Earlier today, this data was released on the most popular athletes by state, based on Google searches. Unsurprisingly, the most popular athlete in Colorado is Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. In fact, no state has a baseball player as its most popular athlete.
Sticking with the theme of player popularity, the question is who is the most popular Rockies player of all time. Of all of the great players (mostly hitters, let's be honest) to wear the purple pinstripes, who is the fans' favorite?
*sound of record scratching*
Wait, wait, wait, the answer to this question is obviously Todd Helton, and it really isn't all that close. In 17 years with the club, Helton accumulated 2,519 hits, 592 doubles, 369 home runs, batted .316, made five All-Star Games, won three Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers. On August 17, he will be the first Rockie to have his number retired. Late in his career, he even picked up an awesome nickname, The Toddfather. It's pretty safe to say he's the greatest and most popular Rockies player ever.
So we'll do this like my grandpa's old fantasy golf league from around the turn of the century, when they didn't even make Tiger Woods an option because whoever had him on their team would always win. Helton's No. 1, he wins, so we'll ask who is the second-most popular Rockies player ever. There are plenty of candidates, including these guys:
An original Rockie, Bichette hit the first home run and scored the first run in franchise history. He spent seven seasons with the Rockies, hitting .316 with 201 home runs, good for fourth on the franchise's all-time list. He was the runner up for the NL MVP in 1995, a season in which he hit .340 with 40 home runs and a .984 OPS. He also returned to the Rockies in 2013 with former teammate Walt Weiss to spend a season as the team's hitting coach.
Perhaps the least appreciated of the Blake Street Bombers, people remember Burks for his epic 1996 season. He finished third in MVP voting in '96, hitting .344 with 45 doubles, 40 home runs and 392 total bases, posting a ridiculous 7.2 fWAR for the season, tied for the fourth-best season by fWAR in Rockies history. He spent just five seasons with the Rockies, but is still near the top of franchise leaderboards in many offensive categories.
Castilla spent nine years with the Rockies and is still with the club as a special assistant to general manager Dan O'Dowd. The best third baseman in franchise history, Castilla hit 239 home runs with the Rockies, the third-most in franchise history. His 1,206 hits as a Rockie rank fourth in team history as well. Like Bichette, Castilla was an original Rockie, but interestingly played most of the 1993 season and some of 1994 at shortstop.
As my favorite Rockies pitcher ever, Chacin gets the token pitcher's spot on the list. However, it is not without merit, at the age of 26, Chacin has three of the top ten seasons by ERA in franchise history and is, to date, the Rockies' career leader in ERA with a 3.61 mark. His best season came in 2013, in which he posted a 3.47 ERA and FIP in 197 1/3 innings, won 14 games and accumulated 4.3 fWAR.
Along with Helton and Justin Morneau, the Big Cat is one of three Opening Day first basemen in Rockies history. Joining the Rockies at age 32 in 1993, Galarraga came out of nowhere to hit .370, the third-best season by batting average in franchise history, and win the batting title in the Rockies' inaugural year. He spent five years with the Rockies, hitting .316 in purple pinstripes with 172 home runs.
Joining the Rockies in 2009 as part of the Matt Holliday trade, CarGo has already put his name on the list of best outfielders in Rockies history. He has won a trio of Gold Gloves and has a pair of All-Star appearances already at the age of 28. In 2010, Gonzalez won a batting title and flirted with a Triple Crown, hitting .336 with 34 home runs and 117 RBI. Just entering his prime and under contract through 2017, we still have much more to come from CarGo.
Holliday will always be remembered by Rockies fans for the instrumental role he played in the team winning the pennant in 2007. He hit .340 in '07 with 50 doubles, 36 home runs and 137 RBI and had the MVP stolen from him by Jimmy Rollins. (Yes, I'm still bitter.) He then proceeded to hit .289 with five home runs in 45 playoff at bats in 2007. He made three All-Star appearances in his five seasons with the Rockies, hitting .319 with 128 home runs in his Rockies career.
Chosen by MLB Network in the offseason as the current Face of the Rockies, Tulowitzki is already in his ninth season with the club, and is under contract for another six after 2014. Tulo has a pair of Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers to go with his trio of All-Star appearances so far in his career. He already has 953 hits and 157 home runs in his career at the age of 29 and, when healthy, has been remarkably consistent with an OPS between .930 and .950 every year from 2009-2013, discounting the 2012 season in which he played just 47 games.
To date, Walker is the only Rockies player to ever win the NL MVP award, doing so in 1997, a season that season that saw him hit .366 with 99 extra-base hits (49 home runs) and 409 total bases. Walker is second to Helton in almost all of the Rockies' offensive leaderboards as far as counting stats, with 1,361 hits, 297 doubles and 258 home runs as a Rockie. He also leads the franchise in career batting average with a .334 mark and in OPS with a 1.044 number.
The franchise leader in stolen bases by a wide margin, Young will always be remembered by Rockies fans for a home run. Leading off the bottom of the first in the Rockies' first home game ever, EY blasted a home run over the left field fence off Expos starter Kent Bottenfield in front of 80.227 fans. He went on to have a solid career with the Rockies, making an All-Star appearance in 1996 and stealing 180 bases in 613 games.
So, which one of these Rockies is your favorite? Or is it someone not on the list, like Brad Hawpe, Preston Wilson or Pedro Astacio? Maybe you want to go with a fan favorite like Ryan Spilborghs or Charlie Blackmon, or get a vote in early for Nolan Arenado or Jon Gray. Whoever your choice is, it is always fun to remember and celebrate the great players the Rockies have now and have seen in the franchise's past.