In the past few days, the St. Louis Cardinals announced their nominees for the Cardinals 2019 Hall Fame class. Keith Hernandez, Jason Isringhausen, Matt Morris, Edgar Renteria, Scott Rolen, and John Tudor. All worthy to be honored.
My personal choice, 3B Scott Rolen. In the span during his career, which began when he was only 21 years of age, was a small one with the Cardinals during his 17 year career. He was dubbed 'the Defensive Wizard' as third baseman of the time in view of his MLB HOF bid in 2018. He was fluid at the third bag with his strong arm of precision. And, can't deny his contributions from the plate, either.
Due to circumstances that he felt were going south for him with the Philadelphia Phillies organization, he came to the Cardinals via trade at mid-season in 2002.
His statement was priceless. “I felt," he said Monday night, "as if I'd died and gone to heaven. I'm so excited that I can't wait to get on the plane (Tuesday morning) and get to Florida to join the Cardinals." —told ESPN's Peter Gammons.
CARDINALS 'UNSUNG HERO'?
Rolen added tremendous strength to the Cardinals team, and had a stellar half-season for St. Louis from the plate. He was only in 55 games, but produced 57 Hits/14 HR/44 RBI/8-2B/4-3B holding a 20-34/BB-SO ratio for a .278/.354/.561/.915 slashline, adding 37 runs. "Rolen's post-trade performance helped the 97-win Cardinals run away with the NL Central."
"He got his first taste of postseason action, and hit a decisive two-run homer off the Diamondbacks' Randy Johnson in the Division Series opener."
Unfortunately, Rolen experience a severe setback in Game Two. A collision with pinch-runner Alex Cintron in which he suffered sprains in four regions of his shoulder and collarbone. Not only multiple areas, but included severe hyperextension in his clavicle of the three supportive ligaments. That closed his 2002 season. Thankfully for the Cardinals, his injury did not carry over to the following season and thereafter. He only improved in his following two seasons - a force to contend with for the opposition.
In 2003 - 160 Hits/28 HR/104 RBI/49-2B/1-3B with a 82-104/BB-SO ratio for a .286/.382/.528/.910 slashline, along with 98 runs added and 13 stolen bases.
In 2004, his extraordinary MVP contender season in 142 games, he slugged out 157 Hits/34 HR/124 RBI/32-2B/4-3B/109 Runs with yet another season of excellent BB-SO ratio of 72-92, he closed the season with a .314 BA/.409 OBP/.598 SLG/1.007 OPS. That season he received the most votes of any player for the All Star for his third career appearance.
Due to shoulder issues of his past, he did opt to have surgery in 2005 which limited his playing time to just 56 games. Not so much throwing, as it was his opposite shoulder, but did affect his bat only holding a .235 BA. Even though, one can't keep a good man down. He rebounded in 2006 with a .296 BA/.518 SLG, even though supportive OBP and OPS were not quite as strong. He still turned in an impressive 126 OPS+, 5.8 WAR. The latter being sixth in the league.
In 2006, Rolen's dream of being on a World Series Title winning team came to fruition. With a determination, the most unlikely Cardinals, 83-78, to win the division making their way into post season. However, a bit of a rocky-road for Cardinals third baseman. He was benched twice, Game 2/NLDS vs Padres, Game 4/NLCS vs. Mets which Rolen was only 1-14 at bat. Manager Tony LaRussa sat him out (shoulder fatigue) because "Rolen wasn't completely forthcoming" with LaRussa and medical staff regarding the issue. Sound familiar, fans?
"..... upon returning, went on a 10-game hitting streak through the rest of the postseason. Though famously robbed of a homer by Endy Chavez in Game 7 of the NLCS, he homered off the Tigers’ Justin Verlander in the World Series opener, and went 8-for-19 overall." And received his World Series ring in a very memorable season for the St. Louis Cardinals.
And, overall declined in 2007, due to continued shoulder issue.
REFLECTION ON ROLEN
Looking back at his extraordinary season of 2004, he was among three St. Louis Cardinals known as the "MVP-3" ~ Rolen as #4 contender, he topped Cardinals sluggers Albert Pujols (#3 MVP) and Jim Edmonds (#5 MVP) during the season with his +30 Defensive Runs Saved.
In my opinion, Rolen is an overlooked hero. Maybe in the way he exited St. Louis after his 2007 season, much like his situation with the Phillies - differences of opinion with management. He was traded to the Toronto Blues Jays, then finished out his baseball career with the Cincinnati Reds another of his favorite teams.
Rolen spent only six seasons with the Cardinals, 2002 - 2007. During those few seasons, he was a four time All Star, consecutive seasons. He was a three time NL 3B Golden Glove award winner and, of course, a MVP contender.
At the height of his career with the Cardinals, Scott Rolen was phenomenal and I feel he has the resume to wear a future St. Louis Cardinals HOF red jacket.
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