DENVER -- Former Rockies star first baseman Todd Helton has taken another steady step toward Cooperstown.
Helton, who played all 17 of his seasons with the Rockies, showed up on 52 percent of the ballots in his fourth of 10 possible years on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. He earned votes on 16.5 percent of the ballots in 2019, 29.2 percent in 2020 and 44.9 percent in 2021.
The only player to be elected was David Ortiz, who earned his fame on dominant Red Sox teams and was a first-ballot honoree. Ortiz was chosen on 77.9 percent of the ballots -- well above the 75 percent threshold.
This year’s ballot was full of controversy. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens -- linked to the performance-enhancing drugs that tainted the sport through the 1990s and early 2000s -- fell short of election in their final year on the ballot. Curt Schilling, seeing the blowback from his controversial social media posts, last year asked the Hall of Fame to remove him from the ballot -- and saw his voting percentage drop in 2022.
But Helton embodies one of multiple stories of players seeing positive trends with their candidacies. Scott Rolen, who began at 10.2 percent in 2018, moved even closer than Helton to Cooperstown with 63.2 percent of the vote this year. Helton and Rolen will return to a ballot next year that no longer includes hot-button candidates Bonds, Clemens and Schilling, and will not have an Ortiz-esque first-ballot hopeful.
The 2020 election of Larry Walker, who spent the bulk of his career with the Rockies, seems to have helped Helton’s bid. Writers struggled to wrap their minds around Walker’s seasons at offense-oriented Coors Field.
Advanced metrics and a growing understanding of the difficulty of constantly going from mile-high altitude to sea level throughout a season helped Walker earn the honor in his final year on the ballot. Walker received his Hall ceremony last summer.
After spending his entire career with the Rockies, Helton became the first player in club history to have his jersey number -- 17 -- retired. The Rockies retired Walker’s No. 33 last summer.
Helton ranks favorably under an evaluation formulated by sabermetrician and author Jay Jaffe, who has a scoring system known as the Jaffe WAR (wins above replacement) Score system, or JAWS. Among retired players at the beginning of the 2021 season, the only first baseman not in the Hall of Fame with a JAWS higher than Helton’s 54.2 is Rafael Palmeiro’s 55.4. Palmeiro received a PED suspension late in his career, and fell off the ballot early in his eligibility despite his 569 career home runs.
Helton’s JAWS rating is just ahead of Hall of Famer Eddie Murray’s, and right at the average for Hall of Fame first basemen. Additionally, Helton, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, was at the top of the list of impact throwers at his position. His 1,726 assists at first base rank second all-time, behind Murray’s 1,865.
Helton won the National League batting title in 2000, was an All-Star five times and won four Silver Slugger Awards at first base.