Paul Franz is a friend of the blog and regular Pitchers & Poets contributor. Read his thoughts on a variety of subjects at his blog Nicht Diese Tone.
Todd Helton isn’t really a First Baseman of the 1990s. His best seasons came in 2000, just after the last decade of the millennium came to a close. His first full season – good though it was – didn’t come until 1998, well after the scars of the 90s had been inflicted, the narratives told. Helton was destined to be a first baseman of the 2000s, and yet he feels just as out of place alongside Albert Pujols, Paul Konerko, Lance Berkman, and Ryan Howard as he does beside John Olerud or Mo Vaughn. Maybe that’s because Helton has spent so much of the 2000s fighting against the onset of old age, ever trying to reclaim the prowess that marked his youth, the potential that forced no less than Andres Galarraga out of Colorado. Maybe it’s just me, a Rockies fan in his twenties, who sometimes wishes time would have stopped in 1999, when a young Todd Helton defined in vivid terms the possibilities for the future. Much as the 90s were a self-contained and self-absorbed decade, they were also a time of expectation, full of technological fantasies and social and political aspirations for the future. At the turn of the decade and millenium, no player, to me, better represented that optimistic gaze into the future than Todd Helton.