Wednesday July 22, 2009 is a day Todd Helton may never forget.
The 35-year old first baseman for the Colorado Rockies accomplished a feat that only four other Major League Baseball players have done in the history of the game. Helton went three-for-four with a double and a home run, which just so happened to be the eventual game-winner for the 52-43 Rockies. His third inning RBI double off Arizona's starting pitcher Jon Garland was the 500th of his 13-year career. This put him in a very exclusive group, making him the 50th player in the history of the game to do so.
The double put him in an even more exclusive group. Helton joined Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, and Ted Williams as the only players with 500 doubles, 320 homers and a lifetime .325 batting average or better. As expected, the team gave Helton, on the spot, a standing ovation, video tribute and even handed him second base and the game ball after the W was all wrapped up.
However, Helton was not finished after his milestone double in the third. In the eighth inning, with the game tied at three runs a piece, Helton belted a homer to right-center field off reliever Scott Schoeneweis. The solo shot gave the Rockies a one-run lead as Huston Street closed the deal with his 24th save of the season.
What really baffles me is why more people aren't talking about this. I mean, this guy has been one of the most underrated baseball players in the past ten years or so. Not only has this fella managed to stick with one team for 10+ seasons (13, to be exact), but he has also put the bat on the ball consistently, and hasn't missed an outrageous amount of games in his career either. Yes, he has missed a few recently (missed seven so far this year and half the season last year). But overall, Helton has been on the field and playing. From 1998-2007, Helton played in at least 140 games with the Rockies and Colorado hasn't even really been that great a place for Todd.
In the Helton era, Colorado has had nine losing seasons, making the playoffs just one time, which was in 2007 when they had their one-and-done run all the way to the World Series only to get swept in the World Series. The five-time All-Star has been very loyal to the Rockies, minding his own business and just hitting the ball hard. Never once have I heard a negative thing come out of Helton's mouth in front of the press. This very reason, though, could be why he has been under the radar for a good majority of his career.
In his prime (1999 to '04-'05), Helton could out-hit just about anyone, and his five All-Star appearances and four Silver Slugger awards were proof. The guy had five straight seasons of 30+ HR's and 100+ RBI's and came very close a few other seasons. In just two seasons Helton had under a .300 batting average and those seasons just so happened to be his rookie year in 1997 and last year, which was littered with injury.
Why, yes, Coors Field is a great hitter's park, but I am so tired of that lame excuse. A great hitter's park will get you a few extra home runs, that's true. But that does not explain Helton's 2,000 hits, 500 doubles and .328 lifetime batting average. Helton can add three Gold Glove awards and .996 career fielding percent on to his HOF resume, too. Which brings me to my next point.
Helton has been one of the best first basemen in the game, for years. There is no comparison, even to a guy like Albert Pujols. Pujols has a career 58 errors at first base (in nine seasons), while Helton totals 63... in 13 seasons. Very tough to argue against, if I do say so myself.
Point here is, Helton is the definition of a great ballplayer and has put up Hall of Fame numbers throughout his prolonged career. If I had a vote, I would, without a doubt, vote this guy into Cooperstown once he's eligible.
Also published at Bleacherreport.com (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/222505-heltons-career-day-and-why-hes-a-future-hall-of-famer).