Who doesn’t love a Top 10 list? Well, we do! So welcome to Top 10 Tuesday, where every week we will dive into a different Rockies-related topic. These lists will not be scientific. They are 100-percent opinion (a “Mountain Viewpoint” so to speak) and — more importantly — they are 100-percent debatable. We encourage the banter in the comments (keep it respectful), and feel free to offer up some future topic ideas!
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For the first installment of Purple Row’s Top 10 Tuesday, I’m going to take a look at the top Colorado Rockies players of all time. It seems easy enough, for a team that’s, relatively, still in its MLB adolescence. But it really isn’t that simple.
The top three? They’re probably interchangeable, no matter the criteria. But the main input here is, “What have you done for me in a Rockies uniform?” Sorry, Dale Murphy, but your career elsewhere doesn’t matter here. Stats like WAR will certainly be an important factor, but they’re not the end-all. Fandom, off-the-field issues and overall likeability will all play a part. This is where the line between “best” and “favorite” is blurred
Offense clearly dominates this list — COORS!! — but I didn’t forget about the notable hurlers in Rockies history. Let the debating begin!
No. 10: Brian Fuentes, RP
A closer opens this Top 10, and this list clearly is adjusted for altitude. But Brian Fuentes just so happens to be, arguably, the best reliever in Rockies history, and that’s quite the accomplishment itself. Fuentes spent seven seasons with Colorado and was the primary closer for four of those. He made the All-Star team three times in a Rockies uniform and finished his Colorado tenure in 2008 with a 3.38 ERA. Fuentes still holds the franchise lead in saves with 115.
No. 9: Carlos González, OF
If this were strictly a popularity contest, Carlos González would be higher. The final few years of González’s career have left a bad taste in the mouth, but there’s no denying his contribution to the Colorado Rockies over his 10 seasons in Denver.
González had three All-Star Game appearances and an MVP-caliber season in 2010, when he finished third in the National League voting. He sits fifth on the Rockies career bWAR list at 23.7, second in games played, third in hits and runs scored, and fifth in home runs.
No. 8: Dante Bichette, OF
The Blake Street Bombers are beginning to fade as a distant memory in Denver, but nothing brought more joy to the starved Colorado baseball fans in the 1990s. Larry Walker may have been the best among the group, but Dante Bichette was their face (and hair) during their heyday.
Bichette’s walk-off-home run in 14 innings against the Mets in the Coors Field opener will live forever in Rockies lore. Plus, the mullet-rocking outfielder put up pretty decent numbers during his time with the Rockies. He still sits third all-time in RBIs (826), fifth in hits (1,278), sixth in home runs (201) and tied for third in batting average (.316).
No. 7: Charlie Blackmon, OF
Is it the offensive consistency? The walk-up song? The beard? I don’t know, but there’s something about Charlie Blackmon that draws fans in like a moth to a flame. Even before my five-year-old knew the difference between a home run and a touchdown, he had a wall full of Charlie Blackmon posters and a book full of his baseball cards.
But his stats are hard to argue against, too. Since his surprising breakout in the second half of the 2013 season, Blackmon has taken Denver and the MLB by storm. He has four All-Star appearances and finished fifth in the NL MVP voting in 2017. He’s the highest active player on the Rockies’ all-time hit list (currently sitting fourth with 1,311) and trails Carlos González by 19 hits and Larry Walker by 50 for third and second place, respectively.
No. 6: Ubaldo Jiménez, SP
Who is the best starting pitcher in Rockies history? That question is certainly debatable. Aaron Cook (most innings pitched), Jorge de la Rosa (the club’s all-time wins and strikeouts leader), and even Jeff Francis (the anchor of the 2007 NL pennant staff) deserve consideration for that title. But Ubaldo Jiménez stands above the rest.
Jiménez is the franchise leader in ERA (3.66), bWAR for pitchers (18.9) and second in strikeouts (773). But he also has arguably the single-best pitching performance in team history, when he no-hit the Atlanta Braves in 2010.
No. 5: Matt Holliday, OF
Although his time with the club was short-lived — five glorious seasons before being traded away — the story of the Colorado Rockies cannot be told without Matt Holliday being mentioned.
He’s the center of one of the most iconic plays in franchise history when he scored the game-winning run against the San Diego Padres in 2007’s Game No. 163 (or did he?). He also finished second in the NL MVP race that season and took home the NLCS MVP as the Rockies embarked on their first and only World Series appearance. Without Matt Holliday, there’s a good chance the Colorado Rockies don’t have a National League pennant on their résumé, and for that, Rockies fans will be forever grateful.
Even with his abbreviated stay in Denver (and a somewhat forgettable swan song in 2018), Holliday still ranks seventh on the Rockies’ career bWAR list at 18.7. Oh, and that trade gave Colorado No. 9 on this list, so there’s also that.
No. 4: Troy Tulowitzki, SS
Before there was Nolan Arenado, there was Troy Tulowitzki — and some would argue there would be no Nolan Arenado (as we know him) if it weren’t for Tulo. The bat, the glove, the leadership... Tulowitzki did it all.
He was a five-time All-Star for the Rockies, finished in the top five of MVP voting twice and was one of the best shortstops in the game when that still meant something. On top of all that, the “clap, clap, clap-clap-clap, clap-clap-clap-clap, TU-LO” chant at Coors Field can still be heard at today’s games. Don’t lie, you just did it out loud.
Even though countless injuries and a shocking trade to Toronto still have Rockies fans asking, “What if?,” Tulo belongs in the top half of this list.
No. 3: Larry Walker, OF
This is where the list really starts getting interesting. Any of the next three players could be argued into the top spot. The fact that Larry Walker will be the first player to wear a Colorado Rockies cap on his Baseball Hall of Fame plaque is a pretty good starting point for his case.
Walker helped put the Rockies on the map during his Blake Street Bomber days, and his 1997 season personifies what he meant to Colorado. Over that MVP campaign, he had a league-high 49 home runs and 1.172 OPS. He also ranks tops in Rockies history in batting average (.334), OPS (1.044) and second in home runs (258), bWAR (48.3), hits (1,361), RBIs (848) and runs scored (892).
What might be most impressive about Walker is he did all this during a time when performance-enhancing drugs were rampant in Major League Baseball — and he was never tied to any controversies (other than playing half his games at Coors Field).
No. 2: Nolan Arenado, 3B
I wanted BADLY to place Nolan Arenado in the top spot. In fact, he was in the No. 1 spot just before this piece was submitted. Without looking at any stats, it just feels right to have Arenado there.
I don’t need to hash through everything Arenado has accomplished in his eight big league seasons. He has been the sustained face of the franchise since Tulo left, could possibly go down as the BEST third baseman of all time and if given the opportunity to finish his career in Colorado — a big if, I know — Arenado will own all of the franchise’s top numbers. His defense alone is worth the price of admission.
But in the end, I couldn’t do it. I did look at the stats. And there’s a clear No. 1 in Rockies history — for now...
No. 1: Todd Helton, 1B
In March, The Toddfather was the clear winner of Purple Row Rockies Madness Tournament, and he — albeit reluctantly — takes the top spot here, if for nothing more than my, “What have you done for me in a Rockies uniform?” criteria. Let’s face it, there’s a reason nobody will wear the No. 17 for the Colorado Rockies ever again.
Speaking strictly on career statistics, there has been nobody better to wear Rockies uniform. Helton leads the club in most of the major offensive categories: doubles (592), bWAR (61.8), hits (2,519), runs (1,401), RBIs (1,406) and games played (2,247). There’s more, but you get the point. And he also leads most of those categories by a substantial margin.
Hopefully, Helton can shed the Coors Field stigma and join Larry Walker in Cooperstown sometime soon. Until then, he’ll just have to settle for being the best to ever wear the Purple Pinstripes.
Vinny Castilla, Aaron Cook, Jorge de la Rosa, DJ LeMahieu, Trevor Story
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Who’s in your Rockies Top 10 GOAT list? Sound off in the comments!