It took six tries, but St. Louis Cardinals great Scott Rolen is heading to the Hall of Fame. Rolen received the news that he would be enshrined in Cooperstown on Tuesday. He is the only member of the 2023 Hall of Fame class voted in by the Baseball Writers' Association of America this year.
Rolen barely got in, receiving 76.3% of the vote. Players need 75% of the vote to be enshrined in Cooperstown, a threshold Rolen cleared by five out of 389 votes.
Rolen's candidacy took a few years to materialize. In his first year of eligibility, he received just 10.2% of the vote, but that percentage quickly rose as people focused more on his case. In 17 seasons in the majors, Rolen put up a .281/.364/.490 slash line with 316 home runs. His OPS+ for his career was 122, meaning he hit 22% better than the league average over that period.
On top of that, Rolen was a wizard in the field. He won eight Gold Glove awards during his career and was one of the best defensive third basemen in the league. Rolen also won the Rookie of the Year award in 1997, made seven All-Star teams, took home a Silver Slugger in 2002 and won the 2006 World Series with the Cardinals.
You can see just how much the Hall of Fame means for Rolen and his family — and how his candidacy was by no means a lock — in a video posted by the Cincinnati Reds:
The moment Scott Rolen's parents found out their son is heading to Cooperstown. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/r1i22VHMjy
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) January 25, 2023
Making the Hall of Fame as a third baseman is no mean feat for Rolen, as the field position is the least represented in Cooperstown. By the Hall's own count, only 17 third basemen have been enshrined. Rolen is the first to make it since Chipper Jones in 2018; before that, no third baseman had been elected by the BBWAA since Wade Boggs in 2005.
Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez fall short of induction
Right after Rolen was longtime Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who finished just short of the threshold, with 72.2%. That works out to 11 votes short.
New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez and Boston Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez also missed the cut. Neither player came close to induction on the publicly released ballots, likely due to their being suspended for using steroids during their careers. Rodriguez received 35.7% of the votes, and Ramirez got 33.2%.
A handful of players outperformed Ramirez and Rodriguez in the voting. In his first year on the ballot, former Kansas City Royals and New York Mets (among other teams) outfielder Carlos Beltran got 46.5% of the vote, though he himself has a cloud over his candidacy due to his central role in the 2017 Houston Astros cheating scandal, when he was the club's bench coach.
Atlanta Braves center fielder Andruw Jones received 58.1% of the vote. Astros closer Billy Wagner continued to see his candidacy soar, going from 51% of the vote last year to 68.1% Tuesday. Helton and Wagner both have a decent chance of getting inducted into the Hall of Fame next year if they continue to gain support as they near their final years of eligibility. Next year will mark Wagner's ninth on the ballot.
Jeff Kent, Huston Street fall off ballot
Hard-hitting second baseman Jeff Kent came well short of making the cut in his 10th and final appearance on the ballot, receiving only 46.5% of the vote. His case will next be heard by the historical overview committee in December 2025, per the BBWAA.
A number of players also dropped off the ballot due to failure to receive 5% of the vote, including first-timers Matt Cain, R.A. Dickey, Jacoby Ellsbury, Bronson Arroyo, John Lackey, Mike Napoli, Jhonny Peralta and Huston Street. Of that group, Dickey, Arroyo, Lackey, Napoli and Street were the only candidates to receive votes.
Rolen joins Fred McGriff in Cooperstown Class of 2023
Rolen's election means he will join Fred McGriff in Cooperstown this summer, after the longtime first baseman was elected by a special committee in December. Players who fall off the BBWAA ballot — such as McGriff — are still eligible to be inducted into the Hall of Fame by a special committee.
McGriff — along with Barry Bonds and Curt Schilling — was eligible for induction this year by the contemporary baseball era committee. Those committees consist of 16 individuals, often former players, executives and media members. Candidates need 75% of the vote to gain induction into the Hall of Fame.
McGriff was unanimously voted in by the 16-person committee. Bonds and Schilling once again fell short of induction, each receiving fewer than four votes.
A number of players have reached the Hall of Fame as part of special committees in recent years. Detroit Tigers great Jack Morris got in through the committee method in 2018, and longtime Chicago White Sox standout Harold Baines got in the following year thanks to one of the Hall of Fame's committees.
Joe Mauer, Adrián Beltré, Chase Utley headline 2024 Hall of Fame ballot
Helton and Wagner have a shot to get in on the 2024 Hall of Fame ballot, and they could be joined by some other big names. Twins great Joe Mauer, Philadelphia Phillies legend Chase Utley and Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers standout Adrián Beltré are among the biggest names on the 2024 ballot.
They'll be joined by other prominent players including New York Mets star David Wright, Rockies outfielder Matt Holliday and Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Guardians catcher Victor Martinez.
None of those players is a lock to make it into the Hall of Fame, especially not in their first year of eligibility. A number of those players have solid cases, however, so expect plenty of debate in the leadup to the 2024 Hall of Fame announcement.