Rock Mining, Week 21: Appreciating Todd Helton

Dustin Bradford

Todd Helton has joined an elite level of MLB players by reaching 2,500 hits, but that's only one number we should appreciate the Todd Father for.

Now that he has collected 2,500 hits, Todd Helton's greatness as a Rockie over the last 17 years should be remembered and appreciated. His 2,500 hits will not be the only number that voters will need to look at when they decide to put him into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The same year that I graduated and moved away from Colorado saw the debut of Todd with the Rockies. That September of 1997, the Rockies tried him out in left and right field a bit, as well as spelling Andres Galarraga at first. It did not take Todd long to take over Larry Walker's spot as the best hitter on the team, and in his third full season Todd had one of the top three best offensive seasons in Rockies' history as he batted .372/.463/.698 with 59 doubles, 42 home runs, and 103 walks.

That year was the second of a five-year stretch that, along with his longevity, should cement him into the Hall of Fame. In those five years he missed only 16 games total while hitting 189 home runs, driving in 632 runs, and being walked 479 times. Until getting injured in 2008, his next four seasons were not too shabby either. Unfortunately for him, there were too many seasons where opponents would walk Todd and face the toddlers instead. During that time (2004-2007), Todd averaged 110 walks a season. In all, he has had nine seasons with more walks than strikeouts.

Perhaps Todd's greatest flaw to HoF status has been being second fiddle most of his life. We all know this started with being the second best quarterback at Tennessee -- backing up current Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning -- but then he was the second best rookie in 1998 to Kerry Wood. Then he was just the next best Rockie to Larry Walker. When he passed Walker, he was then only the second best hitter in the National League West to Barry Bonds, or second best to Sammy Sosa in the National League. Even after the steroid era started to end, Todd could not catch a break: Albert Pujols usurped him as the best at first on the senior circuit. Finally, as he put his last great season together in 2007 to push the team into the playoffs, he came up second to a Red Sox team that denied him a World Series ring.

Even with all of these road blocks, Todd has been an All-Star five times and has won four silver sluggers and three gold gloves. Yet he still has milestones to reach other than 2,500 hits. If he can eke out one more home run, he will tie Lance Berkman at 366 for his career and 75th place all-time. If he can leg out three more doubles, he will pass Rafael Palmeiro for 15th all time with 586. He should end his career in the top 25 all time for OBP and top 20 in OPS. All of this and he still will not be in the top 120 for games played.

Injuries have made Todd look only above average at times over the last few years and people still refer to the pre-humidor Coors Field effect to try and slight him. However, after watching Todd for 17 years and what he has meant to this franchise, it would be a disservice to baseball if he does not find his way to Cooperstown. Good luck to Todd in this last month of the season and likely the last month of his career. Enjoy him Rockies' fans. To paraphrase our announcer, you won't see him for long.

The Good - Wilin Rosario

Since returning to Coors Field earlier this week, Wilin has gone 10-for-16 with three doubles, a ridiculous .625/.625/.813. The baby bull has upped his average to .294 and his slugging to .498 on the season. Compared to catchers in the rest of the league, he is fourth in batting average, first in slugging, and first in home runs.

The Bad - Jeff Francis

Jeff Francis the reliever has not been much better than Jeff Francis the starter this year. He pitched twice this week, giving up one run to the Giants in a 6-1 Rockies win and giving up three runs to the Reds in Friday's 9-6 win. While he is fine as a mop-up reliever, he should not get many more chances this season with the rosters expanding in September. The Rockies need to give younger guys a chance to show what they can do.

The Ugly-Rosario's defense (at first)

It is a good thing that Wilin can hit. While he has improved behind the plate this year, he still is below average. In an effort to find a place to hide him next year, the Rockies have been trying him at first this season. Consider this an experiment that is not ready for prime time. He came close to ruining a no-hit bid by Jhoulys Chacin by giving up two errors. He is lucky that the Giant's Crawford hit a bloop single. Otherwise the increased pitch count by the errors may have put Walt Weiss in a difficult position of pulling Chacin with zero hits on the board.

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