The 100 Greatest Cardinals: 11-20
Scott Rolen’s induction into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame is bittersweet. He’s a truly great player who is deserving of the honor. But he damaged his legacy by pouting his way out of town after demanding to be traded.
I’m not sure how to feel about watching a guy who claimed he really dreamed of playing for the Cincinnati Reds when he grew up in Indiana as opposed to his previous statements that it was always his lifelong ambition to play for the Cardinals. Let’s not forget that, at the time the Reds and Cardinals were bitter enemies. Rolen was right in the middle of the fight between Yadier Molina and Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips.
One of the most talented players to play third base, Rolen could have been a franchise icon somewhere in the pecking order near Ken Boyer, Lou Brock and Ozzie Smith and similar players — just a notch beneath Stan Musial and Albert Pujols. But, unfortunately, his generally grumpy nature prematurely ended his stay in St. Louis just like it did in Philadelphia before that.
When Rolen should have been at his happiest — as the Cardinals were securing the 2006 World Series trophy — he was paving his way out of town by stoking a feud with manager Tony La Russa that never should have happened.
Late in the 2006 season, when he hit .296 with 22 home runs, Rolen injured his shoulder in a collision at first base and he wasn’t the same after that. He hit .091 in the Division Series with only one extra base hit and found himself on the bench for all but 12 plate appearances, a seemingly fatal blow to Rolen’s ego. He hit a mediocre .238 in the National League Championship Series before rebounding in the World Series to hit .421 in a four-games-to-one victory over the Detroit Tigers.
I admire a guy who wants to be in there. It’s hard to imagine any starting big leaguer worth his salt telling the manager to put the utility infielder into the game in his place if he’s capable of standing upright. Still, there are 24 other guys on the roster who want to win just as bad as he does. Is it fair that they should sacrifice what might have been their only chance at a championship ring so the grizzled veteran doesn’t get his feelings hurt?
Jason Isringhausen deserves the hall of fame
I have no reservations about the induction of former St. Louis closer Jason Isringhausen in the same class as Rolen.
Izzy gave everything he had to the Cardinals and their fans. The only problem is that he struggled with arm issues at the end of his career and he’s remembered for a lesser version of who he was in his prime.
There was no better closer in baseball at the time St. Louis picked up Izzy. During his first four seasons in a Cardinals uniform, he pitched 241 2/3 innings and gave up only 175 hits while compiling a 2.50 earned run average. He struck out 231 hitters during that span and walked only 86. Incredible.
Sadly, however, Izzy was 1-5 with a 5.70 ERA his last year with the Redbirds and then he bounced around to several other teams, trying to find the magic once again before he finally called it a career. Like so many players before him, Isringhausen native tarnished his reputation while trying to hang on. But at least he did it with a little more earnestness and class than his teammate, Rolen.
My hope for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony is that Izzy will get the credit he so richly deserves — and Rolen will be able to mend fences with Cardinals fans and resume a more active relationship with the team.