Todd Helton goes to Hall of Fame — and puts the Coors Field argument to rest
Jan 23, 2024, 5:06 PM
Todd Helton played his home games in a hitter’s paradise. Let’s get that out of the way at the start. And the first five of his 17 seasons in Colorado Rockies purple and black came in the pre-humidor era.
But a great many batters have a home-field advantage, although not one to the degree of playing with a spacious outfield necessitated by the environment that comes with playing mile-high baseball.
Todd Helton was no different in that regard.
But he was fearsome away from Coors Field as well. A .287/386/.469 career road slash line stands as evidence of that. During his imperial phase — the period from 2000-04 when he logged an season-long OPS above 1.000 each time — his OPS away from Coors Field was .949 or higher in four of those five years.
Peaks don’t last, of course, and through the late 2000s and early 2010s, Helton’s contract became a flashpoint as the Rockies’ star power came from other sources: Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Ubaldo Jimenez in particular. Helton would share a clubhouse with Charlie Blackmon for three seasons, too. But even in his twilight years, he delivered professional at-bats, able to work counts as effectively as ever.
The decline prevented him from the types of numbers in the counting stats that would have likely guaranteed induction to the Hall of Fame at his first opportunity; he finished 481 hits shy of 3,000 and 31 home runs short of 400. But he still had comparable numbers to those of recent Hall of Famer Scott Rolen.
And as for the impact of the afore-mentioned humidor?
Well, consider the period before and after Coors Field officials began storing baseballs in a specially-constructed humidor to try and counterbalance the effects of dry air at elevation,
In the four years before the humidor, Helton posted an OPS of 1.172. In the four years afterward, it dipped only slightly — to a still-robust 1.156.
One could change the scenario on Todd Helton and he still remained a fearsome presence, hitting for power and average, grinding down pitchers. And that doesn’t include the towering place in Rockies history that he holds, bridging the eras of club history from the Blake Street Bombers to the Rocktober miracle of 2007 and on to the core that provided a brief flash from 2009 and into 2010.
Such a place in a franchise’s history isn’t part of the argument for a pass to Cooperstown, however. It’s where he stands in the company of the game’s legends.
And despite a slow fade in his twilight years, Todd Helton’s body of work remained as massive as the mountains from which the franchise draws its nickname.
No. 17 is where he belongs: in Cooperstown.
It could be a long time waiting for the next player who makes the Baseball Hall of Fame on the basis of his accomplishments with the Rockies. But for now, with Helton joining Larry Walker among the game’s immortals, one cannot say the Rockies do not have sufficient representation.
“He is one of the greatest hitters I have ever seen.”
Harold Reynolds breaks down Todd Helton and why he believes he deserves to become a Hall of Famer. pic.twitter.com/jVfWGttjOk
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) January 23, 2024