“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.

27 Responses

  1. Veteran Leader

    Scott Rolen is a leading leader of veteran leadership. If the youngsters on this board can’t see that, then that is why I am here. I have been plying my trade for many years on other message boards. Coming here to RLN, I realize what my role is : this board will “know how to post” under my veteran leadership.

  2. Steve

    I don’t see where you have given examples of Rolen being opinionated or “unwilling to take the field when he’s injured.” (should players play when injured?)

    I heard Rob Dibble on the radio this afternoon saying that Rolen was just what the Reds clubhouse needed. That’s a lot more credible to me than any of our amateur speculation.

    Let’s see, he was mad at the Phillies for not wanting to win. That’s clearly something to point out when trying to prove he is a poor leader for our team.

    Amateurs have differing opinions than yours. I found this an interesting read on Rolen:


    From http://www.thestar.com/sports/article/631634:

    “Rolen’s arrival with the Jays came as a breath of fresh air in the clubhouse. At the time, it seemed like a trade of convenience, third baseman for third baseman. Veteran for veteran. Going to the Cards was Troy Glaus, unhappy with the hard turf at the Rogers Centre and plagued by rumours of steroid use. Meanwhile, Rolen had butted heads for the last time with manager Tony La Russa. Exit stage north – and the Jays’ clubhouse has been the beneficiary.

    “In order to have a championship organization, it’s important that the veteran guys are the guys that bring the work ethic,” Jays bench coach Brian Butterfield said. “They bring the respect. In order to be a championship organization, you need your core players, your veterans to do things right and that starts with preparation.”

    Rolen is one of those guys. Leadership is not always about being vocal. After Travis Snider had smashed two home runs off the upper deck in Minnesota, he cited Rolen’s example as one of the reasons he didn’t stand and watch and showboat those tape-measure blasts. He had too much respect for the way Rolen prepared and played.”

  3. Mark the Red

    $11 million is a lot to spend on leadership.

    What exactly is Dusty paid for again?

    Lets just hope we get some actual production and not an older, 3b version of what Alex Gonzalez has been…

  4. Chris Garber

    Steve, the whole thing with LaRussa had to do with Rolen’s injuries, and disagreement about whether he should or shouldn’t play. Read the linked articles.

    You’re telling me Rolen is KNOWN AS a veteran leader. I know that. I just find it odd that he keeps that tag, despite all his public spats with management.

    I’m not saying he was wrong in ANY of those incidents. Just that other guys don’t keep the “good guy” label after a similar history.

  5. Chris Garber

    BTW, Richard Griffin (the author of that Toronto Star article) has written some of the stupidest things ever published about baseball.

    The Cardinal Nation thing was what I meant by “fanboy.”

    ?Anyone who reads this already knows his qualities as an athlete and a leader. Scott Rolen is simply the best third baseman in the game and, perhaps, the best in history. Ever the strong silent type, he abhors microphones and publicity. He is the type who would rather take a one-hopper off his chest to keep it in front of him than submit to an interview. Rolen walks the walk and doesn’t talk the talk. He is regarded throughout major league baseball as an ultimate team player.”

  6. Chris Garber

    The Griffin piece is well-written, to be fair. Formulaic, but well-written.

  7. JerBear

    It’s too bad Role was not traded for about 3 weeks ago. Maybe would not have made a big difference, but would have been a little more exciting.

    I honestly am not really followin the Reds too closely cus they are so bad right now! But I like this trade, especially if Rolen can stay healthy. That is pretty much the key.

    At least you go into next year with 3 solid players in your everyday lineup…Votto, Phillips, Rolen. Sad that there basically only 3…I guess Jay Bruce could/should be one too.

    I see Volquez had to be shut down…didn’t most people kind of expect this? The Reds should have shut him down like a month ago. Man I hope he can come back next year and be a solid starter for the Reds. It’s a shame it looks like he could be one of those guys with a bad arm.

    It’s interesting how the tables have turned on the Hamilton/Volquez trade. Now Volquez may be the guy who can’t stay healthy.

  8. aaron

    Multiple Gold Glove All Star With an EARNED WS ring. We needed this!!!!

  9. Glenn

    I gotta tell you, I’m glad to see EE go. I don’t like losing him was paying any price at all. IMO EE has been a disappointment from the start. He wasn’t going to get any better playing in Cincy, and apparently he had no problem with being traded. I did like Roenicke though, but you have to give up quality to get quality in return.

  10. Glenn

    Line 2 should read…”I don’t think losing him was paying any price at all. Proof read, darn it!

  11. Andy

    EE for Rolen doesn’t bother me that much. Josh Roenicke getting thrown in bothers me a little, but I can cope with it. Zach Stewart added to the mix really ticks me off. But I guess a 23 year old pitcher that is pitching very well in AAA is a dime a dozen, right?

    I am glad Alonzo wasn’t part of the deal, but I was only marginally relieved when Stewart took his place.

  12. nick in va

    I’m not too upset about the trade. I am an EE fan, but a ground ball to 3rd made me break out in cold sweats. We’ll see how Stewart does, but I agree that it’s hard to see him go. It’s hard for me to get too outraged. The Kearns trade comments were 90% over the top and I’m guessing that’s the case this time too.

  13. Chris Garber

    While trading Alonso would be very bad, we at least have an excellent 1b in-house. There’s always room for a stud starting pitcher.

    As for Roenicke (and Manual, to a much lesser extent): Who needs effective $400k relievers
    when you have Mike Lincoln and D.W.?

  14. Chris Garber

    Anyone else notice that Rolen’s AVG is sixty points higher than the last couple of years.

    We’re buying high, right?

  15. Sultan of Swaff

    I’m not angry about acquiring Rolen, I’m pissed about NOT acquiring a productive older player of this salary level in the off season. We passed on guys like Bobby Abreu and Jermaine Dye, and pissed away any hopes of contention because the offense was put together with Elmer’s glue and toothpicks. Oh, but now we can afford to take on salary while at the same time dealing away prospects??? There’s no discernable logic when you look at the big picture over the last 12 months.

  16. JerBear

    Good point Sultan..I agree with you on Abreu. I remember when he signed with the Angels for 5 million and I was thinking couldn’t the Reds have paid him like 6 million to lure him to Cincy? Plus playing in Cincinnati would have inflated his stats and he would have had a chance for a bigger contract 2010.

    I’m a little surprised they included Zack Stewart. But we’ll have to wait to see how he turns out.

    From the Reds standpoint, we traded 3 question marks for a solid player. I like the deal because of that. If Rolen stays healthy, he’s a pretty good upgrade on EE.

    I can see why people are upset with this deal, but a lot of the Toronto fans are upset with losing Rolen. Some of their fans are sayin they lost their best player. The timing of it is kind of weird, but we’ll see what happens.

  17. mike

    a couple small ideas and questions.

    if veteran leadership helps a club so much then why havent the Reds old guys, like Arroyo, Weathers, Harang, Cordero, Hernandez, etc helped the Reds this season.

    What good is a 34 year old player, no matter how good on a terrible team? if the Reds were .500 or anywhere near maybe….but the Reds will very likely end the year with one of the 3-4 worst records in the nl.

    we gave up a lot for a guy who is one more injury away from retirement

    how could the deadline go by for a team 1 game out of last place and the team not deal arroyo, weathers or any of the other old relievers?

    and maybe most importantly who cares if we got another bat since taveras is going to continue to leadoff? and gonzo likely to bat 2nd?

    this also makes next year look worse. we have an ancient 3B who will probably only play half the time because he’ll get hurt

  18. brublejr

    “Veteran Leadership” is such BS. I would not have included Stewart in any deal unless they were getting a Hallady, Lee, Victor Martinez, or Peavy type player. I don’t get why it took all three of those guys to get the deal done. Could they have not thrown in a different SP other than Stewart? I really hope that they are looking at putting Frazier back to 3B now because there isn’t anything else close to the majors and Rolen will not stay healthy.

    Also, I could have understood this move if guys like Harang, Arroyo, Weathers, Cordero, or Rhodes were traded for good prospects to replentish what we have lost on this trade. None of that happened, so the team will be the same to marginally better and gave up on two really good arms.

    This is the type of trades that kill your farm system. Also, how much longer until Mark Mulder is signed to be the Ace of the staff? I’m sure Walt will get it done…

  19. Dan

    Let’s start with the fact that 2009 is a lost cause, so I’ll count seasons starting in 2010.

    We just traded 1 year of Edwin, 5 years of Roenicke, and 6 years of Zach Stewart…


    1 year of Scott Rolen.

    Right? Do I basically have that right?

    This is UNBELIEVABLY NEGLIGENT in my opinion. This is a move that a team that’s got a chance to win the World Series RIGHT NOW can do. We are nowhere near that.

    I am sad, pissed, and disgusted. Ugh. (And this is true even though I know full well that Rolen is a good bit better than Edwin!)

  20. Dan

    The Pirates are MUCH more realistic and MUCH smarter than we are now. They saw that they have a bad team and they retooled. Sucks for their fans right now, sure, but it is the right thing to do for the long-term success of the Pirates.

    I want LONG-TERM success here! Not maybe 2 extra wins in 2010.

    Good Lord… is this what we’ve spent 5 years strengthening our minor leagues for? So we can flip them for 34-year-olds?

  21. Travis G.

    It’s worth noting that Jocketty thinks the two pitchers he gave up were easily replaceable, specifically mentioning this year’s (as-yet-unsigned) top two draft picks. You can argue with his assessment, but it’s a defensible position.

  22. David

    Alright instead of looking at this as a waste, let’s look at it in the context of 2010.

    1) Dickerson LF
    2) Rolen 3B
    3) Votto 1B
    4) Phillips 2B
    5) Bruce RF
    6) Heisey CF
    7) Hanigan C
    8) ?????? SS

    Someone with the ability to do so, why don’t you play around with that lineup and see (with a league average SS) the projections.

  23. Andy

    Here are the middle infield free agents for this winter. I included 2B in the event the Reds could find a good one and move BP over to SS. Not too many names on that list get me excited, but anyone is better than AGone. I am excited the more I read about Cozart, but I doubt he will be ready to assume the full time gig next season.

    Second basemen
    Ronnie Belliard (35)
    Jamey Carroll (36)
    Alex Cora (34)
    Craig Counsell (39)
    Mark DeRosa (35)
    David Eckstein (35)
    Jerry Hairston Jr. (34)
    Orlando Hudson (32)
    Akinori Iwamura (31) – $4.25MM club option with a $250K buyout
    Adam Kennedy (34)
    Felipe Lopez (30)
    Mark Loretta (38)
    Pablo Ozuna (35)
    Placido Polanco (34)
    Freddy Sanchez (32) – $8MM club option with a $600K buyout; vests with 600 PAs
    Juan Uribe (31)

    Orlando Cabrera (35)
    Alex Cora (34)
    Craig Counsell (39)
    Bobby Crosby (30)
    Adam Everett (33)
    Chris Gomez (39)
    Alex Gonzalez (32) – $6MM mutual option with a $500K buyout
    Khalil Greene (30)
    Jerry Hairston Jr. (34)
    John McDonald (35)
    Marco Scutaro (34)
    Miguel Tejada (36)
    Omar Vizquel (43)
    Jack Wilson (32) – $8.4MM club option with a $600K buyout

  24. Chris Garber

    David, you forgot Willy. Nothing about this organization gives the me impression he won’t be in that lineup, creating havoc and such.