Euan Leith | June 4th, 2020
The Colorado Rockies have been smashing the baseball out of Denver for the past 27 seasons. Despite never bringing an NL West title to Coors Field, they have made five postseasons appearances and captured one pennant in 2007 during a spectacular September run that will never be forgotten. The Rockies are also one of two teams, the other being the Miami Marlins, to have never captured a division title. The closest they came was in 2018 when they took the Dodgers to a 163rd game to decide the NL West title.
Colorado’s best players are often slighted because of the hitter-friendly environment they play in. Coors Field has ranked either first or second in runs per game since 2009. However, as you will see below, they have rostered some phenomenal offensive and defensive talent during their history. These players would’ve prospered in any hitting environment and contended for many team’s Mount Rushmore.
Be sure to check out all of our Mount Rushmore articles here.
Larry Walker (1995-2004)
Larry Walker played 17 seasons in the majors, and 10 of them crushing home runs out of Coors Field. After spending the first six years of his career in Montreal, Walker signed with the Rockies as a free agent before the 1995 season and began his transition from star to superstar in the Mile High City.
The Canadian immediately made an impact with his new team. He set new career-highs in runs, RBI, home runs, and OPS, while launching Colorado to their first playoff berth in franchise history. That performance led Colorado to their first postseason appearance. Unfortunately, that was the only time during Walker’s 10 seasons that he would make the postseason with the team.
After an injury-riddled season in 1996, Walker returned in 1997 with a vengeance. He led the National League with 49 home runs and a .452 on-base percentage, while also leading the entire majors in slugging percentage, OPS, and total bases. He made his second All-Star game appearance, won the gold glove and silver slugger awards for the outfield, and waltzed to the MVP award with 22 of the 28 first-place votes.
1997 was undoubtedly Walker’s career year, but his prime lasted all the way through to 2002. Per 162 games, the man from Maple Ridge, Canada averaged 203 hits, 105 runs, 38 home runs, 123 RBI, 17 stolen bases, and a slash line of. .353/.441/.648. Walker contributed to every offensive facet of the game.
Walker is a natural choice for the Rockies Mount Rushmore. His stats are so dominant that I could give him two of the four faces. An MVP, five gold gloves, four All-Star appearances, and two silver sluggers is an impressive trophy case for any major league player. The fact that he is the only Rockies player to reach those heights makes him a lock for the first spot.
Todd Helton (1997-2013)
Walker is the only Rockies player in the Hall of Fame, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he is joined by Todd Helton in the next few years. The 17-year veteran is already at 29.2 percent in his second year on the ballot (up from 16.5 percent in year one) and, historically, that is a positive trajectory to eventually make it to Cooperstown.
Helton was a two-sport athlete in college at Tennessee playing football and baseball. His list of college accolades are impressive by themself, and he brought that versatility to Coors Field. He won four Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, and led the majors in fielding percentage six times.
His prime lasted an entire decade from 1998-2007 when Helton averaged 30 home runs and 108 RBI per season with a .332/.432/.585 slash line. His prime was must-watch, but his peak season in 2000 is one of the most underrated performances in the last 20 years.
In 2000, number 17 led the National League in batting average (.372), on-base percentage (.463), and slugging percentage (.698). Plus, Helton was the major league leader with 59 doubles, 147 RBI, and 216 hits. And, just for good measure, he knocked a casual 42 balls over the outfield fence. Despite all of those statistics, he finished FIFTH in the NL MVP voting.
Another feather in Helton’s Mount Rushmore cap is being a part of the Rockies World Series team in 2007. It is the only pennant the franchise has won. Helton wasn’t spectacular in the postseason, but he did have a memorable walk-off home run during their 13-1 streak to get into the playoffs.
Rockies fans should not have a problem with Walker and Helton being locked into the first two spots on their team’s Mount Rushmore. They were terrific players that were under-appreciated by the media. And, if all goes right, Helton will join Walker in the Hall of Fame by the end of the decade.
Nolan Arenado (2013-Present)
Nolan Arenado has only been up in the majors for seven seasons, but he has the trophy case of a 15-year veteran. The only thing that escapes him is postseason success, but he, and the Rockies, have been getting closer in recent years.
Arenado made his debut for Colorado in 2013 and was instantly a defensive standout. He has won seven Gold Glove awards in his first seven seasons, and only trails Brooks Robinson (16), Mike Schmidt (10), and Scott Rolen (8) among third baseman in baseball history. The 2009 draft pick has also won the Platinum Glove award from 2017-2019, recognizing him as the best defensive player in all of the majors.
His defense is immaculate, and he has also developed into an elite threat with the bat. Throughout his first two seasons, Arenado posted a .764 OPS with 28 home runs over 244 games. Things changed for the better in 2015, and the All-Star has never looked back. Since the halfway point of the decade, the third baseman has averaged 104 runs, 40 home runs, and 124 RBI per season. He won the Silver Slugger award four straight years from 2015-2018, and has led all of baseball in RBI twice (2015, 2016) and been the home run king of the National League three times (2015, 2016, 2018).
Rumors are circulating that Arenado was upset with how the 2019 season went for the Rockies. Still, he is signed through 2026 (with an opt-out clause in 2021, but we won’t mention that). If he is still in Colorado at the end of this contract, he should set club records in several categories. If there was a candidate to be the third Rockies player inducted into the Hall of Fame, it would be Nolan Arenado, and that’s why he is also a sure thing for the Colorado Rockies Mount Rushmore
Troy Tulowitzki (2006-2015)
I was really close to taking Tulowitzki out of the final spot. There are a lot of worthy candidates for the fourth face, but Tulowitzki’s “what could have been” storyline makes him my choice. He was plagued by injuries throughout his career that obviously hampered his production, but the talent and potential will always be intriguing.
Over his 10 seasons in Colorado, Tulo averaged 109 games per season. He only played in 130 or more games in three of those 10 seasons. Despite all of that injury history, the first-round pick still leads the Rockies franchise in defensive WAR (13.9) and is currently third in total WAR, slightly ahead of Arenado.
Tulowitzki showed what he could do in 2007 when he finished second by two points to Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. He smashed 24 home runs and drove in 99 runs with a .838 OPS. The 99 RBI led all National League shortstops. Tulo also helped the Rockies to their first and only World Series appearance. In the Wildcard tiebreaker against the San Diego Padres, he had four hits, three for extra bases, and scored the tying run in the 13th inning to cap a wild September comeback for the franchise.
The most consistent stretch of Tulowitzki’s career came between the 2009-2011 seasons. He averaged 139 games per year with 30 home runs, 97 RBI, and 13 stolen bases with a .304 batting average and .931 OPS. The California native finished top-eight in the National League MVP voting each of those three seasons and picked up back-to-back Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in 2010 and 2011 to go with two All-Star appearances.
The sky was the limit for Tulo, but injuries prevented him from reaching his ultimate peak. The fact that he still ranks so high in Rockies records shows how much of an impact he had when he actually stayed on the field consistently. His peak years did him enough to earn the final spot on the Colorado Rockies Mount Rushmore.
Check out our Colorado Rockies Team Preview for the 2020 season while we wait for baseball to get back on the field.
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