Editor's note: All day today we're celebrating Scott Rolen's career and legacy with Scott Rolen Honorary Retirement Day.
He was once the franchise's golden boy, the team's one true prospect during the lean and dark years of the mid-1990s, a time when there was very little to look forward to in Philadelphia baseball.
Scott Rolen was the our lone, bright hope. He was our cornerstone, the heir apparent, sold to the masses as the man who would anchor the next great generation of Phillies teams. We invested in him, we watched him grow, we... dare I say it.... LOVED him.
Scott Rolen was the first mega prospect I invested heavily in as a younger fan, which says more about the state of the Phils' farm system in those years than anything else. And, Rolen responded.
In his seven years as a Philadelphia Phillie, he hit .282/.373/.504 with 150 HRs, 559 RBIs, and 71 stolen bases. He won Rookie of the Year in 1997 and legitimately won four Gold Gloves for defense at third base that hadn't been seen since the days of Mike Schmidt.
In five full seasons with the Phils, Rolen accumulated 25.7 bWAR. He was every bit as good as it was promised he would be.
But you all know what happened next. The situation soured. He clashed with manager Larry Bowa and senior adviser Dallas Green. He clashed with the front office. Frustrated at his then-correct perception of the team's unwillingness to spend money, he turned down a 10-year, $140 million offer because he was "tired of the excuses, of the promises that aren't there." He said...
"I was asked to commit for the rest of my career, with the promise of a commitment two years from now, with the new stadium. That is not right to me."
"I think the fans of Philadelphia deserve better than what they've gotten of the last 15 years. I feel bad about that. So $140 million is not the issue here. In my mind, (turning down) $140 million makes me feel bad, but I can't get over the principle of giving everything I have without any reciprocation from ownership."
"I'm not seeing that their No. 1 goal is to put a winning team on the field."
Rolen reportedly wanted the Phils to make a contractual promise to keep their payroll above a certain level if he was going to sign a long-term deal. The Phillies rejected that idea. He then went about the process of trying to orchestrate a trade out of town in 2002, the final year of his contract.
Eventually, he was dealt to the Cardinals. He ticked us all off when he declared St. Louis to be "baseball heaven."
Never mind that much of what Rolen said about the team's direction and priorities was true. What was clear was that he didn't want to play in Philadelphia, he didn't want to be a Phillie, and when he got out, it seemed as though he was setting fire to the bridge as soon as he landed on the other side.
So, fine, Scott Rolen. You want a divorce? YOU GOT ONE.
Yes, I booed Scott Rolen. When he would come back to Philadelphia, I booed him lustily. I booed him with great fervor and malice. I wouldn't say that I hated Rolen, but I sure couldn't stand him, and certainly understood if there were other fans who felt real anger.
He spurned us. He left us. And then he seemed to do the Dance of Joy when he was finally freed from his personal hell, a.k.a., Philadelphia.
Philly's own inferiority complex sure played a part in our hatred of Scott Rolen, but the fact remained, he didn't want us anymore, and that hurt.
But now, Rolen is retiring. He's saying goodbye.
And it seems like a good time to let the anger go.
When the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, a lot of wounds were healed. The scars from the Rolen era were mostly healed. We were able to put Joe Carter behind us. We were able to put 1964 even further behind us. We were able to put the failures of the last '70s behind us. We were able to put having to deal with Robert Person as the staff ace, the Kyle Abbotts, the David Bells, the Travis Lees, all behind us.
Winning heals a lot of wounds. And it helped me get over my anger towards Rolen.
How long does a person really need to hold a grudge against an athlete? Could Scott Rolen have handled things better as he tried to make his way out of town? Yes, and he would probably tell you the same. But when he visited the Phillies during spring training earlier this year, he appeared ready to bury the hatchet.
"What happened happened," he said. "Everything is good now. I kind of feel like we’re all in the place we should be."
And we should do the same.
It's OK to still be angry with how he left, and that he deprived us of watching him play for another 10 years. But it's also probably time for us to move on.
Yes, his "Baseball Heaven" comment seemed like a personal affront to all of us. But it's time to let it go. I've come to appreciate Rolen for the time we did have with him, and would love to see him welcomed back by the masses with warmth, not with boos.
I'm all booed out. When and if Scott Rolen comes back, I'll be standing and cheering, because time heals all wounds.
Or, at least, in this case, it should.