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Todd Helton

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Todd Lynn Helton

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[edit] Biographical Information

Todd Helton is one of the biggest stars that the Colorado Rockies have ever had. He played his entire big league career, a total of 17 seasons, for the team, posting an OPS+ of 133 and leading the 2000 National League in batting average. He won three Gold Gloves and appeared in five All-Star Games.

At the University of Tennessee, Helton starred both as a first baseman and as a quarterback on the Volunteer football team, where he was a football teammate of the great Peyton Manning. In the 1993 Intercontinental Cup, he split first base duties for Team USA with Andy Barkett and was used at DH usually when not at 1B. He and another Todd, Todd Walker, led the US offense; Helton hit .429/.524/.571 with 7 walks and 15 runs in 11 games. He was 1 for 3 with 2 walks and 2 runs as the US upset Japan in the semifinals. In the Gold Medal Game, he was 1 for 3 with a walk and a run as the US #3 batter and 1B in a 9-4 loss to Cuba's Lazaro Valle and Omar Ajete. He tied Andrew Scott for 4th in the event in average behind Omar Linares, Hideaki Okubo and German Mesa. He was left off the All-Star team as Cuban slugging Orestes Kindelan (6 HR to Helton's 0) was chosen at 1B and Cuba's Lourdes Gourriel was picked at DH. The arrival of freshman Manning to play quarterback for Tennessee pushed Helton to the football bench and he left early after being selected in the first round of the 1995 amateur draft by the Colorado Rockies. Helton was the first player in MLB history to have 35+ doubles 10 years in a row.

In his first 13 major league seasons, from 1997 to 2009, Helton missed hitting .300 only twice, and one of these was when he played only 35 games in his first season. His best was a .372 average in 2000, good for the batting title in a year during which he led the National League in hits (216), doubles (59), RBI (147), OBP (.463), slugging percentage (.698) and OPS (1.162). He hit 325 home runs during that span, with a high of 49 in 2001, although his power dropped off substantially beginning in 2005. In 2010, Helton hit only .256, the lowest average of his career with only 27 extra-base hits in 118 games. He had a nice comeback season in 2011, when he hit .302 with 27 doubles and 14 homers - far from his peak, but good for a 119 OPS+. 2012 was another woeful season, however; the Rockies struggled badly on the field, and he hit a paltry .238 in 69 games, with 16 doubles and 7 homers; his 31 runs scored were the fewest since his first season. He suffered from a hip problem for most of the season and on August 6th announced announced that he would be undergoing season-ending surgery "with every hope of returning the following year", although there was much speculation that the injury could well mark the whimpering end of a brilliant career.

Return he did, however, but the year 2013 started badly for Helton, as he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in Thornton, CO on February 6th. When he showed for spring training a week later, he apologized to teammates and called the arrest "a monumental mistake". He was on the field for the start of the season, but started very poorly, going 2 for 21 (.095) with no extra-base hits in his first six games. He settled down after that however, although his numbers were nowhere near those of his greatest seasons. On August 30th, he hit a pair of homers to put him in double figures, then two days later he reached 2,500 base hits for his career with a double off Curtis Partch of the Cincinnati Reds. On September 15th, he announced that he would retire at the end of the year, ending a 17-year career spent entirely with the Colorado Rockies. He may have been on his way out, but on September 20th, he demonstrated he still had plenty of baseball smarts left, pulling the hidden ball trick against the St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter with the guile of an old fox. For his final home game on September 25th, the Rockies put on a special program in his honor, giving him a live paint horse, which was trotted out onto the infield at Coors Field, where his number 17 had been painted along the first and third base lines, to thank him for his years of outstanding service. He responded by hitting a home run into the right field stands off Jake Peavy of the Boston Red Sox in his first at-bat, earning a standing ovation from the sell-out crowd that had turned out for the occasion. The Rockies announced before the start of the 2014 season that they would retire his number on August 17th.

His minor league average, .327, was close to his major league average of .317. He hit .352 for Colorado Springs in 1997. Critics argue however that he benefited greatly from spending his major league career in hitter-friendly Coors Field, having almost a .350 career batting average at home and less than .290 away. An interesting fact is that Helton and the great Stan Musial are the only two players to have a .315 or higher batting average, and produce at least 2,500 hits, 550 doubles and 350 homers, although Ted Williams was only a few doubles shy of reaching those four milestones as well.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 1998 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
  • 5-time NL All-Star (2000-2004)
  • 3-time NL Gold Glove Winner (2002, 2002 & 2004)
  • 4-time NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2000-2003)
  • NL Batting Average Leader (2000)
  • 2-time NL On-Base Percentage Leader (2000 & 2005)
  • NL Slugging Percentage Leader (2000)
  • NL OPS Leader (2000)
  • NL Hits Leader (2000)
  • NL Total Bases Leader (2000)
  • NL Doubles Leader (2000)
  • NL RBI Leader (2000)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 8 (1998-2005)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 6 (1999-2004)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2000 & 2001)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 5 (1999-2003)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 6 (1999-2004)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 2 (2000 & 2003)

[edit] Further Reading

  • Bob Nightengale: "Rockies great Todd Helton making quiet exit", USA Today, September 25, 2013. [1]

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