The O. Zone

If Helton had an owner like Bowlen, he'd be going out a winner

Colorado's greatest baseball player deserves enshrinement in Hall of Fame

By David O. Williams
Real AspenSeptember 23, 2013
Todd Helton is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. But, of course, he may never even be voted into Cooperstown because of an overwhelming East- and West-Coast bias against anything in the world of sports that happens in the middle of the country, especially the Mountain Time Zone.

Helton, besides being the best defensive first baseman of his generation (although woefully shortchanged with just three gold gloves), has been a consistently brilliant hitter whose numbers are unfairly discounted because he plays half his games at hitter-friendly Coors Field.

Guess what, Yankees Stadium and Wrigley Field rank right up there with Coors Field in terms of offensive stats, but there’s never any discussion about inflated stats for players on those teams. And by the same token, we would then have to add wins for Rockies’ pitchers.

Jorge de la Rosa (currently 16-6) should be considered a 20-game winner this season and solidly in the Cy Young chase, and Ubaldo Jimenez (19-8 in 2010) should have been the runaway winner that year. Never going to happen, because of a glaring double standard.

Max Williams (in Helton shirt) watches Todd Helton on second base after he doubled at Coors Field on Sept. 1 for his 2,500th career hit.
David O. Williams photo

Helton is a career .316 hitter with 1,402 RBIs, 368 homeruns and a whopping 591 doubles after smacking two two-baggers on Sunday. He currently ranks 16th on the all-time doubles list, and should be 15th if we eliminate the numbers for 14th-ranked steroid cheat Barry Bonds (601). Helton likely won’t catch 15th-ranked Luis Gonzalez because the Todd-father only has five more games remaining in his storied 17-year career.

His final two home games are Tuesday and Wednesday against the Boston Red Sox – a team that once tried to trade for him and swept him out of the World Series in 2007. I can’t make it down to Denver, but I hope the stands are full of Rockies’ fans (not just Bean-town bandwagon riders), and that they fully represent for the greatest player in franchise history. I said my goodbyes at the game on Sept. 1 when Helton got his 2,500th career base hit.

I was also able to attend one of the 2007 World Series beat-downs of the Rockies by the Red Sox. That was Helton’s only appearance in the fall classic, and it should be noted that he hit .333 against the Manny Ramirez and the ’Roid Sox that year.

Again, if we wipe out tainted records the way the Tour de France has eliminated all of Lance Armstrong’s “wins,” then Helton should have been on a World Series winner in 2007, and that might have earned him enough national recognition to get into the Hall.

Probably not, though. Want more evidence of clear bias against Mountain Time Zone sports? How about the fact that the Denver Broncos, despite being one of only seven teams to win back-to-back Super Bowls, has only four former players in Canton? Teams like the Oiler/Titans, Jets, Vikings, Chargers and Bills have way more. That’s a travesty.

Still, at least ownership (Pat Bowlen) has some sort of clue as far as consistently putting a winning product on the field. Rockies’ ownership (the Monfort brothers) is clueless, and Helton will pay the price in terms of Hall of Fame recognition. Had he been drafted by the Miami Marlins, a team that came into the league with the Rockies, Helton would have two championship rings if he hadn’t been dumped in one of their annual salary purges.

Bowlen is quick to recognize when change is necessary, and he jettisoned Mike Shanahan when it was clear the Super Bowl glory years were over. Then he understood he’d made a terrible mistake with Josh McDaniels and fixed that by bringing in John Elway, who then sent Tim Tebow packing in favor of Peyton Manning.

The current regime may never win a Super Bowl, but they’ll be in contention until Manning retires and takes his rightful place in Canton five years later. It’s too bad Helton, who backed up Manning at quarterback at the University of Tennessee, didn’t have an owner like Bowlen.

Then maybe they would have added better pieces around him, including legitimate starting pitching, and he’d be going out a World Series champion instead of a perennial cellar-dweller.

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