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Phillies fans have seen the best and the worst in Scott Rolen

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Can you imagine if scott rolen made his major league debut with Philadelphia Phillies As we know them today?

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If you had told me the 20-year-old that young third baseman selected by the Phils in the second round of the 1993 amateur draft, the kid they developed through an inconspicuous minor league system, groomed as the heir apparent to Mike Schmidt, he would have been elected one day. What’s in the Hall of Fame, I’d assume Rolen has spent his entire career in Phillies streaks, accumulating playoff appearances, All-Star nods, MVP awards, and rising to franchise legend, icon, and Philadelphia’s next superstar.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.

As Phillies fans of that generation will remember, Rollin’s divorce from Philadelphia was ugly, and I’m sure some of the feud with former manager Larry Bowe was also his fault, but whether it was depression or minor personal differences, the two men just couldn’t get along. There were also contract extension negotiations that became contentious, and suspicions (rightfully) by Rolen about management’s reluctance to spend money on payroll that ultimately led to the disastrous trade that sent baseball’s best young third baseman to St. Louis in the middle of The 2022 season, his first and only All-Star campaign as a Phillie.

The Phils handed the Cardinals a Hall of Fame player at the height of his career to Placido Polanco, Bud Smith and Mike Timlin.

Rolen made his major league debut in the depths of perhaps the Phillies’ worst season of the last 40 years – 1996. The last remnants of the 1993 pennant winners were fading into obscurity and the future looked bleak for the 67-win Phillies led by Jim Fregosi in his final season. Rollin will be here for Terry Francona’s four lackluster seasons, as the team hasn’t won more than 77 games in any of Scott’s first five seasons with the team. The Phillies routinely ranked near the bottom in terms of payroll, claiming poverty while playing games at rancid Veterans Stadium.

So here was Rolen, early in his career and staring down the barrel of a contract extension with a franchise that made no attempt to improve, playing every day on a hard concrete Vet surface that was almost certain to shorten his football career, playing for a manager who felt tyrannical and unreasonable.

Seeing it all, he talked his way out of town. And in retrospect, Rollin was right about everything.

In his new contract, he wanted the team to promise a minimum payroll they must exceed each season, a poison pill for any front office, and Rollin knew it. But Rollin wanted to make sure he wasn’t left to fend for himself, playing for a team that had one failed prospect after another and no free agents with big money on the horizon.

And although the team improved once Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell were called up in the early 2000s, it wasn’t until the Citizens Bank Park deal was agreed that ownership began investing in players in a real, meaningful way.

Jim Thom showed up, and everything changed. But by then Rolen was gone from the hot corner in “Baseball Heaven,” making his first five consecutive All Star starts, including 2004 when he was a worth 9.2 WAR, finished fourth in NL MVP voting, and went to World Championship with St. Louis.

Can you imagine if Rolen made his major league debut today, with the Phillies as we know them now? With John Middleton as owner? With an exceptional stadium and a burning fan base? Can you imagine if he was recruited and called up after only three or four years and was part of that period between 2007 and 2011, a hometown quarter consisting of Rollin, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard?

At the end of the day, it was Rollin’s most productive year in Philly. He’s racked up more home runs (29.2) there than the Cardinals (25.9), and he’s played more games for the Phils (844) than St. Louis (661). Even so, Cooperstown will likely enter with a Cardinal on his cap, an understandable if disappointing result for a player who, with better timing, will likely retire his number this summer at Citizens Bank Park.

In the final episode of Hittin’ Season, Justin Klug, Liz Rocher and I take a look back at Rollin’s tenure in Philadelphia and the legacy he left in his seven-year career.

Be sure to check out the full episode here where we also discuss:

  • Several interesting moves the Marlins make in the off-season.
  • Why the Hall of Fame voting system is so wrong
  • Our controversial Snake draft the greatest home runs in Phillies history.

do not miss it!

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