Rolen could become the 18th third baseman in the Hall of Fame

NEW YORK (AP) — Scott Rolen could become the 18th third baseman elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame, the fewest of any position.

“It grows out of an original prejudice that third base is not important defensively,” John Thorn, Major League Baseball’s official historian, said Monday. “I think Brooks Robinson changed that perception. So just as relief pitchers for a long time were considered failed starters rather than a new position in the changing game, third basemen were considered failures.”

A seven-time All-Star who retired after the 2012 season, Rolen is among the top contenders on the 28-player ballot considered by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in a vote announced Tuesday night. He received just 10.2% on his first appearance on the ballot in 2018 and rose to 52.9% in 2021 and 63.2% last year, when he fell 47 votes short of the required 75%.

The top vote-getters are first baseman Todd Helton at 79.8%, Rolen at 79.2% and reliever Billy Wagner at 73.2%, according to Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker, which included 183 public and anonymous votes as of Monday afternoon out of a total estimate of 396.

When David Ortiz was elected last year, his final number of 79.8% was lower than the 83.1% of the public ballots before the announcement. Barry Bonds went from 76.8% of the public vote before the announcement to 66% and Roger Clemens from 75.4% to 65.2%, making it possible for no one to be elected to the BBWAA for the second time in three years . This could become the first three-year span with a single player voted for by writers since annual voting began in 1966.

Anyone who voted would be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23 along with Fred McGriff, elected last month by the Contemporary Baseball Era committee.

There are 84 pitchers in the Hall (including nine who were primarily relievers), 27 right fielders, 26 between first baseman and shortstop, 24 center fielders, 23 left fielders, 20 second basemen, 19 catchers, and 17 third basemen. There are also three players who were primarily designated hitters, a position that didn’t exist until 1973.

Among players since the expansion era began in 1961, the only third basemen chosen by the BBWAA have been Robinson (1983), Mike Schmidt (1995), George Brett (1999), Paul Molitor (2004), Wade Boggs (2005) and Chipper. Jones (2018). Ron Santo was inducted in 2012 after a vote by the veterans’ committee.

“It’s a very difficult position to play because you need to be very quick and great third basemen have to be able to hit,” former commissioner Fay Vincent said. “And when you think about it, after Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt, the number drops pretty quickly.”

Rolen had a .281 batting average with 316 home runs and 1,287 RBIs for Philadelphia (1996-2002), St. Louis (2002-07), Toronto (2008-09) and Cincinnati (2009-12). He was the unanimous 1997 National League Rookie of the Year, hit .421 as the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series and won eight Gold Gloves.

A five-time All-Star, Helton hit .316 with 369 home runs and 1,406 RBIs with Colorado from 1997-2013. He won the National League batting title in 2000 and three Gold Gloves. Helton’s vote share increased from 16.5% in 2019 to 52% last year.

Wagner had 422 saves, sixth on the career list, and was a seven-time All-Star in a 16-year career with Houston (1995-2003), Philadelphia (2004-05), New York Mets (2006-09 ), Boston (2009) and Atlanta (2010). Wagner’s vote increased from 10.5% in 2016 to 51% last year.

Carlos Beltrán, John Lackey and Jered Weaver are among the 14 newcomers, the first time the writers will assess Beltrán following his role in the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal en route to the 2017 World Series title.