Rolen played shortstop, second base, third, right field, center, left and pitcher at Jasper High School before settling in third in his sophomore or junior year. He will be the 18th third baseman in the Hall, the smallest of all positions.
“He was a phenomenal, amazing athlete,” said Terry Gobert, his coach at Jasper High, who attended the weekend celebration. “He was strong in everything, in every aspect of the game. His glove took him to the top, but there wasn’t a single area he didn’t excel in.”
McGriff, the lanky baseman known as Crime Dog, hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs in 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.
His 493 home runs were the 10th in major league history by a left-handed hitter when he retired, but McGriff wondered what his numbers would have looked like had he played his entire career with the New York Yankees, the team that drafted him.
“Is that a small, short porch in right field? It would be great for me,” McGriff said. “Do they have a stadium now? Now they have a real trash can. It’s an incredible place.”
But he has no regrets, especially his time in Atlanta.
“My time with the Braves was amazing. We didn’t have the Tampa Bay Rays, the Florida Marlins at the time,” McGriff said. “Atlanta was closest to my home (in Florida). The fact that my parents had the best opportunity to see me play was a great pleasure for me.
And, of course, victory.
McGriff and Rolen’s careers overlapped, and they spoke enthusiastically about each other.
“I have always been in love with him; how strong he was. How he controlled the head of a bat,” Rolen said. “I’ve always admired Fred and his career.”
“He played the game right,” McGriff countered. “If you hit the ball to third base, you’re out. He was going to put on all the plays and came up with big hits. He has always been a professional and played the game the right way.”
Saturday’s other two honorees were Pat Hughes, winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for Broadcasting, and John Lowe, winner of the BBWAA Career Excellence Award.