Editor's note: All day today we're celebrating Scott Rolen's career and legacy with Scott Rolen Honorary Retirement Day.
The late 90s and early 00s were a tough time to be a fan of the Phillies. The team couldn't repeat the magic of 1993 and instead spiraled into a period of prolonged misery.
One of the few shining lights, though, was Scott Rolen. Growing up watching Mike Schmidt, I was used to having a dominant third-baseman who could do it all. That's exactly what Rolen was -- he was an incredible fielder, he was smart and fast on the basepaths despite his size, and he was consistently powerful and patient at the plate. In other words, he was the whole package.
But what truly won me over with Rolen was that he was the anti-Larry Bowa and the anti-Dallas Green. I've never been shy about my dislike for these guys. They were heroes of mine when I was a kid because they won the World Series in 1980, but ever since I reached double-digit years, I realized that there wasn't much about the two of them worth liking.
They are rash. They are hateful. They are manipulative, anti-intellectual, backwards, and angry. While almost everyone's understanding of baseball has evolved, they have completely looked the other way. Unfortunately, they are still active in this organization. It will be immediately better once they are gone.
Scott Rolen, in almost every way, was the opposite of these guys. He was calm, both on the field and off. He seemed (to the best that I could tell as a fan) to be kind. He thought rationally about situations, particularly about where he wanted to play for the rest of his career. I was certainly upset that he didn't take the Phillies massive offer in 2002, but to Rolen, no amount of money could convince him that this franchise was committed to winning (or that continuing to be around Bowa and Green would be worth it). This was a kind of thinking that we aren't used to in athletes, but a kind of thinking that I had to respect.
If there was one thing that truly set Rolen apart, though, it was that almost every written piece about him that went beyond his statistics mentioned that he loved to read. This profile of Rolen from 1997 is a perfect example:
He also has an appetite for life - real life - that many athletes never have. Unlike one old-time Phillies player - who, when asked on a survey to name his favorite book, replied: ``I've never read a book'' - Rolen is on a mission to read the world's greatest literature.
He has spent months plowing through Ayn Rand's 1,200-page Atlas Shrugged. Next up, he will tackle Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, because ``I've never read Ernest Hemingway. Why is he so good? I'm going to find out.''
More recent articles and books have talked about him reading Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" while on rehab, reading Dostoevsky while on team flights, staking out a local Barnes and Noble for new books, and talking literature with reporters in the clubhouse.
This, to me, capsulized about Scott Rolen - he was a great baseball player, but he also had a curious mind that he wasn't afraid to talk about and pursue.
For a franchise that has often seemed to act contrary to all rational intelligent though, Rolen was the hope that baseball and intelligence could co-exist in Philadelphia.