It’s easy to write off Todd Helton because he played in Coors Field in an offensive happy environment. HoF voters can downplay his gaudy numbers as an illusion created by a unique home ballpark or, more cynically, a product of performance-enhancing drugs.
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Helton never failed any kind of drug test, nor is he known to be named in the Mitchell Report. The only whiff of impropriety comes from internet wags that don’t like the look of his career arc and the since-retracted comments of a former broadcaster. It is unfair to punish him because of the general taint of the era.
The best players from all eras need to be recognized, and Helton is most certainly one of the best of his time. His overall numbers stack up favorably with other Hall of Famers, and he has some areas where his performance was truly exemplary (second in first base assists!).
The jump in his voting results from 2019 to 2020 seems to be cause for optimism in Helton’s case. Walker hovered between 10.2% and 22.9% during his first seven years of eligibility before increasing to 34.1% in 2018, 54.6% in 2019, and finally 76.6% in 2020.
Hopefully this represents a sea change in the way that career Rockies are viewed by the voting committee. As younger, more analytics-driven voters enter the pool it becomes easier for them to contextualize the actual effects of unique ballparks and eras. Perhaps in time, the establishment will recognize what an important player Helton was, both to his team and to baseball at large.
The Hall of Fame voting committee got it wrong the first two times. Fortunately, they have eight more chances to get it right.