Whether it’s because they can’t seem to attract high-quality pitching (even with the humidor), or due to poor management, among expansion teams in the last 25 years, the Rockies have certainly faired the poorest. Their contemporary ’93 expansion team, the Marlins, have won two World Series. The Diamondbacks (established in 1998), won a classic World Series, and have won the division 5 times. The Rays (also established in ’98), though it took them a while, have become regular playoff and title contenders, since winning the AL East in ’08, and losing the World Series that same year. Meanwhile, the Rockies, in their 21-year history, have never won their division. They’ve only made the playoffs 3 times, and only once advanced beyond the NLDS – in 2007, when they made a miraculous run at the end of the season just to get into the playoffs as the Wild Card, and let that momentum carry them to the World Series, where they were swept by Boston.
The Rockies only have one retired jersey number – Jackie Robinson’s #42. They’ve had one MVP winner (’97), one Rookie of the Year (Jason Jennings – ’02), and no Cy Young winners. And, there are certainly no players in the Hall of Fame that spent their better years in Colorado. In fact, no one who has ever played a game for the Rockies is in the Hall of Fame. And, in spite of some who want to sing the praises of guys like Larry Walker, I don’t foresee anyone in a Rockies uniform in the HOF anytime soon. This isn’t to say that no talent has come through the Mile-High City. But, I will say that I was surprised at some of the names that ended up making my top-5 list.
5. Ubaldo Jimenez (’06-’11) – in 5.5 seasons in Colorado, Jimenez accomplished more than any other pitcher has been able to in such a hitter-friendly park. He is one of only 5 pitchers to ever represent the Rockies in the All-Star game (2010). He’s also one of just two pitchers to receive any votes for the Cy Young award (Jeff Francis finished 9th in ’07), and he’s the only pitcher in franchise history to finish in the top-5, when he finished 3rd in 2010 – when he led the league in win pct., going 19-8. He ranks 2nd on the Rockies’ all-time ERA list (3.66), 4th in wins (56 – and everyone ahead of him has pitched at least 90 more innings for the Rockies), 3rd in win pct. (.554), 1st in WHIP (1.28), 1st in K/9 (8.18), 1st in K’s (773), and 5th in K/BB ratio (2.08).
4. Carlos Gonzalez (’09-present) – this choice is a bit of an assumption. Assuming, he continues to play well the next 2-3 seasons, and assuming he doesn’t miss too much time from injury, he will rank a little higher on some of the “accumulation” stats for the Rockies. But, in 5 years in Colorado, “CarGo” has already put together some impressive years. He has appeared in 2 All-Star games, won 3 Gold Gloves, and finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2010, when he won the NL batting title. And, he’s only 28, so he is likely just entering his prime. Yet, he already ranks 7th on the Rockies’ all-time batting list (.307), 8th in OBP (.368), 4th in SLG (.552), 6th in OPS (.920), 8th in HR (121 – and everyone ahead of him has at least 400 more PA’s), 10th in RBI (393), 4th in stolen bases (103 – should be 2nd by the end of next season), and 3rd in OPS+ (131).
3. Troy Tulowitzki (’06-present) – here’s a guy that has been on the verge of some great seasons, but injuries have held him up. But, even with those injuries, he has made 3 All-Star appearances, won 2 Gold Gloves at shortstop, finished in the top-8 in MVP voting 3 times, and was runner-up for Rookie of the Year in ’07. He hasn’t ever led the league in anything, but again, just two legitimately injury-free seasons in 7 full years in the league. But, if “Tulo” can keep himself healthy, he has the makings of a serious MVP candidate. On the Rockies’ all-time lists, he ranks 9th in batting (.295), 9th in OBP (.367), 9th in SLG (.509), 8th in OPS (.877), 5th in runs scored (543), 5th in hits (961), 5th in TB (1569), 6th in HR (155), 6th in RBI (552), and 7th in OPS+ (120).
2. Todd Helton (’97-’13) – Helton announced his retirement at the end of the 2013 season, and will long be regarded as one of the greatest to play in Colorado. He was drafted by the Rockies in the first round of the ’95 draft, and spent every day of his career with the franchise. In 17 seasons, Helton appeared in 5 All-Star games, won 3 Gold Gloves, finished runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting in ’98, and finished in the top-10 in MVP voting 3 times. His best season, by far, came in 2000, when he led the league in hits (216), doubles (59), RBI (147), batting (.372), and OPS (1.162). He finished 5th in MVP voting, which likely had a lot to do with the fact that the Rockies ended the season in 4th place – barely above .500. He ranks 3rd on the Rockies’ all-time batting list (.316), 2nd in OBP (.414), 7th in SLG (.539), 3rd in OPS (.953), 1st in runs scored (1401), 1st in hits (2519), 1st in total bases (4292), 1st in HR (369), 1st in RBI (1406), and 2nd in OPS+ (133).
1. Larry Walker (’95-’04) – a 4-time All-Star, 5-time Gold Glove winner, and an MVP in 1997. And, in spite of some inflated stats thanks to Coors Field, this Canadian led the league in batting 3 times, OPS twice, and HR once, during his 9.5 seasons in Colorado. He was plagued by injuries, and only had 500 AB’s once his entire time with the Rockies (’97). And yet, in spite of all those injuries, he continued to play well. While he may rank behind Helton in several categories, when you compare what he was able to do in the number of at-bats he had, it far surpasses Helton’s achievements. And, in the statistics that don’t rely simply on accumulation, he leads Helton often by head and shoulders. He ranks 1st on the Rockies’ all-time batting list (.334), 1st in OBP (.426), 1st in SLG (.618), 1st in OPS (1.044), 2nd in runs scored (892), 2nd in hits (1361), 2nd in total bases (2520), 2nd in HR (258), 2nd in RBI (848), 2nd in stolen bases (126), and 1st in OPS+ (147).
That’s my list – what’s yours?