Slick-fielding third baseman Scott Rolen was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame on Tuesday with five votes to spare above the 75 per cent needed.
The seven-time all-star and eight-time Gold Glove winner earned induction in his sixth appearance on the ballot, picked on 297 of 389 ballots cast by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for 76.3 per cent. A player needed 292 votes for election.
He became the 18th third baseman elected to the Hall, the fewest of any position. Rolen will join Fred McGriff, elected last month by the contemporary baseball era committee, as the inductees at Cooperstown on July 23.
“You don’t think about this. You think about doing the best you can,” Rolen said. “I never thought the Hall of Fame was going to be the answer.”
Rolen had a .281 batting average with 316 homers and 1,287 RBIs for Philadelphia (1996-2002), St. Louis (2002-07), Toronto (2008-09) and Cincinnati (2009-12). He was a unanimous pick as the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year and hit .421 as the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series.
Rolen’s five-vote margin tied for the 12th-smallest among players elected by the writers and his 76.3 per cent of the vote was the 10th lowest. Rolen increased from 63.2 per cent last year and 10.2 per cent in his first ballot appearance in 2018.
That became the lowest first-ballot percentage of a player later elected. The previous mark had been Duke Snider’s 17 per cent in 1970. Snider was voted in with 86.5 per cent in 1980.
First baseman Todd Helton was second with 281 votes (72.2 per cent) and reliever Billy Wagner third with 265 (68.1 per cent). Helton moved up from 52 per cent and can have five more appearances on the ballot, while Wagner rose from 51 and has two additional chances.
Several others also saw large increases: Andruw Jones moved from 41.1 per cent to 58.1 per cent, Gary Sheffield from 40.6 per cent to 55, in his next-to-last possible appearance and Jeff Kent from 32.7 per cent to 46.5 in his final year. Kent can be considered by the contemporary baseball era committee in future years.
Players tainted by drug suspensions again lagged. Alex Rodriguez was at 35.7 per cent, up from 34.3, and Manny Ramirez at 33.2 per cent, up from 28.9.
Eight blank ballots were submitted by writers, who are eligible to vote after 10 consecutive years of membership in the BBWAA.
Among 14 players appearing on the ballot for the first time, just two reached the five, his total likely impacted by his role in the Houston Astros cheating scandal en route to the 2017 World Series title.
Relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez received 42 votes (10.8 per cent).
Next year’s first-time eligibles include Adrian Beltre, Joe Mauer, David Wright, Jose Bautista and Matt Holliday.