Todd Helton got robbed. But at least the offenses are down to misdemeanors now.
Eleven votes short.
You kidding me? Eleven? Eight reportedly came from Baseball Hall of Fame electors who turned in blank ballots as a middle finger to the hopefuls — as well as, presumably, to rainbows, daisies, and puppy dogs everywhere.
Nobody curmudgeons like a baseball curmudgeon.
Fun fact, Mr. Grinch: Helton’s lifetime road batting average (.287) was higher than Scott Rolen’s career average (.281) anywhere. Bonus fun: Helton’s lifetime road OPS (.855) was exactly the same as Rolen’s career mark in the same category.
Rolen got let in past the velvet rope to Cooperstown Tuesday. The other guy’s still waiting.
The good news?
He won’t be waiting long.
Helton got absolutely, unequivocally robbed. Yet for The Toddfather, history tells us, a lot of the heavy lifting was in zipping to the front of the line. The Rockies icon jumped from appearing on 52.0% of the Hall’s ballots in January 2022 to 72.2% of them this year, a leap of 20.2 percentage points. The magic number for induction is 75%.
Yet 72.2%, while cruel, also turns out to be a pretty good benchmark when it comes to knocking on the door. Since 1946, eight different MLB players appeared on 72.0-72.9% of the ballots for the Hall of Fame. All eight received enough votes for induction the very next year.
To paraphrase my new best friend Deion Sanders, he’s coming.
The Curse of Coors? Kaput. The Blot of Blake Street? Toast. The Plague of Purple Pinstripes? Washed. The Mile High Mark? Cooked.
Holding Coors FIeld against Helton is like holding the blue against a Rocky Mountain Columbine. The man raked. He raked everywhere. In 2000 and ’01, he became the only man in MLB history to produce at least 100 extra-base hits in consecutive seasons.
If you’re one of those Ebenezer Scrooges who prefers to send back a blank ballot, check the numbers. If you still discount the obvious — a .316 lifetime average; a career .953 OPS; 2,519 career hits over 17 seasons with the same franchise — because of the altitude, then dig deeper.
The continued argument against Helton was that his overall statistics were inflated by thin air and by the bouncy balls at the turn of the last century. Yet according to FanGraphs.com, from 2002-13, Helton’s final 12 seasons in a Rockies uniform, he produced a Weighted Runs Created Plus season (WRC+) of 125 or better on the road — 100 is average, so 125 is 25% better than his peers — seven different times. Including a 123, 23% better than his peers, in 2011, at the age of 37.
If you won’t take FanGraphs’ word for it, Mr. Blank Ballot, then would you lend an ear to Baseball-Reference.com? Among the site’s swath of fun, rabbit-holing tools is its Neutralized Data Finder, a way to compare players and teams regardless of their eras or ballparks.
For kicks, I asked the Baseball Reference computer what Helton’s career stats would look like compared to recent first-base inductees Jeff Bagwell and Jim Thome if they’d played every game at 2005 Coors Field (hitter’s paradise, historically); 2005 Wrigley Field (hitter neutral) in Chicago; and 2005 Petco Park in San Diego (hitter unfriendly).
The results at 2005 Coors:
Helton: .309 average, .931 OPS
Thome: .286 average, .986 OPS
Bagwell: .313 average, .996 OPS
The results at 2005 Wrigley:
Helton: .297 average, .898 OPS
Thome: .275 average, .952 OPS
Bagwell: .302 average, .964 OPS
The results at 2005 Petco:
Helton: .281 average, .852 OPS
Thome: .259 average, .901 OPS
Bagwell: .285 average, .913 OPS
Raking is raking. The cynics will tell you that Helton’s lifetime road OPS of .855 is strictly for the Hall Of The Very Good. Yet it’s also higher than the career numbers put up by Wade Boggs, George Brett, Andre Dawson, Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Jim Rice and Dave Winfield — Cooperstown inductees, all.
And Coors Field had nothing to do with No. 17’s three Gold Gloves at first. But why let facts get in the way of preconceived notions?
Helton got robbed. Categorically, undeniably, indubitably robbed. But justice is coming. What it lacks in swiftness, it’ll double in sweet.