NEW YORK — Scott Rolen might just become the 18th third baseman inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame, the lowest of any position.
“It stems from a primal prejudice that third base isn’t important defensively,” Major League Baseball official historian John Thorn said Monday. “I think Brooks Robinson changed that perception. Just as relief pitchers have long been seen as false starters rather than a new position in the game, third basemen were seen as washouts.”
A seven-time All-Star who retired after the 2012 season, Rolen is among the top contenders on the 28-player roster considered by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in a poll announced Tuesday night. He received just 10.2% on his first ballot in 2018, rising to 52.9% in 2021 and 63.2% last year when he lost 47 votes short of the 75% required.
The leading voters are first baseman Todd Helton with 79.8%, Rolen with 79.2%, and reliever Billy Wagner with 73.2%, according to Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker, which estimated 183 public and anonymous ballots on Monday afternoon included a total of 396.
When David Ortiz was elected last year, his final figure of 79.8% was below the 83.1% of the public election before the announcement. Barry Bonds fell from 76.8% of the public ballot before the announcement to 66% and Roger Clemens from 75.4% to 65.2%, making it possible that for the second time in three years no one will be elected by the BBWAA. This may be the first period in three years in which only one player has been chosen by the writers since annual voting began in 1966.
Anyone elected would be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with Fred McGriff, who was elected by the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee last month.
There are 84 pitchers in the hall (including nine who were primarily relievers), 27 right fielders, 26 each from first basemen and shortstops, 24 center fielders, 23 left fielders, 20 second basemen, 19 catchers, and 17 third basemen. There are also three players who were primarily referred to as batsmen, a position that did not exist until 1973.
Among players since the beginning of the expansion era in 1961, Robinson (1983), Mike Schmidt (1995), George Brett (1999), Paul Molitor (2004), Wade Boggs (2005) and Chipper have been the only third basemen Jones selected by the BBWAA (2018). Ron Santo was inducted in 2012 after a Veterans Committee vote.
“It’s a very difficult position to play because you have to be very quick and you have to be able to hit the great players at third base,” said former commissioner Fay Vincent. “And if you think about it, after Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt, the number drops off pretty quickly.”
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 unanimously voted NL Rookie of the Year in 1997, hit a .421 when the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series, and won eight Gold Gloves.
Helton, a five-time All-Star, batted .316 with 369 homers and 1,406 RBIs with Colorado from 1997 to 2013. He won the NL batting title and three Gold Gloves in 2000. Helton’s share of the vote rose from 16.5% in 2019 to 52% last year.
Wagner had 422 saves, was sixth on the career list, and was a seven-time All-Star in a 16-year career with Houston (1995–2003), Philadelphia (2004–05), the New York Mets (2006–09). , Boston (2009) and Atlanta (2010). Wagner’s votes rose from 10.5% in 2016 to 51% last year.
Carlos Beltrán, John Lackey and Jered Weaver are among the 14 newcomers, the first time authors have rated Beltrán following his role in the Houston Astros cheating scandal en route to the 2017 World Series title.