I was one of the few people at this site who defended the Rolen trade from the start.
Rolen’s presence turned the Reds from a pretender into a contender. The confidence, experience and model he provided for consistency, professionalism and running the bases seemed to convince the team they could win. Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto said so. Rolen wasn’t the Reds’ best player in 2010, but they wouldn’t have made the playoffs without him.
The organization began 2012 with the overly optimistic plan that Scott Rolen would be healthy enough to play 120 or more games and would return to a reasonably able version of his former self. Predictably, Dusty Baker installed him game-after-game-after-game as the club’s clean up hitter. Who amongst Reds’ observers thought that would work? Rolen’s production during those 29 games:
Then Rolen took himself out of the lineup. His shoulder hurt, and he was hurting the team. Scott Rolen, to his credit, said both of those things. He spent the last month on the DL and was replaced by Todd Frazier, the Reds’ best hitter this spring, who produced this:
The key number to note is the last one, the slugging percentage. Frazier has six home runs to Rolen’s two. But back to the dread.
It began after listening to a brief part of last night’s TV broadcast.
Announcers Jim Kelch and Jeff Brantley turned to the news that Scott Rolen had taken batting practice earlier in the day. We’re looking at days now, rather than weeks. Great! Right? I love watching Scott Rolen play baseball. Shouldn’t I be looking forward to his return?
After all, Rolen has done well in pinch hitting duties the past couple years. He’d be a great defensive substitute. Todd Frazier’s performance at third base has been so much better than the 2012 version of Scott Rolen that everyone sees it. Even Dusty Baker, even through the fog of Aqua Velva, has surely grasped that simple truth. Scott Rolen’s return as a pinch hitter and bench player will definitely improve the Reds.
But as Kelch and Brantley began to discuss Rolen’s return, a feeling of queasiness crept through me. They didn’t seem to consider, even for a second, that Frazier should continue to start at third base for the Reds. Instead, they talked about how he would be perfectly suited to replace Rolen on the veteran’s regular days off. Were they kidding?
It doesn’t matter what announcers (or bloggers) think. But, if Kelch and Brantley don’t see Frazier as having earned the 3B job then, to a moral certainty, neither does Dusty Baker. And unfortunately, it does matter what he thinks.
Of course, every one of us would love to see Scott Rolen return healthy and revitalized and play like he did in that glorious first half of 2010. We’ll be hoping that the injured shoulder, not Father Time, explains April. We’ll pull for him. But, looking at it realistically, we know that’s not happening.
More likely, we’ll suffer through day after anguishing day of Baker stubbornly putting the name Rolen, not Frazier, on the lineup card. Rolen will struggle at the plate. Todd Frazier, the organization’s third best hitter, will rot on the bench, seeing the same playing time as Wilson Valdez.