A place where Colorado Rockies baseball card collectors (all 3 of us) can waste some time reading about our favorite sport. The Rockies and their cards will be the primary focus, but I like to go off on tangents as well so anything and everything baseball related may be covered here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Happy Trails: Todd Helton

I have been puzzled for the last week or so on how to say goodbye to longtime Rockies first baseman Todd Helton.  Helton has been the Rockies first baseman since I was 20 years old.  Two things about that sentence have a very high impact to me.  One, the Rockies have had the same first baseman for 17 years and two, it has been 17 years since I was 20 years old.

I have never been the type of person that is completely comfortable with change.  I have remained in both jobs and relationships for far too long just because the idea of change has frightened me to an extent.  I even smoked cigarettes for much longer than I wanted to simply because I was nervous of what would happen if I quit.  As an aside, my fear was justified there because I did gain nearly 100 pounds when I quit smoking, but I am still extremely happy I quit.  The one thing that is comforting me right now is that, other than quitting smoking, everything that actually occurred following change was not as bad as I had anticipated.  With that in mind, I am cautiously optimistic about moving forward with the Rockies without Todd Helton standing 90 feet from home plate.

But before I move forward, it is important to reflect on Helton's career and the impact it has had on the Colorado Rockies and myself in particular.  Helton's impact on the Rockies should be obvious.  He is the best player in franchise history and deserves to go down in history as "Mr. Rockie" just as much as Tony Gwynn is thought of as "Mr. Padre" or George Brett as "Mr. Royal."  Actually, I have never heard anyone call George Brett "Mr. Royal," but if they ever decide to it would fit very well.

He has over 2,500 hits, over 350 home runs, and currently ranks #16 all time in doubles.  The only four people ahead of Helton on the doubles list that aren't in the Hall of Fame is nearly elected Craig Biggio along with the banned Pete Rose and PED users Barry Bonds and Luis Gonzalez.  If Helton had played one more year, he could have easily ended up in spot #11 (13 behind) and possibly made the top 10 (32 behind).  Helton was also a 5 time All Star, 4 time Silver Slugger, and 3 time Gold Glover along with being the close runner-up for the 1998 NL Rookie of the Year Award behind Kerry Wood.

The only negatives against Todd Helton are the impact of Coors Field on hitters and his injuries later in his career.  My response to the first is the same as my response always is to that ignorant comment.  Why didn't Derrick Gibson and Choo Freeman become great hitters if it was so easy?  Dante Bichette, Ellis Burks, and Larry Walker all had good seasons in other places.  Coors Field is a Major League ball park AND the Rockies faced Major League pitchers in every single game they played.  Couple that with the fact that Helton played the majority of his career AFTER the somewhat equalizing humidor was installed.  No one ever questions the HOF-worthiness of Tom Seaver or Sandy Koufax despite them playing in extreme pitcher's parks, so the same benefit should be given to Helton as well.

The injuries are a little bit harder to justify.  It could be argued that Helton's career is very similar to that of former Yankee Don Mattingly.  I think that comparison is somewhat worthwhile in that Helton was absolutely dominant for six years before injuries limited him later in his career.  The main difference is Helton's numbers are far superior to Don Mattingly and his career lasted several years longer.  Although he is close, I don't think Don Mattingly is a Hall of Fame player and if Todd Helton had retired in 2007 I wouldn't think he was either.  But he didn't.  He did play the last six years and added on to his career numbers and that, in my mind, made him a Hall of Famer.

Just for some odd trivia about Helton to amaze your friends with.  The first one I know is the same one everyone knows, that Helton was the starting quarterback at Tennessee before Peyton Manning.  The second is a bit more fun.  Todd Helton still holds the NCAA Division I record for consecutive scoreless innings pitched. 

Just to talk quickly about the elephant in the room, yes I am aware of Helton's DUI during this offseason.  While it was not his finest moment to say the least, I am not willing to throw the man away based on one incident in an otherwise stellar career, both on field and off.  He was not returning home from a club at 3 AM, he was driving to a gas station near his home following a few beers.  He probably had the thought, 'I'm fine to drive' and went on his way.  We shouldn't pass judgment or expect perfect decisions from drinkers, because drinking does not exactly enhance one's judgment.  However, if you are a perfect person and would like to forever condemn a man for an isolated incident in which no one was hurt, you are free to do so.  Just don't do it here, because it is neither the time nor the place.

I could probably go on for another 20 pages of talking about Helton, but I am going end it here.  There are far better writers out there to talk about the man in great length.  I just wanted to say my piece.  And if for some reason Todd Helton ever reads this post, allow me to say thank you for making my life a bit more enjoyable.

Thanx for reading.

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