Last night, Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton announced that he will retire at the end of the season.
Helton made his MLB debut with the Rockies late in the 1997 season and spent his whole career in Denver.
Helton could have been a NFL quarterback. In 1994, Helton became the starting quarterback at the University of Tennessee after an injury to Jerry Colquitt. But three weeks later, Helton sustained a knee injury and was replaced by a third-string quarterback named Peyton Manning.
So Helton turned to baseball. It turned out to be the right decision.
In 1998, his first full season, Helton hit .315 with 25 HR and 97 RBI. He finished runner up in NL Rookie of the Year balloting to Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood. Helton's best overall season came in 2000 when he won the NL batting title with a .372 average and led the league in RBIs with 147 RBI. Helton also led the NL in hits, doubles, OBP, SLG and OPS that year with 42 HR to boot. But he finished fifth in the NL MVP balloting which was won by San Francisco Giants second baseman Jeff Kent.
Helton drove in 100 or more runs between 1999 and 2003. He hit .300 or better every season between 1998 and 2007. He was named to the NL All-Star Team five times.
Prior to the 2007 season, Helton was nearly dealt to the Boston Red Sox. However, the deal never came to pass. That season the Rockies would have a September surge which took them to the NL pennant and ironically, would face the Red Sox in the World Series.
Helton recently collected his 2,500th career hit. Entering today's action, Helton has a lifetime batting average of .317 with 367 HR and 1397 RBI. His 586 doubles is good enough for 16th on the all-time list.
As I write this, the Red Sox are honoring Yankees legend Mariano Rivera in his last appearance at Fenway Park. Helton has opted for a decidedly more low key approach.
Unlike Rivera, Helton is not a first ballot Hall of Famer. His tenure with the Rockies will be held against him as he was a much better offensive player in Denver. At Coors Field, Helton has a lifetime battting average of .345 with 225 HR and 850 RBI as opposed to .287 with 142 HR and 547 RBI away from Coors.
On the other hand, Helton has a lifetime OBP of .415.
If Helton gets into the Hall, it will either be in his 15th year of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot or through the Veterans Committee. Even if he doesn't, Helton has had a very good career.