COMMENTARY | Third baseman Scott Rolen will be more remembered by most of the baseball world as a star for the Philadelphia Phillies or St. Louis Cardinals than he will be for his role with the Cincinnati Reds. But in the few years he played for the Reds to end his outstanding, if not Hall of Fame, 17-year career, Rolen was most definitely instrumental in the resurgence of a young Reds team that is now a perennial contender for the NL Central.
Rolen's arrival with the Reds in August of 2009 was the key acquisition to help a young team of budding stars follow a leader of a star caliber who could lead by example. Plus, the Reds solidified a weak link defensively at third base and found their cleanup hitter for their 2010 campaign that resulted in winning the first of two division titles in three years. Even though the Reds were overwhelmed in their playoff matchup with the Phillies in 2010, the team showed the pieces were in place to put a consistent winner on the field.
With Rolen as an established clubhouse leader and a key component both offensively and defensively, the 2011 season was filled with repeat expectations for the Reds. Rolen made his final All-Star appearance in 2011, but shortly afterward he was out with another shoulder injury. The Reds were struggling prior to Rolen's injury in 2011 and continued to flounder the rest of the season without him.
Rolen started the 2012 season healthy enough to play but struggled badly at the plate. Once again, he sustained injuries and ultimately would only start half of the season's games for the Reds. However, he squeezed a few more drops from the fountain of youth during the dog days of summer, hitting over .320 in July and August.
But a revitalized Rolen proved to be a double-edged sword for the postseason. Todd Frazier had earned his way into the lineup as a replacement for both Rolen and first baseman Joey Votto when Votto was injured, and now Frazier was the odd-man out in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, the final impression of Rolen in Reds Country would be that he kept Frazier from playing in the playoffs. That compounded with a dooming error in the 10th inning on a not-so-routine ground ball in Game 3 of the Division Series and his swinging strikeout to end the series, and Rolen's last stand won't go down so well in the annals of Reds Country.
Nonetheless, the positive imprint of Rolen is still with the team that has moved on without him in 2013. Rolen's presence will be missed more so than his production, but make no mistake, there will be times during the season that he will still be missed by his former teammates, Reds coaches and the fans.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2012 Reds season here.
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