Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why the Helton Hate from Colorado Rockies fans?

The Rockies continued their downward spiral on Tuesday, losing to the Dodgers 9-7 at Coors Field. The club showed some fight, but in the end, were upended by the Dodgers, and, for the first time since Jim Tracy took over as manager, lost a homestand.

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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  1. I think it's the people who watch FSN, and they hear Drew Goodman always joking about how old Todd is.

    It kills me how almost every time Giambi starts, at least one base hit goes through the right side, and all my buddies look at eachother and say "Todd would've had that".

  2. Helton is the best player in Rockies history, without question. Like Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr., and others, he deserves the right to decide when he's had enough.

  3. Helton is the major reason the Rockies failed to win their division. An offensive liability who can't run.
    2011 bat him eighth to avoid his liabilities.
    Defense is still very good.

  4. How could Helton possibly have been the reason the Rockies didn't win the division? How about Ian Stewart playing sub-par? How about Chris Iannetta not taking the next step forward. How about Aaron Cook looking like he had no business pitching in the big leagues? How is Helton an offensive liability? He is slow, but he is behind the guys with speed. He still hit .260 and was able to get on base. His defense isn't very is phenomenal. How many more errors does the entire infield have without Helton scooping the slop out of the dirt?

    Your statement is completely ludicrous.

  5. Helton fails to perform offensively. No power.
    No RBI. Slow runner. Not an everyday player. No flexibility to play more than one position.
    His on base percentage makes sense for an 8 hole
    hitter. Blame management for hitting him fifth or sixth.
    Defense is still very good. He is no longer a gold glove first baseman.

    Ludicrous reference is immaturely over the top.

    Helton failed his team in 2010. Great players
    make great contributions. Maybe he'll bounce back with a more productive year in 2011. At his age it will be very difficult to contribute
    enough to make a difference. His body is simply
    breaking down after a long successful career.

    Please remember, it's just a game.
    Not life or death.

  6. Mr. Anonymous,
    I don't think you read my article. If your shortstop, normally not a huge power position, is giving you close to 30 home runs after missing a full month, why does it matter if you have a 1st baseman who is not hitting for a ton of power?
    He is not a gold glove first baseman any more? Have you watched him play? Have you seen the digs that he makes? Is it his .996 fielding percentage in 2010 that makes you think that?

    You are a prime example of the person that I am talking about. You don't understand the contributions that Helton is making.

  7. Everyone in the Rockies' "O" is always bragging about how great Todd Helton is, and anyone in the press corps who wants access to Rockies 'inside information' does the same thing. Helton has become like the Rockies No. 1 draft choice in the NFL, he is too important a dude to have a bad year. Well, here's a news flash folks, in 2010 Todd Helton had a horrible year. Not just the numbers, but the inconsistency at the plate with runners in scoring position. The Cards are paying Holliday essentially what the Rockies are paying Helton, but I'm not going to embarrass Helton by putting up those numbers. If it was a choice of either/or with Helton and Holliday, the Rockies still made the right choice. Without that trade we lose Carlos Gonzalez and he is potentially better than both those slower power hitters. Helton has lost more than a step and his bat speed has also dropped off. A few days ago there were nine Rockies players with batting averages between .190 and .260, their collective non-performance at the plate with runners in scoring position cost the Rockies game after game. Todd Helton was one of those players. It was sad to watch. Poor Jim Tracy moved the pieces of the puzzel round a round, nothing seemed to work. Tulo and Cargo are two of the best players in the league, but they need some help .....

  8. Disregard that last post, I'm a moron

  9. I love TH but its time to move on the reason we didn't make the playoffs, PITCHING????? You gotta sign someone look at Phili! Yea we've been bitten before but without a solid rotation no playoffs. Ship Francis and Cook down the road, alone with Helton and his $$. Bring in some youth or we go nowhere again next year!!!

  10. Helton is making $4.4 million next year...the exact same amount that his buyout would have been if the club turned down his essentially, Helton is playing for what he would have received as a buyout and he wouldn't have had to do anything. That really sounds like a pretty reasonable commitment to me. I think Helton is still a $4.4 million/year guy.

  11. Todd Helton has the on field charisma of a broken clock.
    Now that his skills have diminished significantly,
    it is time to find another big bat like Cargo and Tulo.
    Clinging to Helton will have negative implications for Team Rockies.

  12. Like I've said 100 times. Helton is not the problem. Pitching is.
    Todd Helton didn't give up a walk off home run to Donnie Murphy in Florida. Todd Helton didn't blow 13 leads (Aaron Cook). All Todd Helton did was save the infield at least 20 additional errors by making plays at first base. Maybe the power wasn't there, but the guy hit .310 after coming back from the DL in July, so maybe the key is that the Rockies need a healthy Todd Helton.
    I am convinced that people expect more out of him because he made $16 million this year. Guess what? Guys don't look at their paychecks every two weeks and say..."man, for what I make, I should be hitting .350." Is Helton overpaid? Yes. Are all Major Leaguers overpaid? Yes. They throw and hit a ball, then run around bases while the other team chases the ball...kinda silly to be a millionaire because of that...regardless, their paycheck isn't what should be looked at when judging their play.

    If Helton made $2 million in 2010, the Rockies wouldn't have gone out and spent $14 million on better free agents. That's not their style. They would have just had a lower payroll, so who cares how much Helton makes?

  13. Man, that Mr. Anonymous doesn't know the game of baseball. Todd Helton IS (notice I never said WAS)the best baseball player to ever have put on a Rockie uniform. His stats both offensively and defensivly will put him in the Hall of Fame when he does take his cleats off but I'm looking forward to having the honor of watching a real pro play again next year. Even Cargo and Tulo are glad he's coming back next year. He doesn't deserve to have some anonymous whiner who can't see or respect a great player.

  14. Helton is in the twilight of a once successful career. He no longer can produce at a level required to put the Rockies on top of both leagues. If he returns, use him part time and
    bat him eighth where he belongs.
    His 2010 season was a disaster offensively, a clear indication of diminished abilities.
    Helton was a great player.

  15. Has a single person that posted an anonymous response in opposition to Todd Helton actually read the article? It has become apparent to me that the people who are anti-Helton simply feel he should perform better because he signed a contract in which the team offered.

    Who is better? Derrek Lee? .260, .774 OPS and 19 home runs. Is that all that much better than Helton? Yet people scream his name as a guy who the Rockies should pursue.

    Do you think Lee will be cheap? He's a former All-Star and is a well-known name.

    Either find a reason why Helton isn't a valuable member to the everyday lineup that isn't refuted in the article, or tell me someone who might be cheaper and produce better.

  16. Helton is in the twilight of a once great career. Depending on Helton as a regular first baseman will doom the Rockies.
    Mr. Martin, you refuse to acknowledge the obvious. End of discussion.

  17. Sorry Mr/Ms. Anonymous,
    I never said that Helton wasn't in the twilight of his career. That is well understood and irrefutable. However, once again, I don't see a statistical argument that backs up your claim, simply saying that Helton is in the twilight of his career is not fact enough to suggest that he shouldn't be the regular first baseman.

    Who do you want to the Rockies to sign? Who would be better? Would Giambi have been a better option? Give me some arguments, rather than just shouting your opinion.

  18. Hey David, I liked what you had to say about Helton. I am sort of in the middle; I loved watching him play ball even when the Rox weren't (otherwise) worth the price of admission. And I was frustrated to see Helton in the middle of the lineup day after day in the midst of a mediocre season this year. Helton set a very high bar, and even over the last couple of years, which were below his previous standards, he was still a fine offensive player and one of the truly great defensive 1Bs in the game. But for those of us who have been spoiled watching Helton work pitchers for 8, 9 or 10 pitches in an at bat; strike out only about 13% of the time; and come up with clutch hit after clutch hit, 2010 was a significant disappointment. If, as you say, Stewart, Ianetta, Fowler, Young, Barmes all hadn't been even worse, I agree that Helton hits more like a 7 or 8 hitter in 2010 than a 4 or 5 hitter. The fact that he did hit in the middle of the lineup speaks to how overall weak the rest of the team was (excluding Tulo and Cargo). If Helton does have a rebound season, I could see him as a #2 or a #7, but with Cargo at #3, Tulo at #4, and a corner outfielder and 3rd baseman hitting in the more expected range, Helton should move down in the lineup. That said, I do agree that there are very few players, probably none, who will field better and hit "ok" for $4.4MM. Thanks for your thoughtful column, and your support of Todd. We are all lucky to have enjoyed watching him over these past 12 or 13 years.

  19. Well said. I completely agree that Helton is no longer a 3 or 4 hole hitter. I think he would even agree with you on that. If the other parts of the lineup would have produced like they should have...namely Stewart and Seth Smith, the Rockies could have had the benefit of having Helton turn the lineup over in the 7 or 8 hole. Instead, they were stuck with guys who regressed and couldn't force the issue.

    Take a look at Helton one more time...his '08 season was awful, but that was when his back was so bad that he needed surgery. His '09 season, however, was still a very good season. In fact, he finished 13th in the MVP voting. In 2010, he once again was battling his bad back. After he finally gave in and went on the DL, he hit over .300 the rest of the way.

    Would I like a guy who can hit .300 and play gold glove defense hitting in the 7 hole...absolutely. Now throw in veteran leadership and I am definitely willing to take it for 120 games.