Since the Rockies are out of the race in the final week of the season, the biggest news came from Troy Renck of the Denver Post. He spoke to Todd Helton and confirmed that he has no plans of retiring and that he will be back with the club next season.
Helton announcing the he will be back is not a huge breaking news story--he signed a two-year extension just seven months ago--however, the response is what is ridiculous.
While anyone who follows the Rockies knows that going to the Denver Post's comments section is one sure way to dumb yourself down, the reaction to the news is somewhat troubling. The fact is, it's not just the Denver Post comment sections either. Take a listen at Coors Field and hear the grumblings directed at Helton.
To be fair, Helton's numbers have dropped significantly from his hay-day. After a 2-for-4 night on Tuesday, Helton is still hitting just .260. He has eight home runs and 36 RBIs. Are those numbers good? No, not even close to good. However, are they really that bad either?
In my experience, what I have found is the first reason everyone wants to see the Helton ship take its last voyage is simple. He makes too much money. The first thing that everyone points to is that he is making $16.6 million in 2010 and that his stats do not justify that kind of money.
The problem with that argument is that it assumes that a player has to earn the contract that he was given after it was given to him. The fact is, Helton might not be earning his contract currently but he earned it before he signed the deal. Ownership and the front office, way back in 1999, saw what a special player Helton was and decided to lock him down.
In the middle of Helton proving that he was worth every single penny that the franchise gave him, most fans who are complaining at this time were busy complaining about how badly the Rockies performed on the field, and frankly, didn't pay enough attention to realize that they were missing out on a legend playing first base at one of the most beautiful ballparks in baseball.
While sports talk stations were busy ranting and raving about the Broncos Super Bowl probabilities from the minute the draft commenced until the Broncos pulled into their all-too-familiar 8-8 run-of-the-mill record, everyone was ripping on the Rockies and missing the spectacular play of one of the best in the game.
Did Helton earn his contract? Does anyone deserve $16.6 million per year? If there is someone who does, it is Helton. Think about this; in 2000, a year in which Helton finished fifth in the MVP race, he hit .353 with 15 home runs, 59 RBIs, and 31 doubles...on the road. Who remembers that? Very few of the fans who are pushing him out the door in 2010.
Is Helton the same player that he was 10 years ago? Of course not. Who is? However, the fact that he signed on the dotted line at the right time should not be held against him, especially considering he never packed it in after he signed his big deal, he continued to reward the franchise, and their few loyal fans, with high-quality baseball.
The other argument that is always thrown around when ripping on Helton is that at a corner infield position, the Rockies simply need more power.
Of course in baseball, people try to project numbers onto certain positions. For example, first and third basemen are supposed to be power guys, hit in the middle of the order and drive in a ton of runs. Same with left and right field. The guys up the middle, shortstops, second baseman and center fielders are supposed to be defensive-minded, while hitting for decent average and little power.
So, when Helton has just eight home runs with six games to go in what has become a disappointing 2010, everyone is quick to say that the Rockies simply cannot have a lack of production from such an important position on the diamond.
The response to that, however, is why does it matter what defensive positions are producing at the plate? Does it count for more runs when a first baseman hits home runs than it does when a shortstop does? Of course not. So if the Rockies shortstop is hitting like a typical first baseman does, while the first baseman is hitting the way a typical shortstop does, what does it matter? The two wash each other out.
The other argument that Helton haters make is that Jason Giambi should be out there everyday, since he can still hit for power. The problem with that argument is that it flies in the face of the reason that fan is disappointed with Helton. Giambi is hitting .246 in 2010, 16 points lower than Helton. While Giambi has six home runs in far fewer at-bats, it is easy to forget that Giambi also has two extra years on Helton. If Giambi was playing everyday it is safe to assume that his body would not be anywhere close to as fresh as it is coming off of the bench one in every five days. His numbers would almost certainly suffer playing every day.
Helton critics are also quick to forget about his defensive play. With all due respect to Troy Tulowitzki, who is an amazing defender, the shortstop would have at least 10 more errors on the season if not for Helton's defense.
How many times does Helton make a jumping catch-and-tag to get a runner going to first base? How many times does Helton pick a ball out of the dirt to record an out? His defense at first base is far superior to Giambi's, and is still better than most first basemen in the league.
Helton's numbers at the plate have dropped, there is no denying that. However, so has his responsibilities of being the guy who carries the team on his shoulders. That torch has long-since been passed on to Tulowitzki. Hitting sixth in the lineup, playing great defense, and hitting a respectable .260 is nothing to be complaining about.
The Helton hate has become a little ridiculous.
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