Scott Rolen was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, avoiding being shut out on the BBWAA ballot for the second time in three years.
None of the other 27 players listed in the 2023 Hall poll cleared the 75% threshold for election, though there were a couple of misses. Results of the poll, which was broadcast on MLB.com, were released Tuesday.
Longtime third baseman Rolan qualified for burial in his sixth year with 76.3% of the vote. The only absentee is former Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who received 72.2% of the vote in his fifth attempt at the election.
Players can appear on the ballot for 10 seasons after a five-year waiting period after retirement if they are named in at least 5% of the votes during the voting cycle.
“You don’t think about it,” Rollen said on MLB Network. “You just try to do your best, play for your team and play as well as you can, there’s such a long road. I never thought the Hall of Fame would be the answer.”
Rolan was a seven-time All-Star during his 17-year career, playing for the Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Reds. His eight Gold Gloves are the fourth most for a third baseman. He was a member of the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year Cardinals when the club won the 2006 World Series.
Rolen, who ranks fifth in WAR among career third basemen according to Baseball-Reference.com, was named to just 10.2% of the vote in his first year of eligibility in 2018, but quickly gained favor in each voting cycle.
The same upward trajectory applies to Helton, which started 2019 at 16.5%. A .316 career hitter in 17 seasons, all spent with the Colorado Rockies, Helton was a four-time Silver Slugger and three-time Gold Glover. His work on the first floor.
Billy Wagner (68.1%), Andrew Jones (58.1%) and Gary Sheffield (55%) were the other players named in at least half of the vote.
Wagner, one of the most dominant relievers of his era, steadily gained support throughout his years on the ballot. Last year he received 51% of the vote. Next year will be his ninth season of eligibility.
Rollen’s short election marks the ninth time the BBWAA has declined to elect new members in its voting history. The writers didn’t pick anyone in 2021. Last year, only Red Sox great David Ortiz was selected by the writers.
The three-year span in which the BBWAA has selected two players is the shortest span in history. Since the annual ballot became permanent in 1966, writers have never failed to select at least two players in any three-year period. In the three years ending in 1968 and in each season from 1996 to 1998, they selected just two players.
Ironically, the dearth of electors comes after a period of years in which writers vote. In the three-year period ending in 2019, the BBWAA elected 11 new Hall members and in the five-year period from 2015 to 2019, 17 new Hall of Famers were elected by the writers.
Unlike in 2021, when the new Hall of Famers are not selected by the writers or the era committee — the first time since 1960 — at least two new inductees will speak at the July 23 induction ceremonies in Cooperstown. The soft-spoken Fred McGriff will join Rolan in the hall after being elected by an all-time committee at the Winter Meetings in San Diego in December.
Progress has been slow for some more controversial candidates whose performance meets traditional Hall of Fame standards but whose cases have been undermined by links to PEDs.
Alex Rodriguez, who had a career high of 3,115 hits, 696 homers and 2,086 RBIs, was named with 35.7% of the vote, up from 34.3% during his second year of eligibility. Rodriguez missed the 2014 season under suspension for violating MLB’s PED policies.
Similarly, Manny Ramirez, who hit 555 homers while rolling a .312 career batting average but was suspended twice for PED violations, made a slight improvement in his seventh season at the polls. After dropping to 28.9% last year, Ramirez improved to 33.2% this time around.
Instead, the frighteningly lazy Sheffield picked up some momentum in his ninth year of qualification. Last year he was 40.6%. Sheffield, who hit 509 career homers but was named in the 2007 Mitchell Report, was never disciplined for PED use. Next season will be his 10th and final chance to win the election via the writers’ ballot.
Of the 14 first-choice candidates in the poll, only two received the 5% support needed to be considered for the next round.
One of those first-timers was Carlos Beltran, who landed with 46.5% of the vote. Beltran’s Hall case is solid on the merits of a career that saw 435 homers, 312 steals, 2,725 hits and one of baseball’s most dazzling postseason records.
Beltran was a key figure in the controversial identity-theft scandal that tarnished the Houston Astros’ 2017 World Series title, for which Beltran played. His association with controversy later led to his resignation as manager of the New York Mets before his first season in the role.
While it’s uncertain what role the scandal played in Beltran’s first-ballot miss, his endorsement status bodes well for the future and, perhaps, candidates for other key figures on that Astros roster.
The other first baseman to remain on the ballot was reliever Francisco Rodriguez, whose 437 saves were enough to earn him 10.8% of the vote.
While voters have been stingy in recent years, next year could see an even more active week with many interested candidates qualifying. Third baseman Adrian Beltre, catcher Joe Mauer and second baseman Chase Woodley lead the list of freshmen.