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Todd Helton to retire after 17 seasons with Rockies

Sep 15, 2013, 12:43 AM EDT

Todd Helton AP

Most figured the end was coming for Todd Helton. The 40-year-old first baseman confirmed it to the Denver Post’s Troy Renck on Saturday, announcing his retirement at season’s end.

Helton said he felt going into 2013 that this would be his last year, though he has had second thoughts from time to time.

“During the season I definitely wavered. It usually wasn’t from having a great game. I just enjoyed the competition, and I felt like I had bat speed. That’s what I will miss. The competition. I don’t know how I will replace that yet. There were days, I thought, ‘Maybe I can do this one year,’ ” Helton told the Denver Post “Then ultimately, it’s the travel, being away from the family. It is just time.”

Helton, who has dealt with back problems for a half-dozen years, has managed to stay relatively healthy in 2013, but the production hasn’t come back. He’s currently hitting .244 with 13 homers and 52 RBI in 112 games.

At .317/.415/.539, Helton has the slash line of a Hall of Famer, and he played like one in his prime years, even after accounting for the Coors Field effect. Still, he probably wasn’t quite good enough for long enough to get into Cooperstown. Famously the backup quarterback Peyton Manning at Tennessee, he didn’t establish himself in the majors until age 24, and back problems led to diminished power numbers from age 31 onward. It won’t help his case that his high finish in the MVP balloting was fifth and that he went to a mere five All-Star Games.

On the other hand, there’s a whole lot to be said for ranking 20th all-time in OPS. He’s also 16th in doubles with 585. He won a batting title in 2000 and finished in the top five in average seven times. He also finished in the top five in OBP eight times and in slugging four times. He topped 40 homers twice, with a high of 49, and drove in 147 and 146 runs in back-to-back years. He won three Gold Gloves for his play at first base. WAR says he was the NL’s best player in 2000, which is when he finished fifth in the MVP balloting.

  1. atleastimnotaraidersfan - Sep 15, 2013 at 12:56 AM

    Congrats on a great career #17.

    • dickclydesdale - Sep 15, 2013 at 12:37 PM

      Home:280 AVG 100 Homeruns 500 Rbi in 1000 games
      Road:350 AVG 200 Homeruns 900 Rbi in 1000 games
      Coors field makes an average player a borderline hall of famer.

      • nbjays - Sep 15, 2013 at 1:00 PM

        I think you got your Home and Road numbers reversed. His home numbers are much better than his away numbers, but I think it is more a matter of home park comfort/familiarity than altitude. I mean, if you look at his numbers, yes he has more Coors Field home runs (225-142), but he also has twice as many SB (24-13) and more walks (709-624).

  2. jlovenotjlo - Sep 15, 2013 at 2:19 AM

    As a perceived clean slugger in a steroid era, I see him getting into the hall of game eventually. Maybe it’s only the goatee and team longevity, but I feel like baseball is losing two amazing and similar players in Him and Paul konerko. Baseball just got a lot less manly.

    • jlovenotjlo - Sep 15, 2013 at 2:35 AM

      Fame thanks autocorrect the hall of game is what I meant

  3. albertmn - Sep 15, 2013 at 2:20 AM

    While I understand the humidor has made Colorado not as much of a launching pad, Helton did play through some of the years when it was. If you look at his career home/away splits, his OPS was almost 200 points lower on the road. You can’t discount the thin air effect, so I think he will fall into the “very good” category and not last more than one year on the HOF ballot.

    • kbland8318 - Sep 15, 2013 at 9:07 AM

      I’ll pass on speaking to possible eventual enshrinement, but I’m thinking he does not disappear after 1 year. Humidor or not, a lifetime batting average of .317, an OPS of .964, .367 dingers, I’m inclined to think he draws the 5% requirement to stay on. If you vote on a yes/no basis, it might be tougher, but I think the numbers are debatable enough that marginal voters who consider what year a guy should get in probably add to the yes column by thinking they want more time to decide. But where Bernie Williams only drew sub 5% this past year, I don’t know that Helton will exceed the 5% by a lot.

  4. sdelmonte - Sep 15, 2013 at 4:19 AM

    Not an all time great, but at the very least his number should be on the wall at Coors very soon.

  5. Old Gator - Sep 15, 2013 at 8:58 AM

    Good to see a terrific ballplayer spend his entire career with the same team. Obviously, this doesn’t happen too often. Enjoy your well earned retirement, sir.

  6. nbjays - Sep 15, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    I always liked Todd Helton and he has had a great career in Colorado. Not many players spend their whole career with one team anymore, and even if he doesn’t make the HoF, I can definitely see the Rockies putting his number up on the wall at Coors. You never know, maybe his #17 will be the first number they retire.

    • mondogarage - Sep 15, 2013 at 12:58 PM

      It will be, followed very shortly thereafter by Larry Walker’s (and probably Vinny Castilla’s).

      The holdup has been Todd, as it’s been no secret for the last few years that no Rockie’s number would be retired before Todd’s.

      And you may be asking “why Vinny”, and the answer is, beyond his Rockies’ numbers, he’s also been a permanent fixture around the club as a special assistant, ever since his retirement, which keeps him at the forefront of the Blake Street Bombers, in most people’s minds.

  7. yahmule - Sep 15, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    He deserves enshrinement, but so did Larry Walker.

  8. moonlandingwasfaked - Sep 15, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    Just looked at Helton’s B-Ref page – his 2000 season was a total Bonds-esque monster. 42 HRs, 147 RBI, and one of the most beautiful triple-slash lines I’ve seen .372/.463/.698. If he played in the AL with a season like that, he probably could’ve won the triple crown, but instead he got league mates like Sosa (50 HRs) and Bonds (49 HRs). But no matter, I’ll take Helton’s league-leading 1.162 OPS any day of the week.

    • cohnjusack - Sep 15, 2013 at 11:00 PM

      2000 Coors field was, flat out, the best hitting environment in baseball history. 2000 was already the absolute peak of offense in the steroid era and Coors boasted a park factor of a ridiculous 129. His OPS was nearly 200 points lower on, and the Rockies as a team scored nearly 250 fewer runs on the road and put up an ERA 1.5 runs lower on the road.

      It’s hard to overstate just how absurd Coors field was pre-humidor. Helton’s year was great by any standard, sure but he would have never won the triple crown in the AL because that season would not have happened outside of Coors.

  9. yahmule - Sep 15, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    Sticking around these last two years will hurt him down the road. Had he retired after 2011, he would have left with a .322 lifetime BA, higher than Pujols, Cabrera or Ichiro and just a hair behind Mauer among active players. He’s down to .317 now and behind all of those guys. Quite possible Albert and Ichiro will pass him in the other direction, though.

    • badintent - Sep 15, 2013 at 7:51 PM

      The Micky Mantle effect. Mick’s last two seasons dragged his final BA below .300. He was pissed about it too. And jealous that Mays was able to finish at .300 BA.So he got drunk , what else ?

    • nbjays - Sep 15, 2013 at 9:05 PM

      Whereas if he had managed to finish with a BA above .300, he would have been so happy he would have gone out and… yep, gotten drunk.

  10. peddealer - Sep 16, 2013 at 1:13 AM

    Todd,

    Thank you for your long commitment to our services here at BioGenesis!

    Anthony Bosch

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