Last week, Scott Rolen announced that he would not be returning to the Cincinnati Reds for the start of the 2013 season.
“Right now I’m simply not ready to make a commitment. I would like to leave my options open, without closing any doors. I am looking forward to all of the challenges, both personally and professionally, I will face in the future.”
The statement is the definition of non-committal. Rolen was unable to commit to another full season and also unable to commit to never playing professional baseball again. Aging in baseball is not an easy thing for the player, and no one demonstrates that more than Rolen.
After multiple shoulder injuries and surgeries, he arrived in Cincinnati a shell of his former self. But he managed a great season in 2010 and pushed the Reds to their first winning record in a decade and their first playoff appearance in 15 years. Unfortunately, he was never able to recapture that and performed poorly in both 2011 and 2012. The decision has to be hard.
Cincinnati Enquirer reporter John Fay had a nice article about Rolen, reflecting on his legacy. Fay in his career has covered Hall of Famer Barry Larkin and future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, Jr. He compares them to Rolen in the injury related trials they faced towards the ends of their careers and then reflects on Rolen’s legacy.
Rolen will be missed. He was a great leader and a great teammate. But, in a way, his work with the Reds was done. His legacy is in his lessons he taught.
“I got everything I needed from him playing beside him,” Joey Votto said. “I learned a tremendous amount. You can always learn, but the two or three years I had with him were not wasted. I tell you what: He changed my path as a player. He was a shining example of the kind of player I want to be. Simply because of how quiet he was and how respected he was throughout baseball.”
Votto definitely carries that air of quiet confidence that Rolen had. There’s no doubt that Rolen taught Votto and other Reds players a lot and will be missed. Although Rolen has expressed no interest in coaching, I do hope he has the opportunity to teach and lead. And heck, if he can manage to be the Rolen of old for a month, it sure would be nice to see him back in action one more time.