For 17 years, the Colorado Rockies never questioned who played first base. It was No. 17 — Todd Helton. Helton’s glove made everyone, including Nolan Arenado and Troy Tulowitzki, better defenders. He hit into the gaps at Coors Field better than anyone—smacking 592 doubles for his career.
Todd Helton was first base for the Rockies. He’s the only Rockies player who has had his number retired by the team. The Rockies even gave him a horse when he hung up his spurs for good.
Since Helton left, the Rockies have filled his old job with veterans Justin Morneau and Mark Reynolds.
Last offseason, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich decided to go in a different direction. When Bridich signed Ian Desmond to play first base, we all fell into the trap.
Just imagine ‘Family Feud’ host Steve Harvey asking the question: “Who’s on first base for the Colorado Rockies?”
By and large, the Rockies’ community was the ‘Family Feud’ team whose crazy uncle shouts out a terrible answer.
We froze, looked at each other, started clapping and cheered in unison, “GOOD ANSWER, GOOD ANSWER.”
Sure, Desmond was coming off his second All-Star season for the Texas Rangers, but he had never played first base. Then, during 2017’s spring training, he broke his hand and the Rockies had to bring Reynolds back to play first. Reynolds thrived while Desmond struggled to stay on the field because of injury and poor play.
This is what happens when you try to fit a player into a spot on the field that he doesn’t really play.
So this year, the Rockies decided to give the reins to one of their top prospects, Ryan McMahon, and move Desmond around the field when he wasn’t playing first base. McMahon was sent down to the minors this week after batting .180.
Even worse, Desmond is batting .173.
They played utility infielder Pat Valaika at first on Wednesday to give Desmond a break. They currently don’t have another first baseman on the roster. Valaika hasn’t shown that he can be an everyday player. Worse, Valaika played the second-worst defense in the Chicago Cubs series—only overshadowed by Cubs catcher Willson Contreras’ brief stint in left field.
The Rockies plan right now seems to be hoping that McMahon finds himself in the minors and hoping Desmond figures out how to play first base and to hit again. Their minor league affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes, play Jordan Patterson at first, but the Rockies didn’t call him up when the first base spot opened up. Patterson has even won a player of the week award in his Triple-A league, but the Rockies didn’t give him the call.
Part of the issue is a broader Rockies’ problem. Except for Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, no one else is healthy and hitting all that well. Recent call-ups David Dahl and Noel Cuevas are showing some promise, but they’re just adding to a cluster of outfielders.
So maybe the Rockies could convert an outfielder?
Their options are really limited to Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez’s outfield play makes it hard to see them moving him to first. However, Gonzalez has said he’s willing to play first base. Parra played first a few times last year, so maybe he’s an option. It just seems like playing people out of position isn’t a great idea.
The Rockies are stuck with this hole at first base. When Todd Helton rode off into the sunset on his horse, who knew it would be the hardest position to fill in Colorado.
Who’s on first for the Colorado Rockies?
Any answer, at this point, would be a good one.