Scott Rolen needed six years on the ballot to make the Hall of Fame, but he finally got his plaque in Cooperstown this summer.
He wondered if it would ever happen. How could he not? BBWAA voters are a mercurial bunch, but then so are voters on the Hall of Fame’s veteran committees. How else to explain why Dick Allen fell one vote short of enshrinement in 2014 and '21 by the Golden Day Era committee? Allen was one of baseball’s best players from 1964-74 and finished with 58.7 Baseball Reference WAR (bWAR) in a 15-year career. Harold Baines, meanwhile, earned induction from the Today’s Game Era committee, despite a relatively pedestrian 38.8 bWAR in his 22-year career.
Solid arguments can be made for Abreu, Rollins, Utley and Wagner.
Utley has perhaps the strongest case to pass the 75 percent ballot threshold needed to earn enshrinement. (Players must receive at least five percent of the vote to remain on the ballot for a maximum of 10 years.) Utley finished his career with 64.5 bWAR, which ranks 14th in AL/NL history among second basemen (with a minimum 50 percent of games played there), better than 11 current Hall of Fame second basemen, including Jackie Robinson. It also compares favorably to Hall of Fame second basemen Ryne Sandberg (67.9 bWAR), Roberto Alomar (67) and Craig Biggio (65.4).
Utley’s 62.0 bWAR from 2004-14 ranked third among all players in baseball behind Albert Pujols (76.2) and Adrián Beltré (63.3). Miguel Cabrera (59.3) and Alex Rodriguez (52.2) round out the top five.
Utley was one of baseball’s most dominant players in baseball for more than a decade. So, while his production declined toward the end of his career as he battled injuries, he was unquestionably one of the elite players of his generation.
Here is a look at the three returning Phillies on the ballot:
Bobby Abreu (60.2 bWAR)
Abreu appeared on 15.4 percent of ballots in his fourth year of eligibility. He is an interesting case. Look at his numbers, and you'll see a .291/.395/.475 slash line with 288 home runs, 400 stolen bases, an .870 OPS and 128 OPS+. Abreu would be more appreciated if he played today, and Phillies fans would be clamoring to get his bat in the lineup, especially after watching Philadelphia chase too many pitches out of the zone in the National League Championship Series.
Jimmy Rollins (47.6 bWAR)
Rollins appeared on 12.9 percent of ballots in his second year of eligibility, up from 9.4 percent in 2022. He is one of five shortstops in AL/NL history with at least 2,000 hits and 200 home runs, joining Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr., Derek Jeter and Robin Yount, as well as six-time All-Star Miguel Tejada. Rollins had 2,455 career hits. He won the NL MVP Award in 2007. He won four Gold Glove Awards and one Silver Slugger. Rollins made three NL All-Star teams and earned MVP votes in five seasons. He helped the Phillies win a World Series, two NL pennants and five consecutive NL East titles. Rollins compares well to other Hall of Fame shortstops. His career bWAR is 24th all-time among shortstops, better than four current Hall of Famers, including Phil Rizzuto.
Billy Wagner (27.7 bWAR)
Wagner received 68.1 percent of the votes in his eighth year on the ballot. That's a sizable jump from 51 percent in 2022 and 46.4 percent in '21. He has two more chances to reach the 75 percent threshold. Wagner spent only two seasons in Philly, but he dominated, saving 59 games with a 1.86 ERA over 120 appearances and making the All-Star team in 2005. He was Josh Hader before Josh Hader.