Oct 7, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright (50) greets former infielder Scott Rolen before game four of the 2014 NLDS baseball playoff game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Just 27 days separate us from February 18, when Cincinnati Reds’ pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Goodyear, AZ. While there is a ton of uncertainty surrounding the 2015 rendition of the club, it wasn’t that long ago that general manager Walt Jocketty made the move the many credit for turning the franchise into a winner over most of the last half-decade. The guy that brought those winning ways to the Riverfront was third baseman Scott Rolen, Number 27 on our Countdown Team.
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Rolen was a second-round pick by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1993 draft, and he spent the first 14 years of his Major League career with the Phils, St. Louis Cardinals and Toronto Blue Jays before Jocketty swapped Edwin Encarnacion (with two others) for the aging third baseman at the trade deadline in 2009. While it’s easy to look at Encarnacion’s production these days and wonder if the Reds got snookered for what amounted to two full seasons of Rolen, it was a watershed deal at the time.
The 2009 Cincinnati Reds finished 78-84 and in fourth place in the National League Central. Up-and-coming stars like Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey were pushing the team toward contention, though, and Rolen is widely credited with giving the youngsters the direction they needed to gel into a 91-71 division-winner in 2010, when Votto won the NL MVP award. During that golden season, Rolen provided more than gutsy leadership, though, as he smacked 20 homers with 84 RBI and slashed .285/.358/.497 to finish with a 126 OPS+ and 13th in the MVP vote.
It was downhill from there for the 35-year-old Rolen, and he was done as a player after 92 painful games in 2012. Injuries finally got the better of the man that so many pitchers could not, and continuing shoulder problems finally forced Rolen to hang up his spikes.
Even though we caught him at the tail end of his career, and even though he toiled for the hated St. Louis Cardinals for many years, Scott Rolen will always have a place in Reds’ lore. He showed fans and teammates alike what winning fire looks like, and we could use a shot of his magic as the 2015 season dawns.