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Todd Helton ready to play what will likely be his final season

Jan 10, 2013, 11:31 PM EDT

Todd Helton Getty Getty Images

Todd Helton is under contract for $5 million in 2013, but there was some uncertainty whether he’d come back following hip and knee surgeries. However, the 39-year-old first baseman told Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post today that he’s ready to return for what will likely be his final season in the majors.

“I am back baby,” Helton said with a laugh. “When you are 39 years old, coming off hip surgery, those things don’t really go good together when you are talking about a baseball player. There was some uncertainty and doubt after last season. But as I got into it, it only fueled my appetite to keep playing and keep getting better.”

Helton underwent season-ending surgery last August to repair a torn labrum in his left hip and then had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in November. But he was motivated to return following a meeting with new manager Walt Weiss last month and recently took batting practice with no issues. While he is projected to be the starting first baseman in 2013, the Rockies will keep an open mind with his health, which means Michael Cuddyer, Tyler Colvin and Jordan Pacheco will all be options to fill in when he needs rest.

Helton batted just .238/.343/.400 with seven home runs, 37 RBI and a .743 OPS in 69 games last season. However, he still owns a fantastic .320/.419/.545 lifetime batting line and a .964 career OPS over 16 major league seasons, all with the Rockies. He should make for an interesting Hall of Fame case, but it might be harder for him to get support that it has been for former teammate Larry Walker, who at least spent six years in Montreal and two in St. Louis.

  1. kyzslew77 - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:51 AM

    His OPS+ (that’s park adjusted, for the haters) of 135 is excellent and makes him HOF worthy. It’s comparable to or better than dozens of guys who are already in and who, like him, didn’t play premium defensive positions. His WAR total (also park adjusted), if you want to check HOF credentials that way, is either just short of the 60 threshold or just over it depending on if you prefer fWAR or rWAR. Coors inflates OBPs, of course, but his career mark of .419 is completely bonkers (20th all time) and would likely be over .400 regardless of where he played.

    It’s a shame injuries robbed him of the ability to pile up the counting stats that would have made him a sure thing HOFer, but he should still get in somewhere down the line. Certainly not on the first few ballots but I hope he builds up momentum and gets in eventually. He’s like Duke Snider or Ron Santo at a less valuable position but with better counting stats; Orlando Cepeda but better; Jim Rice but much better; Eddie Murray but without 5 extra seasons of piling up counting stats while being a replacement player.

    Small hall people won’t want him in and I can respect that. What I cannot respect is people saying HERPA DERP COORZ FEELD NO WAY. Too bad that’s probably how much of the BBWAA will react when he’s on the ballot.

    • paperlions - Jan 11, 2013 at 7:53 AM

      How many 1B from the last 20 years do you want to put in the HOF?

      Here are 1B with at least 3000 PA since 1990 ranked by wRC+ (also park adjusted, but a far better metric than OPS+)

      Albert Pujols 164
      Mark McGwire 163
      Joey Votto 156
      Frank Thomas 154
      Jeff Bagwell 149
      Miguel Cabrera 148
      Lance Berkman 146
      Jim Thome 145
      Prince Fielder 143
      Jason Giambi 142
      Carlos Delgado 135
      John Kruk 135
      Todd Helton 134
      Adrian Gonzalez 133
      Rafael Palmeiro 132
      Ryan Howard 132
      Mark Teixeira 132

      Helton is 13th. He did play good defense, which helps his case. But he wasn’t a top 5 1B of his era.

    • flosox - Jan 11, 2013 at 9:20 AM

      He’s a different player at sea level…

      Coors: 350/447/613, HR/AB 17 (3800 AB’s)
      Road: 289/389/475, HR/AB 27 (3700 AB’s)

      If he had all his AB’s away from Coors field, he’d project to hit 275 HR’s or so…Not the end all be all, but when you compare to other 1B of his era it sticks out for me.

      Still great numbers, but imo not HOF maturial

      I will also go on record saying i’ve always loved to watch this dude play. He’s the type of player every team would want.

  2. skerney - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:59 AM

    The Rockies have had only two opening day first basemen in franchise history.

  3. ezthinking - Jan 11, 2013 at 2:55 AM

    Jezus, don’t compare him to Rice. Rice is in the category of “worst” HOF’r.

    • kyzslew77 - Jan 11, 2013 at 5:00 AM

      Well I know, but I’m just saying, he’s WAY better than Rice. I don’t like the idea of every single fringe HOFer from now until forever saying “But Jim Rice is in!!!” But here I think there’s a little more of a comparison because both played for the same team for their whole careers (barring a deadline trade to a contender for Todd this year, something I’d totally be happy about as a Rockies fan), and Helton is going to face the same climb that Rice did. If he gets in it’ll be within a couple years of falling off the ballot.

  4. personalspaceinvader - Jan 11, 2013 at 3:29 AM

    They say Todd is getting paid too much for what he’s able to contribute lately but Todd earned that money years ago during the Todd & the Toddlers era. He could have left Colorado for Boston but chose to stay and help build the team. He’s earned every cent of his contract, no doubt in my mind.

    I remember reading a quote from him last year saying, “[he’d] rather burn out than fade away.” In this, very likely his final year, I hope he’s able to contribute what he’s always contributed; driving up pitch counts, doubles to the gaps, and good contact until he can’t go anymore.

    Good luck, Toddfather. We’re gonna need you again to help turn this thing around.

  5. dirtydrew - Jan 11, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    One of the last of the ” Steroid Era”. Not a hall of famer due to roids and Coors Field inflated numbers. Good player though.

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