“Veteran leadership,” that tired cliche, is apparently one of the biggest reasons Walt Jocketty was willing to pay such a high price for Scott Rolen. In fact, it was one of the first things out of Jocketty’s mouth, even before he talked about Rolen’s on-field abilities:

“He will bring a lot to this ballclub that’s been lacking,” said Jocketty, in his second season as the Reds GM. “He brings leadership. He’s a veteran. I think he’ll add a lot to this club. And he’s still playing well. He’s a good RBI man and a Gold Glove at third base.”

The first question I had was, “Why hasn’t he ‘led’ the Blue Jays to a better record?” But moving past that snide (if valid) question, I wondered, “Is it even true? Is Scott Rolen really a ‘good clubhouse guy’?”
His career has not been without friction:
  • He eventually complained his way out of town, and into a trade with Walt Jocketty’s Cardinals. (Hilariously, this was Walt’s quote in 2002: “”He is an All-Star, a proven run producer and an excellent defensive player.” Compare to today’s.) I’m not going to kill Rolen on this, because his point (at least publicly), was that he didn’t believe the Phils were committed to winning. I’m just saying he wasn’t exactly piling up “leader” points.
  • In St. Louis, Rolen played well. He was an all-star each of his first four years there (even the season he hit .235 in 56 games). Rolen’s unhappiness with his treatment led to a feud with Manager Tony LaRussa – to the point where he was benched for a World Series game. They fought for the better part of two years. Rolen was publicly criticized by his manager, and eventually presented the Cards with a “him or me” demand – which led to the trade to Toronto.
  • If you ask LaRussa, Rolen’s impact on the clubhouse was far from positive:

“We’ve had issues where guys are saying, ‘What’s going on with Scott?’ And he needs to understand that he’s slipped, not in his play, but just in the way he’s perceived as being the Scott we’ve known for a few years. And I think that means a lot to him. He can play mad every day if he wants to. It’s OK.”

“He had mentioned to me that he’s got some personal-situation things that he’s dealing with, and if we had it in our power to move him to a spot that would get him closer to his home, if we would take that into consideration,” Ricciardi said.

  • Again, I’m not trying to make too much of this. Rolen’s taste in enemies makes a lot of sense, and I can’t really disagree with any single thing he’s done. I would probably act exactly the same way if I was a professional ballplayer with clout.
  • But if you look at the list of guys who have acted like Rolen has – assertive, opinionated, and willing to speak up for his own interests, physical and mental – I think you’ll find very few of them touted as clubhouse leaders. Rolen sounds more like Dick Allen than a guy a GM would unload top prospects to acquire.