With all of the commotion surrounding Mariano Rivera retiring after this season, Todd Helton went unnoticed for his retirement until his last home game at Coors Field. Although Rivera announced his retirement prior to the season starting, Helton chose to play out the season and declare his retirement a few days before the season ended. I recently wrote about Rivera having a retirement tour, but Helton is a player that very well could have received the same thing.
Helton is not Rivera. He doesn’t have milestone numbers that will put him in the Hall of Fame; he could make it being that he has never been involved in steroid discussions which are what voters have seem to given the most consideration the last few years. However, Helton does hold multiple Rockies records and has had a standout career. He appeared in one World Series and held down a position that has seen many great players overshadow him in his 17 year career.
Todd Helton might have never been a professional baseball player had he not gotten injured while playing quarterback at the University of Tennessee. He was replaced by Peyton Manning (who was on hand for Helton’s final game at Coors Field) but was able to continue playing baseball. Football’s loss was baseball monumental gain. Helton went on to become the face of a franchise that was new and had no identity or history established prior to his arrival. The Rockies have had many great players over the years including Larry Walker, Dante Bichette, and Vinny Castilla, but Helton prolonged his career and played his entire career with the team that drafted him, again being a rare feat in today’s game.
The Colorado Rockies presented Helton with a horse before his final game. Perhaps fitting to see him ride off into the sunset, Helton did not garnish all of the applause and gifts that were given to Rivera this season and Chipper Jones last season. The first pitch of the game was thrown by one of his daughters to Helton, and his girls carried first base off of the field in tribute to Helton’s career as the Rockies’ long time first basemen.
Todd Helton is a player that has been consistent and reliable over his career. He has never sustained injuries that cost him a season or substantial playing time. There were only two seasons in which he played under 100 games. He has been a guy that simply gets the job done and gets it done well. There are few players in the game today that can claim to be the type of player and person that Helton is. You will find very few, if any, negative commentary on Helton, and he has carried himself in the way that professional baseball players should. The perception of Todd Helton and the connotation associated with his name match the denotation that he has established during his career.
Todd Helton is a lifelong Colorado Rockie
Helton is a 5-time All Star, won the Silver Slugger four times, has three Gold Gloves, and was the NL batting champion in 2000. On top of the team records he holds with the Rockies, Helton has proven himself time and time again at the highest level of the game.
Todd Helton won’t be off the Rockies’ payroll anytime soon though. He agreed to defer payments during his most recent contract negotiation to shift part of his salary so that he is paid over a 10-year period. This allowed the Rockies to save money and keep Helton a member of the Rockies through the end of his career. It would have a subpar ending to an illustrious career if he had not been able to work out these details with Colorado and sign short term contracts with other teams. He may have been able to have success like his former teammate and fellow first basemen Jason Giambi has had the last few seasons, but it has become more of a fairy tale ending for Helton by finishing his career where it started without wearing another team’s jersey.
In his final game at Coors Field, Helton did not disappoint the fans. He hit a home run in his first at-bat and also doubled later on. He did what he has done the past 17 years and produce for the Rockies and entertain the fans. Todd Helton would be a sure fire candidate to manage the Rockies someday if that is a job he pursues. He would be welcomed warmly but also have high expectations to continue the success that he had as a player. Managing is very different from playing though, as he would have to rely on other players to produce just like Helton did over the years.
In a time when baseball was shunned on for allowing players to get away with taking illegal substances in exchange for more extra base hits and home runs, Helton has maintained his integrity by doing the right thing and playing the game the right way. He is a great example of what a good, clean, and successful baseball should be like. Helton is an old-school player who loved being at the ball park and just playing baseball. He may not make the Hall of Fame, but he has had an exceptional career and will be missed by both fans and players.