In the 20 years since Major League Baseball decided to expand the league, the Colorado Rockies remain one of the few teams in baseball never to retire a number and never to have a player elected to the Hall of Fame.
Names like Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla, Andres Galarraga and Eric Young represent some of the greatest Rockies to ever play the game, but their career statistics fall just short of giving them a legitimate shot at entering Cooperstown.
However, with a slew of young talent working its way to the bigs and a collection of accomplished veterans, the future is bright for this franchise.
Twenty years from now, when we look back at the past 20 years of this franchise’s existence, here are the current Rockies who will eventually find their way into the hallowed hall.
Future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. was known for having one of the sweetest trademark swings in the game. Junior was an iconic player who had fans coming two hours before first pitch just to see him take his cuts in the cage.
After the 2008 season, the Rockies decided to assess their desperate need of ninth-inning relief, so they traded unarguably their best player in Matt Holliday for closer and 2005 Rookie of the Year Huston Street to solidify the role. With the trade, they received an unproven outfielder from Venezuela named Carlos Gonzalez.
"There'll never be another Griffey, but I wanted to swing like him," said Gonzalez in an interview with Troy Renck of The Denver Post.
When Griffey retired in 2010, Gonzalez was in the midst of a breakout season.
Baseball gurus throughout the country were suddenly drawn to what was happening in Colorado. Suddenly, the sweet swing of Ken Griffey Jr. was being overshadowed by the loose, sweeping uppercut from the man they call Cargo.
In his five years in Colorado, Gonzalez has crushed 121 home runs, knocked in 393 runs and collected 693 hits. He hits well on the road and puts on a show for the home crowd on a daily basis.
His consistency is what makes him a future Hall of Famer. Baring some freak injury, there’s little doubt that Gonzalez will continue to rack up .300 averages and 90-plus RBI seasons for the remainder of his career.
In fact, at just 27 years old, he has yet to reach his prime, a scary realization for opposing pitchers.
Gonzalez has spent the second half of this season battle a nagging sprained finger injury. Fighting through the pain since injuring his finger on July 7, Gonzalez still managed to hit .291 until eventually being placed on the disabled list.
Unlike his counterpart in Troy Tulowitzki, Gonzalez has managed to stay relatively durable throughout his career.
With another 10-plus years of baseball still left, Gonzalez will be a future Hall of Famer for the Rockies.
Troy Tulowitzki has been the face of this Rockies franchise and the best shortstop in baseball since he first broke into the majors in 2006.
A first-round pick in the 2005 MLB draft (seventh overall), expectations were high for this 6'3", 215-pound monster out of California State Long Beach.
His eight years in a Rockies uniform have mostly been defined by explosive offensive numbers, Gold Glove-worthy play at shortstop and the inability to stay healthy. The latter is the most concerning.
Following a rookie season in which he batted .291 with 24 homers and 99 RBI and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting next to admitted banned substance user Ryan Braun, a tear of his left quadriceps and a slice to his palm had him sidelined for half of the 2008 season.
In 2010, he hit the shelf again with a broken wrist. Then this year, Tulowitzki's MVP-like tear was interrupted by a rib injury.
Health aside, the Rockies’ shortstop is arguably the best in the game.
In his tenure with the Rockies, Tulowitzki is a career .295 hitter with 152 home runs and 538 RBI. He also owns a career OPS of .877. The numbers are remarkable considering all the injuries.
The game comes naturally to 28-year-old, and his violent but level swing goes unmatched.
In an era when injury causes some players to turn to alternatives like PEDs, it’s necessary to note Tulowitzki’s ability to fight through these injuries the right way.
If and only if Tulowitzki can string together a few seasons in a row of pristine health, he will be on the path to the Hall.
Last week, Todd Helton turned 40 years old. The 1995 first-round draft pick has played all 17 years of his major league career for the Rockies, something you just don’t see too much of anymore.
The front office has remained loyal to their veteran slugger over the years. Helton was racking in over $20 million at age 37.
As the 2013 season enters its final month, retirement, once again, stares Helton down.
On the field, his .705 OPS is the lowest of his career, and he’s just not catching up to fastballs. He’s looking uncomfortable at the plate and is swinging wilder than ever. But none of that matters.
In the end, there’s no one in the entire Rockies organization fans would rather have at first base. No one.
The Rockies are in the middle of another disappointing season and the spotlight is gradually brightening on Helton. Retirement rumors are rampant and Hall of Fame discussion regarding Helton is common among analysts.
So the question is, is Helton really a Hall of Famer?
The answer is yes.
Sure, his home and away splits are separated, but isn't everyone’s? You can argue that his .346 career home average is a product of Coors Field, but he’s still managed to hit .288 on the road.
The bottom line is that he sits just four hits away from 2500. He is a five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glover. He’s a career .317 hitter and has four Silver Sluggers to his name.
At age 26, he led the league with a ridiculous .372 average. He also led the league in RBI and baseball analysts’ new favorite stat, WAR, at 8.6. He walked over 100 times and struck out just 61. Gonzalez has almost double the amount of strikeouts this season and we’re not even in September yet.
He’s had five seasons of 100-plus RBI in a row and eight seasons of 90-plus RBI total. He batted over .300 in 12 of his 17 seasons in the majors.
Helton has more hits than nine Hall of Fame first basemen, including Orlando Cepeda, Harmon Killebrew and Willie McCovey. He also has more RBI than George Kelly, Bill Terry, Hank Greenberg, Roger Connor and Cepeda, all of whom are Hall of Fame first basemen.
To deny a player from the Hall of Fame based on the ballpark in which he played is setting a dangerous precedent.
Helton is deserving of a Hall of Fame bid, and while it certainly will not be first ballot, he will eventually find his way into Cooperstown in the years to come. Upon his resignation from MLB, the No. 17 will undoubtedly become the first number retired by the Rockies organization.
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