Scott Rolen's shadow lingers over third base for the St. Louis Cardinals. The eight time Gold Glove winner, three of those with the Cardinals, set the standard and raised expectations at third base in St. Louis for future players. Since Scott Rolen departed in 2007, every player who played third base for the Cardinals has been compared to the six time All Star by fans and media.
Rolen's combination of outstanding defense and power at the plate, has made him a near impossible act to follow in St. Louis. In fact looking back on the history of the St. Louis Cardinals, Scott Rolen is the greatest to play third base for the Birds on the Bat.
During Rolen's career he had an outstanding Rtot/yr of 10 and Rdrs/yr of 14. Rtot and Rdrs is a defensive metric that measures a player's value based on total number of plays made. His offensive metrics in his six year career in St. Louis were also impressive with a .286 BA and a OPS of .879. Additionally, he also slapped 111 HR and 453 RBI while with the Cards.
THIRD BASE PRIOR TO SCOTT ROLEN
Don't worry, i'm not going to try to review every player who has played third base for the Cardinals during their 127- year history. However, in the last 50 years, I don't see any player that comes close to offering the skills Scott Rolen did during his six year tenure in St Louis.
Looking back, the Cardinals had names such as Mike Shannon, Joe Torre, Ken Reitz, Ken Oberkfell
Terry Pendleton, and Todd Zeille, to name a few, who played third base for the Cardinals. Most of these names played as long or longer at third than Rolen, but none had brought all the skill levels Rolen did to the Cardinals.
Joe Torre was a batting champion, an MVP, and an outstanding player while in St.Louis, but didn't have the defensive skills of Rolen. Torre had a six year OPS of .840, but only a career Rtot/yr of -12 at third.
Reitz, nicknamed "the Zamboni" for his ability to scoop up ground balls off the artificial turf at old Busch Stadium won one Gold Glove. Still, he didn't compare to Rolen either defensively or offensively, with a eight year OPS of .661 with the Cards and a career Rtot/yr of -2.
Terry Pendleton may have been the one former Cardinal who came closest to Rolen during his time in St. Louis. Still, he earned only two Gold Gloves and his seven year OPS was .664, which is only a shadow of Rolen's.
THIRD BASE SINCE SCOTT ROLEN
There has been only two anchors at third since Rolen departed and they are David Freese and Matt Carpenter. At the risk of making their many loyal fans mad at me,both are very good players, nevertheless,neither can compare to Scott Rolen.
David Freese was a memorable player during his tenure in St. Louis, however, he will be remembered mainly for his incredible 2011 postseason and GAME SIX. That is what established Freese in Cardinal lore, not particularly his defensive play at third or his abilities at the plate. His defense, while competent, was not outstanding. Freese's best year at the plate was in 2012, when he hit 20 HR with 79 RBI, a .293 BA, and earned his only All Star appearance. At the end of his five years in St. Louis, he had a OPS of .783,no Gold Gloves, and holds a career Rtot/yr of 1, and a Rdrs/yr of -2.
Matt Carpenter is currently one of the stalwarts in the Cardinals lineup and has an impressive resume. During his eight year run with St.Louis, he has three All Star appearances, one Silver Slugger Award, and an OPS of .847. However, he hasn't a Gold Gloves to show, with a Rtot/yr and Rdrs/yr of 0, just a shade of Rolen's years in St. Louis.
My intention with this is not to disparage or minimize the contributions of other former and current Cardinals who have played third base. All mentioned contributed to the success the franchise had during their tenure.
The point I'm trying to make is Scott Rolen has set the standard for third base in St.Louis. Many fans still remember the Rolen years as a Cardinal and will continue to compare all who play third base to the former Redbird.
Sure,some such as David Freese have set themselves apart and have their legacy, but not as a third base legend. That is reserved for Scott Rolen.
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