Todd Helton is the Colorado Rockies.
He’s been the face of the franchise starting during the waning years of Larry Walker, and has continued right on through the ascension of Matt Holliday. However, Rockies fans have had to face several difficult realities about our dear friend Todd.
The first is his declining productivity. In 2007, Helton played in 154 games, raked to the tune of .320 with 17 home runs, his third lowest home run total including this year, and pounded in 91 RBI. While Helton hasn’t been a 100+ RBI guy since 2003, the consistent drop is worrisome.
This year, Helton played in the fewest games of his career as a starter (83), mostly due to lower back problems that should be corrected by a recent offseason surgery. Rafael Furcal, who hit .258, with one HR and three RBI in 31 at-bats in the postseason, has recently undergone the same surgery, but with playoffs being such a small sample size results are inconclusive.
The second is the salary drain. Helton made $16.6 million in 2008, the biggest on the team by far, leading Matt Holliday ($9.5 million) and Aaron Cook ($5.125 million) by a substantial amount.
Now, everyone knows productivity has its cost and the Montforts have never been seen with anything even remotely approaching deep pockets. But this amount is completely unjustifiable based on Todd’s recent production. Certainly not for the clean-up hitter they thought they were locking down when the original contract was signed.
The hard and fast truth, however, is that Todd Helton is completely immovable: He’s stated before that he would like to finish his career in Denver, where the fans do still love him, and he’s got an ironclad no-trade clause in his contract.
Combined with his inflated contract, his ailing back problems, and the ever-advancing issue of age, Helton actually is likely to finish his career in Colorado. While this would by no means be a terrible thing, he has proven to be a drain on the offense, evidenced by losing his traditional spot of fourth in the lineup late last year.
This Rockies fan hopes Todd makes a clean recovery and comes back to us in the form that we love so much and have cheered for since 1997. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that he may be doing more harm than good out there on the field. Garrett Atkins was a more-than-adequate replacement at first base, and there just may not be enough space for an ailing legend.
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