Monday, September 16, 2013

Todd Helton passes the torch as new generation of Colorado Rockies starting to emerge

Wilin Rosario has the talent to lead the Rockies at the plate.
It was fitting. The day that Todd Helton told the Colorado media and fans formally that he was retiring, he led the way to victory. However, it wasn't through a walk-off home run, it wasn't the game winning hit.

Helton wasn't the hero on Monday night at Coors Field, he was the guy who got the base hit that ushered a new kid, fresh faced like Helton when he arrived, to deliver the big hit. The grizzly first baseman, a shell of his former self, punched a 98 MPH fastball just past second base to record the 2,506th hit of his career.

The hit moved Troy Tulowitzki to third and brought Wilin Rosario to the plate. Rosario, a Dominican catcher with raw talent, a natural at the plate and the polar opposite behind it, drilled a 1-1 fastball down the left field line, driving Tulo to the plate and sending Helton to third. More importantly for the Rockies, it gave them a 2-1 lead over a Cardinals team in a bitter three-way battle for first place in the National League Central.

The Rockies weren't done. Charlie Blackmon smacked a Trevor Rosenthal pitch into the outfield to score two runs, then Ryan Wheeler took hit a hard ground ball through the hole at shortstop and into left field, giving the Rockies two more runs and essentially wrapping up the game.

It was slightly poetic for Helton. The 17-year-vet got the rally started with a single, then the new kids did their thing, ushering in a new era for the ballclub that hasn't seen too many eras go by without old No. 17 being a part of it.

The big inning gave Chad Bettis his first Major League win, despite the fact that he blew the lead earlier in the inning, but was a win none-the-less. The game was finished out, although not a save situation, by newly minted closer Rex Brothers, who recorded three strikeouts in route to lowering his ERA to 1.74.

As Helton steps aside, a new generation of Rockies step in and will work to prove that they can contribute to the overall cause at Coors Field. They take their chance to fill a void that Helton will leave when he hangs up his jersey for the last time in purple.

Players like Rosario, who has become more than just potential, have started to win over fans. The patience the Rockies have shown him behind the plate is a testament to the bat that he possesses. He is still a work in progress, but the potential is there to be a remarkable Major League hitter.

The others, guys like DJ LeMahieu, Blackmon, Corey Dickerson, Bettis and Wheeler, they may never combine to record as many hits as Helton has in a Rockies uniform, but they are ushering in a new generation and a new time at Coors Field. It may not be comfortable, and it might not be easy, but the time has come for Rockies fans to look at the future while they take one last stroll down memory lane with the man who can be replaced on the roster, but not in the clubhouse, or in the history books.

The Rockies have nothing left to play for in 2013 except pride. They have started an unfortunate trend of shutting off the lights in late September before the season officially ends. It is time for this team to start maturing in how it deals with post-elimination games. Games like Monday night are a good start, but frankly, winning isn't the only important thing in the final weeks. This team must show that they can play hard, never give up and do the little things correctly, even when it doesn't matter.

The first stage in recovering from the loss of a clubhouse figure like Helton is to have a new leader emerge from the pack. It might even be someone who is young and doesn't possess much big league service time. However, it has to be someone who is willing to demand that the guys around him, as well as himself, push themselves to a level higher than where they played the day before, regardless of the outcome and statistics involved in that game.

The new leader has to be someone who is hungry for success, but not just personal success. It has to be success that comes from being a part of a team that wins. Leaders who push other people so that they can accomplish their own goals end up being disrespected. Leaders who push others so that the team can go where it is capable of going are legendary.

This Rockies team is in desperate need for someone to emerge from the clubhouse and become that type of leader. With Helton gone, the role is up for grabs. Someone can either take it by default, or another can step in and let their natural abilities take over.

If that happens, the Rockies can move on without Helton and be alright. If it doesn't happen, it will quickly be apparent how much influence the old veteran had on the way the team went about things.

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1 comment:

  1. passing the torch.....
    more like a church key and a bic lighter.
    I must compliment you, Mr. Martin. You can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.