Saturday, August 24, 2013

As Todd Helton's final month approaches with Colorado Rockies, the question is will he make the Hall of Fame?

Todd Helton will quietly finish his career next month.
The next month will probably go just as Todd Helton would have planned it.

As Denver and the rest of Colorado turn their eyes towards the Broncos and their chances of winning the Super Bowl, the Colorado Rockies will play out the final string of games with barely any fanfare. It is a common scenario.

This season, however, is different. Helton has all but announced that he won't be returning to the team next year, fading into retirement with no party, no honorary Todd Helton day, no hoopla and very little talk about it. In some ways, it seems like a slap in the face to the guy who owns every offensive record in club history, and will for a long time. In other ways, it seems like the perfect way for a guy like Helton to go out.

There is no arguing that Helton's better days are long behind him. The fans that jumped on the Rockies bandwagon during the 2007 run never got to see the Helton that quietly put up numbers that no one in the game of baseball had put up. Those days came when the Rockies were seeking an identity and Helton was the only player worthy of purchasing a ticket to see.

The majority of Rockies fans view Helton as the guy with the bloated contract who can't play three days in a row. They see him as the guy their Dad likes, but they don't really know why. He can't catch up to fastballs anymore and he plays a position that requires far more power than 10 or 15 home runs. Sure, he plays great defense, but why does this franchise hold him so dear?

The sad reality is that a guy like Helton put up some of the most jaw-dropping numbers in the history of the game when everyone in Denver was waiting for a winner, focusing on the Broncos, and wishing the team would spend money in free agency. Outside of Denver, baseball fans were busy discounting the crazy stats because apparently playing at Coors Field is equivalent to playing on the moon.

Frankly, the analysts who point to Helton being a product of Coors Field fall into one category: Lazy. Look at Helton's numbers in 2000, a year he finished 5th in the National League MVP voting. He hit .353 with a .441 OBP. He slugged .633 and his OPS was a ridiculous 1.074. He had 31 double. Those are his numbers AWAY from Coors Field in 2000. Sound like a product of his environment?

Of course, that was just one season. In his career he is a .289 hitter away from Coors Field. Many people like to point at that number for what Helton would be if he wasn't a Rockie. The problem with that argument is that the vast majority of players are better hitters at home. Very rarely does a guy hit the exact same on the road as they do at home. Ted Williams was a .361 hitter at home and .328 hitter on the road. No one called him a product of Fenway.

Many of Helton's fans are very upset at the lack of coverage his career received. There was no reason for the national media to swing into Denver during his good years because the team was done before the Broncos started two-a-days, and when the Rockies did deserve attention, other stars had emerged as the leaders of the Rockies.

With Helton just four hits away from 2,500 for his career, putting him 91st on the all-time list, his odds of making the Hall of Fame are starting to be explored. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN wrote a piece on exactly that. Had Helton avoided back issues, it is almost certain that he would be near or above 3,000 hits and well over 400 home runs. Even with Coors Field in the picture, those numbers would probably be enough. However, with Coors Field looming, the best player in franchise history faces long odds.

Helton's fans know and appreciate just how good he was. They know that for a six-year stretch there was simply no one better. They believe that dominating the game for a stretch that long, and hanging around long enough to rack up stats like Helton has should be enough for Cooperstown to call his name. However, there are many who completely disagree.

The debate, however, probably won't go too far. The Todd Helton that fans have come to know over his 17 seasons won't be starting any campaigns. He won't be be lobbying any writers to punch his name. In fact, the Helton that those in Denver know probably would almost prefer not to make the Hall of Fame because, really, wouldn't his speech be the most awkward in Cooperstown history. Almost certainly it would be the shortest.

Helton may not get into the Hall of Fame. Those who saw his whole career generally agree that he should eventually get in, if it were fair. However, that debate might spoil an opportunity that fans have for the final five weeks of the season. With just a handful of games to go, Helton will be finishing out a remarkable career. Fans should take it in. Watch him in his final at-bats, realize that even if he isn't Cooperstown bound that he will forever live in the Rockies history books. He is a legend playing out his final games and fans should take some time to acknowledge that.

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  1. three seasons too late.
    good bye Mr. Helton.

  2. Mr. Helton is not a butthead,
    but his best days were long gone
    and his team's progress ssuffered.

    1. Todd Helton had an exceptional career, however, the past three years were certainly not productive, and the teams won/loss record suffered mightily.
      Blame it on Helton's ego that he was unwilling to step down, or blame the past three years failing records on management's incompetence and/or unwillingness to replace an aging veteran.
      The Rockies will be better off with Mr. Helton retired.

  3. Todd Helton is not the reason the Rockies have not played well these last few years. One person does not make or break a team. Baseball is a team sport. It takes a team to win a game and it takes a team to lose a game. In the Rockies case, the problem with this team starts at the top and works it's way down to the players (all players). Todd has had a great career and deserves to be recognized for it. At least he has respected the game unlike some other players.

  4. The team sucks with or without Todd Helton. I would much rather he finish out his final years than see 6 different new players every season. Just the fact that he stuck around in Colorado and stayed loyal is enough in my book for him to "waste" 3 years. The Rockies would not have spent the money to get a replacement for him anyway. We will see the same team next year with some inconsistent rookie in is spot. The team makes stupid moves. Look at Pacheco and Arenado, took a performer last year and stuck a rookie who has not performed in his place.

    1. Arenado will be an All Star eventually. He fields incredibly already and his hitting is progressing quickly. Heltons hittin isn't what it used to be but he's only had one error all season. He can still pick a ball at first base better than anyone in the majors.

  5. 1b includes Helton, Giambi, Pacheco, and assorted pretenders.
    The contribution from 1b for the rox over the past 3 years has been substandard, and that performance weakened the team.
    Helton hung on too long, as many players do because of money, love for the game, individual ambition. So who wouldn't.
    The problem with the Rockie team is that management, three years ago, failed to address the 1b problem

  6. Last time I looked, when baseball let the Rockies/Denver into the league, they accepted Coors field and all games played there as counting in all records. That Helton played his career in Coors should not be held against him. It is a major league ballpark. Everything that is played there, counts there. He has HOF worthy numbers, and should receive strong consideration for induction.

  7. when they quit running there team like an ameteur bookie with a chip on his shoulder from the union mobsters, they might start winning more than .500 for a couple seasons in a row. don't knock good hearted players like Mr. Helton that should make it but didn't have the right support system

  8. He is a LEGEND and if other player play likr he does they would be in first place.

  9. Is Mr. Helton above criticism?
    Absolutely not.
    His performance has been at or below average for three years.
    The real problem with the Rockies is they are victims of a failing owner/front office management.