Heart of the Rockies
So, this is quite the star-studded postseason as players like Pujols, A-Rod, Jeter, Ramirez, Vlad, and so many others represent some of the biggest baseball markets in MLB’s October ritual.
But only the most astute baseball fans living outside of the greater Denver area (celebrating the Colorado Rockies’ second playoff appearance in three seasons with the unfortunately named Rocktober ’09) recognize that the individual with perhaps the most proficient career statistically is none other than the Rockies’ own Todd Helton.
Helton, who has spent his entire 13-year career in Denver, is just the fifth player in major league history with at least 500 doubles, a .325 career batting average and 320 home runs. Those other four? Just some chumps named Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, and Babe Ruth.
For another measure of his offensive prowess, note that only 25 players in the history of the game have a higher career batting average than Helton’s .328 – and most of those played pre-WWII, in a much different statistical era.
As his manager Jim Tracy points out in the Chicago Tribune’s brief profile of Helton: “In order to fully appreciate this player, you have to either play in the same division as him or have an opportunity to be around him on a day in, day out basis.”
Toiling in a market like Denver, Helton’s audience in that regard has always been minimal, affording him fewer chances than other superstars of his day who have made their way to the more high-profile baseball towns.
And as Troy Renck of the Denver Post opined in his feature of Helton prior to the commencement of the Rockies’ current NL Divisional Playoff Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, Todd Helton is the Rockies. Check out Renck’s piece for a great appreciation of what makes Helton special from the perspective of those who do get to the opportunity to witness him day in and day out.
Who knew that the one-time backup to Heath Shuler and Peyton Manning at the University of Tennessee would become one of the greatest baseball players of all-time? Root for those other guys if you must, but be sure to acknowledge that the oft-unsung Helton compares favorably to any of the best players of his generation.
And, at age 36, he’s not done yet, whether or not the Rockies’ 2009 season extends beyond this first round.