"I feel good. It's not a 40-year-old guy's game, but I feel I'm going to be able to contribute when I do get out and play."
The only thing that has changed about that line, which was fed to me by Todd Helton prior to the Colorado Rockies' spring training finale in March, in the final five or six seasons of his storied big-league career is the age. Other than that, the shape of Helton's back, hip or other ailing part of his body was always in question prior to the start of every season.
And the answer was always the same.
It feels like anything we got from Todd in those years was a bonus. And, for the first few of them, that was just fine; the Rockies had All-Star caliber talent in the infield, outfield and pitcher's mound. Helton just need to be there to provide his brand of quality defense and maybe a few timely hits.
However, in the past couple of years, due to injuries to star players and other factors, the Rockies found themselves in the position where they needed production out of their first baseman. It didn't come in 2012, when Helton missed almost 100 games and finished with a career-worst .238 batting average. And, it didn't really come at any point in 2013, although Helton played enough games to accumulate some decent statistics but finished with what was by far the lowest on-base percentage of his life.
But how much did it really matter?
We knew that, coming into the season, 2013 was going to be Helton's final year. I think all of us hoped he'd have a bounce-back campaign similar to what he did in 2007, 2009 and 2011 -- years in which Helton didn't hit a ton of home runs but got on base a ton and smacked doubles all over the field. Had he been able to replicate that type of performance, it might have softened the blow of losing Troy Tulowitzki for a month (again) and helped to prevent the Rockies' poor May and June.
Instead, Helton hit .196/.266/.357 in May and .260/.313/.384 in June as the Rockies squandered a hot start by going 25-31 during that span.
In Helton's defense, most of the Rockies' players were awful on offense in May. And, with Tulowitzki (or some form of him) back in the lineup July, Helton put up his best month of the year, hitting .299/.385/.414. But the damage was done; the Rox stumbled to a 10-16 record that month and fell out of contention for good.
Colorado's midseason woes certainly weren't the fault of their franchise player, but he definitely didn't help matters, either. Still, we knew 2013 was the last of Helton's magical 17-year run with the team, so despite his much-publicized offseason transgression, we clung to the Toddfather. And rightfully so. And to reward us, he provided some downright magical moments in his swan song.
There was the pinch-hit game-winning home run in San Diego in April. There was his two-homer game against the Reds in August. There was his game-tying blast against the Dodgers in the ninth inning in May and another against the Cardinals in September. And, of course, there was this.
Many of Helton's 15 home runs -- which were tied for his second-highest total since 2005, by the way -- came in crucial moments. Maybe that's why I'll always remember his final season so fondly, although he posted a disappointing batting line .249/.314/.423 and finished as a -0.4 rWAR player.
It also could be that I had the pleasure of watching a guy who hit .316/.414/.539 and accumulated 61.3 rWAR over the span of 17 years play just one more season for the team I love.
Sure, baseball might not be a 40-year-old guy's game, but Todd Helton certainly made it his -- and ours -- in 2013, regardless of how the season finished.
Grade with the Rockies, 2013: C
Grade with the Rockies, all-time: A+