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Amplified Role for Todd Helton: Rockies Look to '17' for Leadership

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Amplified Role for Todd Helton: Rockies Look to '17' for Leadership

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Todd Helton.

COMMENTARY | Todd Helton's career synchronizes with amazing rather easily. From a purely statistical standpoint, Helton has accomplished more in a Colorado Rockies uniform than any other player in franchise history. He leads the organization in games played, runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, walks, WAR, and other categories I deem redundant to mention.

The next closest guy in each category? Well, let's just say "closest" is misleading.

While the numbers rank first in the history books of a relatively new franchise, they also allude to Hall of Fame consideration. That's how impressive the man who once doubled as Peyton Manning's predecessor/superior baseball player has been.

Though the numbers echo greatness, Helton will likely fall short of induction given the dramatic effects of Coors Field. The thin air will habitually latch on to Helton's legacy, making entrance to such glorious palaces a fantasy.

In the Mile High City, ultimately statistics will fade. Hall of Fame or not, Denver undoubtedly finds merit in its son. Todd Helton will continue his metamorphosis from a first-round draft pick to a mainstay at first base to a cerebral figure. Memories of #17 will not be vacated by the natural plod of time. He'll be remembered. Most definitely.

Athletes like Helton who spend their careers in one place tend to crawl under our emotional layers. The limited edition feel of career-long faithfulness adds to its appeal.

These particular athletes have rarified through the years. The effects of free agency, trades, and greener money in greener pastures have wreaked detachment on the game of baseball. It's quite the paradox how a pastime so nostalgic and resistant to change on a peripheral scope is defined by frenetic player movement in the present.

Nevertheless, the change over the past 30 years isn't damaging for baseball, only different. It's not that athletes or organizations are disloyal; it's simply that loyalty has been replaced by business.

As a result of the surging antiquity of lifelong loyalty, now the stories have become so primitive that when they do unfold, they're consistently overblown. Admiration often follows peculiarity. The nation joyfully devours the notion that one player could remain in one place for so long.

Meanwhile, the stories become background noise for the city and the players themselves. They need no reverential retrospective to remind them of a resplendent relationship.

Over the course of 16 years, the city of Denver and Todd Helton have rejoiced in a familiar love affair. In the midst of a perpetually average club, Helton and the city have intertwined in something special. The highs have been high. The lows have been low. Permeating everything, there was Todd.

The entrance to the 2013 season will be a new chapter for the organization. Already the Rockies have hired a new manager in Walt Weiss, whose most recent job took place at the adolescent level. Weiss took the liberty of hiring former Rockies OF Dante Bichette as hitting coach.

In addition to the Rockies' youth in the coaching compartment, Colorado will be young on the diamond. After a 64-98 season, the Rockies are primed for a rebuilding stage. They're more than a few tweaks away from contention. The team will be peppered with extremely youthful faces like Josh Rutledge, Wilin Rosario, DJ LeMahieu, Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich, Juan Nicasio, and Jhoulys Chacin. The notable are also fairly young: Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Tyler Colvin, Troy Tulowitzki, and Eric Young Jr.

The upcoming winter months will be riddled with uncertainty for the Rockies. Trade rumors, organizational bullet point, pitching, and a general sense of leeriness will swirl. Change has a way of doing that.

Todd Helton has not confirmed whether he will return to complete his 2-year, $9.9 million extension he signed in 2010. Since 2007, he's played only one full season (2009). The latter portion of his career has been plagued by injury accompanied with a slide in performance.

Yet Todd still resides in Denver folklore. Struggles don't detract from his stretch of dominance paired with unwavering commitment to a city and its people.

At the age of 39, coming off a .238 BA half-year, seasons of greatness seem like a thing of the past. His on-field performance will be minimal at best.

But the "Toddfather" has a vital role to play in 2013. In a transitional stage for the organization, Todd Helton will serve as a pillar of stability. With Weiss and Bichette stepping into jobs with no experience, Helton will assist as a middleman. They'll bounce things off Todd. He'll bounce things off younger players. Todd will keep unseasoned coaching in check. He'll communicate effectively between parties. Helton's presence alone will act as the bridge for a franchise that needs guidance and steadiness so desperately.

The argument can be made that Helton is still the first reaction when someone says, "Rockies." (Tulo and Cargo certainly creeping.) If he and his facial hair return, the Rockies will entrust him with the keys for the future.

Todd Helton at 39: diminished first baseman, amplified leader. The equilibrium of contribution remains intact.

Adam Feralio writes on baseball and other sports at his personal blog, Grazin' the Grass. He has been following Todd Helton for over a decade, more recently as a writer.

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