Jun 22, 2010
The Rolen Identity
Scott Rolen began his career as a hard-charging, no-nonsense, slick-fielding, run the bases while holding my gloves 3rd baseman on August 1, 1996 as a Philadelphia Phillie. He was the golden prospect. Finally, "there would be an heir apparent to Mike Schmidt!", sung the Philadelphia Inquirer in the 1997 Phillies season preview. (This says nothing about the rest of the team at that time). And Rolen lived up to most, if not all of his promise, to start. He was no Schmidt or Brett, but he was an all-star 3rd baseman (who deserved it) with some almost gaudy stats.
He unanimously won the ROY in 1997 with 93 R, 21 HR, 92 RBI and .846 OPS (121 OPS+). In 1998, he became a legitimate star with 120 R, 31 HR, 110 RBI, and .923 OPS (139 OPS+). He also won his 1st Gold Glove. 1999 and 2000, though not as spectacular statistically, showed similar performances by Rolen with around a .900 OPS. This is also around the first time period when the ubiquitous back problems appeared.
It was around 2001 when Rolen decided he didn't want to be a Phillie anymore. The Phillies had traded away Schilling the previous season and seemed to be going nowhere (although 2001 was a ultimately a winning season). Rolen allegely was offered a lucrative contract extension (I remember 8 year, $90 million), but turned it down before the 2002 season. The Phillies were stuck and Rolen was playing like he was stuck (career low .830 OPS through 100 games).
He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Placido Polanco, Mike Timlin, and Bud Smith. There, placed in a lineup with Jim Edmonds, Edgar Renteria, and Albert Pujols and also getting far away from the so-called Philadelphia boobirds, he was able to revive his career. This revival was punctuated by a career-best 2004 season in which he posted a 1.007 OPS (157 OPS+) with 34 HR and 124 RBI.
By 2007, injuries hit and he was traded to Toronto before the 2008 season. Canada did not heal him as he continued posting below average power numbers (though his range at third never diminished). Surprisingly, he was traded to the Reds at the trading deadline in 2009, and it was seen as a shortsighted move. He was expensive and clearly fading as a hitter.
All that changed in 2010 as he is now hitting .99/.360/.573 with 15 HR and 46 RBI in 65 games. This is the rate production he showed during his first few seasons. Is it sustainable? That is a question the future will hold. But there is no end for the Rolen identity as he still grits his teeth and uses that slightly awkward swing to be a successful baseball player.
P.S. He was my favorite player when he was a Phillie. It's nice to see him succeed again, though I would boo him if he played the Phillies. It's in my nature.