Most figured the end was coming for Todd Helton. The 40-year-old first baseman confirmed it to the Denver Post’s Troy Renck on Saturday, announcing his retirement at season’s end.
Helton said he felt going into 2013 that this would be his last year, though he has had second thoughts from time to time.
“During the season I definitely wavered. It usually wasn’t from having a great game. I just enjoyed the competition, and I felt like I had bat speed. That’s what I will miss. The competition. I don’t know how I will replace that yet. There were days, I thought, ‘Maybe I can do this one year,’ ” Helton told the Denver Post “Then ultimately, it’s the travel, being away from the family. It is just time.”
Helton, who has dealt with back problems for a half-dozen years, has managed to stay relatively healthy in 2013, but the production hasn’t come back. He’s currently hitting .244 with 13 homers and 52 RBI in 112 games.
At .317/.415/.539, Helton has the slash line of a Hall of Famer, and he played like one in his prime years, even after accounting for the Coors Field effect. Still, he probably wasn’t quite good enough for long enough to get into Cooperstown. Famously the backup quarterback Peyton Manning at Tennessee, he didn’t establish himself in the majors until age 24, and back problems led to diminished power numbers from age 31 onward. It won’t help his case that his high finish in the MVP balloting was fifth and that he went to a mere five All-Star Games.
On the other hand, there’s a whole lot to be said for ranking 20th all-time in OPS. He’s also 16th in doubles with 585. He won a batting title in 2000 and finished in the top five in average seven times. He also finished in the top five in OBP eight times and in slugging four times. He topped 40 homers twice, with a high of 49, and drove in 147 and 146 runs in back-to-back years. He won three Gold Gloves for his play at first base. WAR says he was the NL’s best player in 2000, which is when he finished fifth in the MVP balloting.