Deep purple: Helton won't play for anyone else
First baseman refuses to take center stage during possible final season
SAN DIEGO -- Time stops for no man and Todd Helton knows that better than anyone.
He's a career member of the Rockies and in his 17th season playing for the only Major League Baseball organization he's ever known. But come next year at this time, if he's not with the Rockies anymore, he won't be playing for anyone.
"That's correct," he told MLB.com on Saturday before his club played the Padres at Petco Park. "I have other interests in my life besides baseball, even though I enjoy everything about it. Well, not everything. I dislike the travel. I enjoy getting ready for the game, the soreness, learning how to overcome all that.
"But I do have other things in my life -- kids, family -- and a lot of things that the game has given me the chance to enjoy."
That's about as close as Helton has come to tipping his hand about what the future may hold for him. He's in the last year of a two-year, $9.9 million contract extension. He'll be 40 on Aug. 20, having come off hip and knee surgery, and right now is a .200 hitter, far below his own expectations and .318 lifetime average.
For their part, Rockies management hasn't even talked to Helton about 2014 and beyond.
"Let's put it this way: We don't want him playing anywhere else," Bill Geivett, the club's senior vice president of Major League operations said on Saturday. "We want him to finish his career right here."
Whether Helton's diminishing skills are part of the picture, is still to be determined.
"We're just trying to win games," Geivett added.
It took three hits on Friday night for Helton to even reach the infamous Mendoza line. And yes, that was him at first base dancing off the bag to make a fabulous pick of an errant throw and convert the out in a game the Rox came back to win, 7-5.
When told that he can still move, even at his advanced baseball age, Helton quipped:
"I don't think my wife would say the same thing, but I can still move around a little bit."
For an organization that expanded into the National League along with the Florida Marlins in 1993, Helton is the one true Rockie. There is Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla and Larry Walker, to name a few great players who put Colorado on the MLB map, but all of them started and ended their careers elsewhere.
Helton was taken by the Rockies with the eighth pick of the 1995 First-Year Player Draft and after a little more than two seasons in the Minors was brought up to the big club for good on Aug. 2, 1997. By the next season, he was installed as the starting first baseman and, save for games missed because of injury, that's where he has remained.
Finishing his career with the Rockies either this year or next is a no-brainer.
"What does he mean to this franchise? Quite a bit," said first-year manager Walt Weiss, whose last year playing shortstop for the Rockies was Helton's first in the Majors. "As far as longevity, he's the greatest player in this franchise's history. He's done it for a long time. We've had some great players here. Larry Walker comes to mind as the most talented to ever play for this organization. But Todd's been here his entire career and it's been a phenomenal career."
Helton holds the club records for homers, doubles, hits, RBIs and runs scored. There's no one else even close. Every hit he punches out moves him inexorably closer to the 2,500 mark. He went into Saturday night's game with 2,425 and his third-inning RBI double was the 572nd of his career, tying him for 20th on the all-time list.
Helton was a big part of the 2007 team that went to the World Series and was swept by the Red Sox, hitting .320 with 17 homers and 91 RBIs that season. The Rox won 21 of their last 22 games to get to their only Fall Classic. Those were the glory days. Helton's come close to those numbers only twice in the five seasons since, playing in a career-low 69 games for a full season because of injuries in 2012.
Helton knows that the end of the road is near, but he has kept his plans for retirement close to the vest primarily because he doesn't want anyone to make a fuss. He doesn't want to take the same path of announcing early as Chipper Jones did last year with the Braves and Mariano Rivera this year with the Yankees. The last thing he wants is a farewell tour.
"That's not my personality," he said on Saturday, echoing a statement he has made a lot recently.
So any formal announcement won't be forthcoming until much later in the season, if then.
"All my options are open," Helton said. "That's another good thing about being done. It'll be a new chapter in my life and I'll be able to figure out what I want to do and then do it. It'll be on my own terms. If at that point I feel like traveling, I will. If I won't, I won't. I'm going to play this year, see how I feel. I'm not going to say yes, or no, because I want the decision to be it.
"I'm not going to Brett Favre it. Let's put it that way."
Favre, it should be noted, kept retiring and unretiring, but he didn't finish with Green Bay, the team he basically started with. That's evidently not the path Helton wants to take.