The Rockies shared the news and some of Helton's comments via Twitter:
"It's been an honor to be your first baseman for the last 17 years." - Todd Helton pic.twitter.com/nCUZt09kb2— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 16, 2013
"I'll miss the competition and the anticipation of walking out of the tunnel and seeing the fans." #ThanksTodd— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 16, 2013
Helton was one of the best pure hitters of his era. He finishes with a career batting average near .320 despite a major drop-off over his final two seasons. In all, he racked up more than 2,500 hits as a driving force in the Rockies lineup for more than two decades.
"You know when it's time. I'm 40 years old and I've got two young girls. It's been a good run." - #Todd4HOF— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 16, 2013
The Tennessee native is part of a shrinking group of elite players who've spent their entire careers with one franchise. Chipper Jones, who retired from the Atlanta Braves last season, and the New York Yankees' Mariano Rivera, who's also walking away after this season, are other examples.
In an era when mega deals in free agency and blockbuster trades often lure big-name players away from the clubs where they developed, it's special when players can spend their entire careers with one team.
"To the fans in CO: you've been the model of consistency for me. I don't know how those girls hold that sign every time I come to bat."— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 16, 2013
Helton left the Rockies little choice but to keep him in the fold. Starting in 1999, he hit at least .320 with at least 20 home runs for seven consecutive seasons. Colorado simply couldn't afford to lose that type of production in the middle of the lineup.
Of course, there's always going to be a debate about Helton's overall numbers because he spent his entire career playing in the mile-high air of Coors Field. Exactly how much of an impact it had will probably remain a point of contention as the time for Hall of Fame voting approaches.
One thing's for sure: Helton watched a lot of players come and go during his long career with the Rockies, and few were able to match his top-end production even for a short period of time. He did it for 17 successful seasons.
"There are so many people along the way that have helped me...The best advice I've gotten is to just go out there and tough it out." - Todd— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 16, 2013
His best season came in 2000 when he hit an eye-popping .372 with 42 homers, 147 runs batted in and an on-base percentage of .463. Regardless of where he played most of his games, those numbers are impressive.
Helton wasn't the same hitter over the past two seasons. His batting average dipped, his power eroded and it became clear all those games were finally catching up with him. His days of being a vital asset for the Rockies quickly became a thing of the past.
He's exiting the sport at the right time, but only after a legendary career.
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