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 Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network, but some baseball fans already had an inkling 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 a player's chances down. That's what happened to longtime Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who went from 78.7% of the public vote to 72.2% of the total vote.
Instead, the Hall of Fame itself 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 of Fame
At 4:08 p.m. ET, a Reddit account going by the username of 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, he was looking at player pages on the Hall of Fame's website when he 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 the 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 like Helton and Gary Sheffield, returned a much more normal "Page not found," like this:
So it appeared the Hall of Fame had set up something under Scott Rolen's name, immediately before its 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 very similar happened last year when social media users noticed the Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza received 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 the internet is always watching, and as a whole probably understands web design better than the National Baseball Hall of Fame.