Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Todd Helton Showing He Is The Rockies Best Hitter Of All Time


Todd Helton is no stranger to criticism.

Despite a career batting average sitting at .328, Helton has been under fire for the four years due to his deteriorating power numbers. In 2001, Helton hit 47 home runs. He has not hit more than 33 since, and from 2005-2008 he hit a total of only 59.

Baseball experts and scouts said that Helton's bat speed had slowed considerably in recent years, and that he would no longer be the hitter that he once was.

Helton was long praised by Rockies fans as a great player, but most of the the time they were referring to him as formerly being a great player. Many of the Denver sports writers had also dropped off the Helton bandwagon, writing articles criticizing Helton for not pulling his weight like he used to.

Despite being the only player in the history of the game to hit at least 35 doubles in each of his first 10 seasons he was a has been. Despite being the only player in the history of the game to hit at least .315 and knock in 95 RBI's in his first eight seasons, Helton was only talked about in terms of what he could no longer do.

With all of the critics taking their shots at Helton, only one of them really affected Helton, himself.

Everything came to a head in early July last season, when the pain in Helton's back finally became so bad that his left leg was going numb. Helton went on the disabled list, and came back for only two more at bats the rest of the season.

In early October, Helton decided to undergo lower back surgery in which two discs in his back would be fused together in order to relieve some pressure on the nerves.

The future of the Rockies best slugger was in serious doubt.

Despite a slow start, Helton is showing that the surgery may have been three years too late. After a three hit night against Randy Johnson and the Giants, Helton's batting average is sitting at a robust .360. He has three home runs to go along with 17 RBI and six doubles. He fell a triple short of the cycle.

Helton now has a hitting streak now stands at nine games, eight of which have been multi-hit games.

A classic sign that Helton is back to his usual self was a 14 pitch at bat in the 7th inning that was culminated by a home run deep into the Rockies bullpen in right field. Helton has fouled more pitches off than any other batter in the Major Leagues since 2004.

Early on, it seemed that Helton was going to be garnering several votes for "Comeback Player of the Year", now it seems that he will be getting several votes for the All Star Game in July.

After Wednesday night, Helton sits just 11 hits shy of 2000 for his career. It is a milestone that Helton will undoubtedly pay no attention to. When the fans give him the standing ovation that he so richly deserves, he will show his personality by sheepishly looking awkward and clearly not knowing how to react.

As the Helton haters quickly go away, the Gold Glove first baseman continues to hit the ball well, making it look as if he could tell someone exactly where he would place the ball off of his bat.

The success makes one wonder what Helton would have done if he had played on better teams. For several years the best hitter around him was a name such as Jeremy Burnitz or Jeff Cirillo.

Some of the best hitting was taking place at Coors Field for years while most people in Denver failed to notice because the Rockies were on their way to another 85+ loss season.

It is a shame that many people who are finally paying attention are only seeing a glimpse of what the Rockies have had for over 11 years.

Helton may have faced the criticism, but he has shown the his surgically repaired back can carry the load of criticism, and well as the weight of a whole franchise.

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