An injury-filled 2010 campaign has made Todd Helton look like the shell of his former self. Almost from the beginning of the season, Helton was dipping his back shoulder, causing him to either miss pitches or hit them weakly.
Who can blame most Rockies fans? After all, when Helton was doing most of his work, the majority of fans were busy rooting the Broncos on. They all said that they would be Rockies fans when ownership committed to putting a winning team on the field.
What that meant was that a first baseman was busy putting up numbers that will get him considered for Cooperstown, most people who should have been enjoying watching the best player to wear a Rockies uniform wanted nothing to do with the franchise.
Those fans were justified by reading articles by the likes of Mark Kiszla who told them that the Rockies should be selling off their farm system for big name free agents.
When the Rockies finally got good enough for them to jump back on the bandwagon, Helton was beyond his prime. All those fans ever heard was how good he was. They, however, simply did not see it. This Helton that everyone talked about did not look like the Helton that they saw on the field. This new Helton struggled to hit the ball out of the park. He was a single's hitter.
There was one simple conclusion for those fans. This Todd Helton that they had heard so much about must have been on steroids. After all, while they were watching football, they had heard blips on ESPN about how a steroid problem in Major League Baseball. So Helton must have been a user. What else would explain his dropoff?
Those fans missed out. They missed out on a legend. They missed out on a guy who could carry a team on his back not just on offense, but on defense as well. They were busy hoping that Jake Plummer would become the town's next John Elway when the town's next John Elway was playing at 20th & Blake.
Those who watched Helton in his prime know that he has done one thing wrong in his baseball career. He has gotten old. His drop in numbers coincides perfectly with his back aging on him and not allowing him to hit for the power he once had.
Those who watched Helton knew that he was not a Coors Field hitter, the way that the likes of Jeff Cirillo and others had been. He could hit anywhere, and he did.
On Monday night at Coors Field, the highlights will show that Todd Helton had four hits and drove in two runs, including the game-winner in the 8th inning. The story that isn't told is actually the biggest one of the night.
In the 4th inning, Helton stroked a double down the first base line. The singles hitter had stroked just his 523rd career double. It tied him for 37th all-tome with some guy named Willie Mays who apparently played in the Giants organization for a few years.
Coors Field or not, when a guy is putting up numbers in his career that are outdoing people who have statues built for them, they have had an amazing career.
Whether Helton ever did steroids or not is a question that most likely will never be answered. He claims he didn't and there is no proof that he did. That does not mean that he is innocent. The fact is, no one who played in the "steroid era" will ever be given the benefit of the doubt.
One thing is certain, however. If Todd Helton would have played for a team that is on the East Coast, we wouldn't be talking about a singles hitter who needs to think about retiring. We would be talking about one of the greatest players to play the game and how he has a spot on the roster until he says otherwise. The talk wouldn't be about sending him off, it would be about what his speech would be like on a late-July afternoon in upstate New York.
On Monday, he showed that he still has it, and when he is healthy he is still the guy that a manager wants to send to the plate. Not the 24-year old slugger, not the 28-year old in the prime of his career, the 37-year old grizzly veteran who still knows how to take a phenomenal at-bat.
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