This is exciting news, for a lot of reasons. First of all, Rolen is a strong selection, and was deserving of induction years ago (2023 was his sixth ballot). He’s easily one of the top ten third baseman of all-time, with a top-fifteen bat and a top-five glove, the kind of two way star at the position only matched by Mike Schmidt and Adrián Beltré. In fact, “top five at third base” might be underselling his skill with the leather; Total Zone Rating, for instance, puts him twenty-fifth all-time in runs saved, across all positions. Having over 2000 hits, 300 homers, and 500 doubles on top of that is just icing on the cake.
Before moving on, feel free to take a minute and review some of Rolen’s defensive highlights:
Beyond just that, he helps bolster Cooperstown at third base, easily the position the Hall is the thinnest at. Rolen is only the eighteenth third baseman to be elected, the fewest at any position besides Designated Hitter, and just the tenth to earn the nod from the BBWAA. And on top of all of that, Scott set a new record; after debuting with just 10.2% of the vote back in 2018, he has now supplanted Duke Snider as the Hall of Famer who had to climb the furthest to gain the writers’ nod (Snider started at 17% and took eleven tries before winning their approval). It’s a good sign of all the ways the voting body has become more willing to re-evaluate players that they’ve initially underestimated.
If you were following the pre-announcement ballot tracking, you might have seen that things looked a little dicey for Rolen’s chances. He was trending downwards in the last days before the announcement, and it looked like he needed some good luck to make it over the finish line. In my last piece, I noted that he would likely need to reach at least 50% among writers who don’t reveal their vote (a group where he failed to crack even 35% in 2022). Jason Sardell, who’s done some great work forecasting these results over the last few years, even had Rolen missing on his final projections.
But in the end, Rolen ended up clearing the 75% bar with a little room. Not much (he had 5 votes to spare, the closest election since Iván Rodríguez made it by just 4 votes back in 2017), but that’s better than it looked like he would do for a while, and it seems to indicate that he had healthy support among private voters.
We won’t know the exact numbers of how he did among private voters for a little bit, since some voters will inevitably release their ballots in the coming days and the Hall itself will publish the ballots of anyone who didn’t opt out in early February. However, I’m doing some back-of-the-envelope calculations, and it seems almost certain that Rolen’s percentage among private voters jumped at least 22%. Depending on how he does among late-public voters, he might have even come close to a 25 or 26 point improvement.
In that last piece, I noted that players who crack 60% of the vote overall (excluding the obvious outliers like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens) tend to see a noted increase in support among private voters the following year, in a way that wasn’t particularly apparent when they hit, say, 50%. This is especially the case as of late, the further we move from the 2013-era ballot logjam, and I think that Rolen’s election provides more evidence to that idea.
The Rest of the Ballot