Reflecting on Scott Rolen's complicated tenure with the Phillies

Scott Rolen's induction into the National baseball Hall of Fame is a proud moment, but a lot of people connected with the Phillies feel there is no just cause to celebrate his achievement.
2023 National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
2023 National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

Scott Rolen could have taken the easier decision, and chosen to have a blank cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. Instead he chose the Cardinals' insignia over the Phillies, which alludes to a complex and acrimonious relationship with the team which drafted him.

Rolen spent the bulk of his 17-year Major League career in Philadelphia and St. Louis. Further, his statistical imprint on both teams is comparably, highlighted by his respective slash lines and OPS being remarkably similar.

Where the 48-year-old's tenures with the Phillies and Cardinals really differ however, is in his success. Both in terms of individual and team accolades alike, which is extremely important to note.

Apparent lingering acrimony

To this day, there seems to be an underlying resentment from the Phillies organization and fans alike towards Rolen. As per Paul Hagen of NBC Sports Philadelphia, apparently no one from the ballclub's front office was in attendance in Cooperstown for his enshrinement.

The main reason for this, is how the third baseman's tenure ended in Philadelphia. As he headed towards free agency, he didn't believe the organization had a genuine commitment towards winning.

Rather than take on board what Rolen had said, the organization felt slighted. As per Hagen, the Phillies subsequently leaked that he'd been offered a contract worth up to $140 million.

From Rolen's side, the issue was he had stressed all along that winning was his main priority rather than money. However, sports fans are not exactly renowned for their rational or objective outlook, and the perception was he was being greedy and ungrateful.

Balance between money and happiness

In the end, the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year was traded to St. Louis in July 2002. As if to prove the point that it wasn't about money, he soon after signed a eight-year, $90 million extension with the Cardinals rather than go to free agency and likely earn a bigger deal.

At the time, Rolen again stressed his mindset during the press conference announcing his contract extension. As per the Associated Press via ESPN, he said:

"I did very well in this contract, I'm not going to say I didn't. But the thing about this is it wasn't a chase for the last dollar. It was a chase for happiness."

As much as the Phillies and the fans might have taken offense from the 2002 Silver Slugger's words and actions, the results bore out where he was coming from. During his time in Philadelphia, the team had just one winning record and never qualified for the playoffs.

By comparison, the Cardinals had winning records in all but one of Rolen's years in St. Louis. They went to the playoffs four times, won two NL Pennants, and -- most importantly -- the World Series in 2006.

An enduring fondness

For his part, the Evansville, Indiana native does still appreciate his time in Philadelphia, particularly the relationships he formed. As per Hagen, he said:

"I feel like I've always cherished my time in Philadelphia. I still have lifelong friends that came from Philadelphia. People have been texting me back and forth. I still have a ton of friends there."

As for the Phillies organization, despite their shortcomings when it came to contending, he ackowledges they helped set him up for individual success. He said:

"I truly believe I learned to play the game there. You have to be real honest out on the field and real genuine with your effort when you're playing the game there. And there's a toughness instilled in you to go out there and play it the right way and play it hard. And physically, that just kind of carried me through my career in different spots, so where I started was the best spot for me."

Overall, it's tough to argue with Rolen's decision to move on from Philadelphia. It was this choice which ultimately contributed towards him achieving the highest individual honor a baseball player can achieve, by making it into the Hall of Fame.