Scott Rolen, one of MLB's great two-way third basemen, will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame after six years of waiting.
The announcement was made at 6 p.m. ET Tuesday on MLB Network, but some baseball fans already had an inkling that Rolen's chances were good. No, we're not talking about Ryan Thibodeaux and his band of ballot-trackers, who continued their yeoman's work by tracking all publicly available Cooperstown ballots.
With 80.7% of the known ballots, Rolen seemed on track for enshrinement, though you never know how much the non-released ballots will drag down a player's chances. That's what happened with longtime Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who went from 78.7% of the public vote to 72.2% of the total vote.
At the same time, the Hall of Fame seemed to tip its hand that Rolen and only Rolen would make it to Cooperstown, and it was spotted by one Reddit user two hours in advance.
How a Reddit user figured out Scott Rolen made the Hall
At 4:08 p.m. ET, a Reddit account with the username u/studoggery posted on the r/baseball subreddit.
The headline was simple: "[Speculation] I think Scott Rolen will be announced as a Hall of Famer today."
As u/studoggery, whose flair identifies them as a St. Louis Cardinals fan, explained, they were looking at player pages on the Hall of Fame's website when they realized its URLs follow a simple format of "https://baseballhall.org/hall-of-famers/[last name]-[first name]."
The page for Fred McGriff, who made the Hall of Fame Class of 2023 through last year's contemporary baseball era committee, was already up and running. Then the user decided to try Scott Rolen's name, and the result was very interesting.
Instead of any number of 404 or "Page Not Found" messages, they got a "You are not authorized to access this page," like this:
Meanwhile, trying the pages for other candidates with a realistic chance, such as Helton and Gary Sheffield, returned a much more normal "Page not found," like this:
Soon after the post started getting traction, the Rolen page was reverted to the same "Page not found," pretty much confirming that something was afoot.
It appears the Hall of Fame had set up a page under Scott Rolen's name immediately before voting results were announced. It didn't take a genius to guess that was Rolen's new player page, which was somehow ready to go immediately after the announcement was made on MLB Network.
This procedure is apparently not new for the Hall of Fame, as something similar happened last year, when social media users noticed that Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza pages yielded a similar "You are not authorized to access this page" message.
Griffey and Piazza were locks to be enshrined, though, so Rolen's leak was much more significant — and even got a shoutout from ESPN's Joon Lee on MLB Network right before the results were announced.
The lesson here is that the internet is always watching and, as a whole, probably understands web design better than the National Baseball Hall of Fame.