Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Helton homers Colorado Rockies to victory at Wrigley

The lineup seemed like a blast from the past, featuring Todd Helton in the three-hole.

The way Helton played, no one was questioning Jim Tracy's decision to put the grizzly veteran in that spot.

Helton delivered for the Rockies, hitting not one, but two home runs, giving the Rockies a bump that carried them to a 5-4 victory over the Cubs, and a series win, with hopes of going home with yet another road sweep.

It was the first time since 2007 that Helton had homered twice in the same game.

The focus of the offseason for the Rockies was the long-term deals that the club handed to Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Those moves solidified the core of the Rockies lineup for years to come.

However, the key to a medium-market team's success goes well beyond two star players. If the Rockies want to succeed, they are going to have to have role players contribute in big ways.

For the Rockies, it is nice to have a role player like Helton, a three-time All-Star, a two-time Gold Glover, and a former batting champion. Despite his age, Helton is showing that if his back is healthy, there is no reason to suspect that he can't resemble player who was once the most feared hitter in the National League West.

The key for Helton is going to be allowing himself to keep his surgically-repaired back in playing condition. No one questions his work ethic or drive, but in the past, Helton has been able to talk his way into a lineup when he was supposed to be on the bench staying fresh.

The reality for Helton and the Rockies is that they don't need a halfway-healthy No. 17. They need a 100% healthy Helton. That means that he needs to get regular rest, allowing Ty Wigginton or Jason Giambi to man first base more frequently than has been the case in the last few years.

His bat may not have the power that it did when he was 27-years old, but his eye and approach at the plate is the same. He can still hit a ball up the middle, or in the gap in left-center as well as anyone, as long as he is not sacrificing his mechanics at the plate due to his sore back.

If Helton can hit .300, with a consistent amount of doubles, he, not the two young superstars, may be the key to a successful Colorado Rockies season.

With another win on Wednesday afternoon, the Rockies have a chance to head back to Coors Field with their second winning road trip of the 2011 season. How long did it take the club to be able to boast that accomplishment in 2010? They never did it. Throughout 2010, the Rockies had only one winning road trip.

The critics will still say that the Rockies haven't been beating tough opponents. They will say that it will mean something when they are able to go into San Francisco and Los Angeles, two places where they have historically been horrible, and find ways to win.

However, the fact that the opponents have been weak doesn't discredit what these Rockies have done. The accomplishment is not simply winning games, the accomplishment is winning games in which they lost in years past.

Despite being a competitive team for the last few years, the Rockies struggled to beat anyone on the road, whether they were contenders or not. They found ways to look over matched, and they made average pitchers look like they should be receiving Cy Young votes at the conclusion of the season.

The fact that this team is winning games that they have lost in the past, and not just winning a few here and there, but winning frequently, is a good sign for fans hoping that the club the perennially struggles in April and on the road, has found a way to turn the corner.

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4 comments:

  1. If Helton isn't a Hall-of-Famer within his first few ballots, it will be a tragedy. Last night was so satisfying for long-time Rockies fans! And how about De La Rosa? So solid.

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  2. I love that Todd has our back again. It's like a reassurring safety net to know that he's there when the team needs him the most. Like last nite to pick up the slack in the three hole. It just makes me dread even more the day he retires.

    Sorry to end on a down note.

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  3. Rockies Woman- While I agree with you whole-heartedly, the national media may disagree with you, and that is what matters. It's sad, but guys who never watched him play in his prime are going to be the ones judging whether he is hall worthy or not.

    Rocky- Hopefully Helton can stay healthy enough to continue playing at this level. He needs consistent days off in order to accomplish it, but I think if he plays in the range of 110-120 games, he will be fine.


    Thanks for the comments!

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  4. You mentioned the fact that some people still discredit the Rockies. And if they lose on the road, they will show bias in a hurry. I caught that on my ESPN podcast today. It's such a shame, really

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