There is one reason and one reason only. And that reason’s name? Hee-Seop Choi.
That is the reason, and the only reason Scott Rolen was not elected with Chipper Jones type votes this week..
Don’t believe me? Don’t worry, you will. If not, I’ll send Tommy Bartels to “convince” you.
Here is the timeline of events.
1996: Scott Rolen begins his major-league career in the fine city of Philadelphia.
1997: Rolen completes his first full season in the big leagues. He hits .290, with 21 home runs, 92 rbi’s and OPS of .846. Wins unanimous Rookie of the Year getting all 28 first-place votes
1997-2001: In his 5 full seasons with the Phillies Rolen averages 141 games played, 26 hrs, 95 RBIs, and puts up an OPS of .892 while winning 3 Gold Gloves.
2002: Rolen is traded to the Cardinals. He becomes the 3rd member of the MV Three alongside Edmonds and Pujols.
2002-2004: In his first three season in St. Louis Rolen averages 150 games played, 31 home runs, 113 rbi’s, posts an OPS of .922 while winning 3 Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, gets selected to 3 consecutive All-Star Games, and in 2004 finishes 4th in MVP voting behind Bonds, Beltre, and Pujols. Well deserved after he hit .314 with 34 home runs, and 124 rbi’s.
Then…it all fell apart.
2005, May 10th, the death of the true Scott Rolen.
It happened in a collision on the base paths.
It was a typical Rolen day. He was 1 for 3 with a jack and two ribs. Then some nobody, some insignificant nothing, some footnote in the history of the game named Hee-Seop Choi killed the career of one of the two greatest third baseman of a generation.
Rolen was 31 years old. He was on a rocket ship headed to the Hall-of-Fame.
Let me put his numbers in context.
Chipper Jones was just elected to the Hall with over 97% of the vote.
Let’s look at their careers through their age 30 seasons, when Rolen was destroyed by a no-good bit player.
Rolen First 1251 games 1996-2005
Top 5 MVP: 1
Gold Gloves 6
Chipper First 1252 games 1993-2002
Top 5 MVP: 2, 1 Win
Gold Gloves 0
Per season from 1997-2004, up to the death blow delivered by Choi, Rolen averaged 145 games played, 28 home runs, 102 rbi’s, and posted an overall OPS of .903.
Post Collision for Scotty, 2006-2012, 31-37 years of age. Rolen totaled 777 hits and averaged 112 games played, 12 home runs, 61 rbi’s per season and posted an overall OPS of .797.
Chipper’s numbers from 2003-2009, 31-37 years of age. Larry totaled 987 hits, averaged 131 games played, 25 home runs, 87 rbi’s, and posted an OPS of .944. Chipper then added three more productive seasons and retired at age 40.
Let’s say Rolen’s career played out in a similar statistical decline as Chipper’s. Let’s say in those last 7 seasons Rolen averaged 20 home runs, 85 rbi’s, and 130 hits a season. That would bring his career offensive totals to 372 jacks, 1455 ribs, and 2,210 hits.
Then for kicks, let’s say he played till 40 like Chipper. With, as before, similar statistical decline. We can add 300 more hits, 35 home runs, and 160 rbi’s.
Then look at these numbers. 2,510 hits, 407 home runs, 1,615 rbi’s. All of that to go along with 8 Gold Gloves and a consensus he is one of the three greatest defensive 3rd basemen to ever play the game. I repeat, to ever play the game. Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt, Scott Rolen. That’s it, that’s the list.
Now, a little side by side shall we?
Rolen Projected No Collision Numbers
Top 5 MVP: 1
Gold Gloves: 8
Silver Sluggers: 1
AS Games: 7
Chipper’s Career Totals
Top 5 MVP: 2, 1 Win
Gold Gloves: 0
Silver Sluggers: 2
AS Games: 8
Now look at that and tell me with a straight face Scotty isn’t a Hall-of-Famer. You can’t.
But, to quote the great Ron Washington, “That’s the way baseball go.” One collision in an ordinary May game and the trajectory of a career and life changed. If one minuscule thing had been different. One less swing, one inch further down the barrel, one step faster or slower out of the box, one different spot in the batting order, one different day off. Just one of those things different and Scott Rolen is immortal. Instead, he’s injury prone, and “Really good, but not great.”
That’s baseball, and that’s life I suppose. It’s hard at times to feel bad for a millionaire who played a game for a living, but in this case, I do. Scott Rolen, what was, and what could have been. Man, what could have been.