Helton during the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in 2010 (Photo Courtesy: AP)
Colorado is home to some of the most scenic mountain landscapes in the world. They represent stability and strength. No one represented these traits more for the Colorado Rockies than Todd Helton. Some will say it was the thin air and playing his whole career in a “hitter’s park”, others will say it was stained by an era in which everyone was dirty, even others will say there’s no World Series ring on his finger. The rest (including me) will say that over the past 17 years, Todd Helton is statistically one of the greatest hitters of this era, and maybe of all time.
As Helton took the plate in his final game at Coors Field in Denver, the crowd was alive, the Rockies have been out of the playoff mix for weeks but the fans still stuck around to see their franchise’s most productive player, swing the bat one more time. In his first plate appearance, Helton bombed a homer deep into the Colorado night, etching a storybook ending to his incredible career. It was only fitting that he would go out on such a high note.
Helton played the majority of his career with players whose names will go down in the record books accompanied by an asterisk. Steroids were the norm for power hitters in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, but Helton was never linked to BALCO or any other performance enhancing agency. He never had a corked bat, or got in fights with his teammates. He was more than just a power hitter too. A closer look at his stats tells the real story on how valuable he really was.
- .317 career batting average (13th all-time among 1st basemen)
- 592 doubles (16th all-time)
- 2,518 hits (more than Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Barry Larkin)
- .414 on-base% (26th all-time)
- 1,406 RBIs (more than all-time hit champion Pete Rose and HoFer Carlton Fisk)
Helton would never admit to this, but he played on mostly sub-par teams his whole career. Only making it to the playoffs twice in his whole career (including a World Series appearance, where the Rockies were destroyed by the Boston Red Sox) may turn Hall of Fame voters the wrong way, but there’s only so much one player can do. Some of Helton’s other career achievements include:
- 5 All-Star game appearances
- 4 time Silver Slugger award winner (best BA at a certain position)
- 3 time Gold Glover
- 2000 NL batting title (.372 avg)
His best season was in fact that year he won the batting title. He finished the 2000 season with the best batting average of the modern era, .372, 42 homers, 147 RBIs, 59 doubles, and 216 hits. Even with these incredible numbers, he finished 5th in MVP voting, a direct correlation to the losing record of his team that year.
Helton may not win any beauty contests and he might walk right by you on the streets without you recognizing him (I’m sure the $162 million he made in his career means he won’t care if you don’t), but he was perfect for Colorado. A quiet, bearded slugger, who never made any excuses, he is respected as much as his city is elevated, a “mile-high”.
An emotional Helton announces his retirement, Sept. 2013 (Photo Courtesy: AP)