The Colorado Rockies had to wait 27 years into franchise history before getting their first player inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame. When Larry Walker shattered that ceiling — one fortified by false conceptions of how mile-high elevation inflates numbers without looking at the challenges of balancing altitude with road games — he cleared the way for future Rockies to do the same.
The next Rockie to enter the Hall will be Todd Helton and he is trending in the right direction. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling passed their 10th and final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot in 2022, which will open more votes for players like Helton and Scott Rolen. After earning 16.5% of votes in his first year on the ballot in 2019, Helton worked his way up to 52% in 2022 and that number should grow again this year. Even if it still falls short of the 75% requirement, he’ll still have five more years after 2023.
Looking forward, with 30 seasons as an organization in the books, more and more former Rockies are going to pop up on Hall of Fame ballots in the years to come. Though many of these players had shorter stints in purple than stars like Walker and Helton and likely won’t have a CR on their Hall of Fame plaque if they earn entry to Cooperstown, it’s still great for Rockies fans to see.
Earlier this week, when the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced the 28 players on the 2023 BWAA Hall of Fame ballot, a semi-surprising Rockies pitcher showed up: Houston Street.
For Rockies pitchers, there are no inflated numbers or misconceptions by the national media. Pitching at altitude is hard and learning how pitches break — or don’t break — at Coors Field versus on the road is no advantage in any light. If a Rockies pitcher earns a spot on the Hall of Fame ballot, even if he may never hit the 75% vote total, it’s impressive.
Street arrived in Colorado in 2009 as part of a trade with Oakland that also brought Carlos González to the Rockies in exchange for Matt Holliday. The 2005 American League Rookie of the Year had established himself as a talented closer, one who recorded 37 saves in 2006, but also blew 11 save opportunities. In 2008, he posted 18 saves and blew seven, but then came to Colorado and beat out Manny Corpas for the closing job in 2009. In three years in Colorado, he totaled 84 saves, third on Rockies all-time saves list at 84 behind Brian Fuentes at 115 and José Jiménez.
In 2009, he amassed 35 saves, which is not only tied for fourth with Shawn Chacón (2004) in the Rockies all-time, single-season record book, but also helped the Rockies return to the postseason. Street only blew two saves all season and was the most reliable arm in Colorado’s bullpen. He struck out 70 batters in 61 2/3 innings with a 5.4 K/BB ratio and 3.06 ERA and 0.91 WHIP.
Street helped the Rockies win the NL Wild Card to earn an NLDS matchup against the Phillies. Street shut down the Phillies in his first save opportunity in Game 2, sealing a 5-4 win to tie the series at 1-1. Thirteen years later, this Street save is the most recent on record for the Rockies.
The next two games in the NLDS didn’t go so well. Entering the ninth inning with the game tied 5-5, Street gave up two singles, a sac bunt, and a Ryan Howard sac fly that lifted the Phillies to a 6-5 win. In the next game, Huston took another loss, this time with the Rockies holding a 4-2 lead entering the ninth. It was a brutal end to a promising season, but Street stayed with the Rockies for two more years.
In 2010, Street struggled with injuries, but still posted 20 saves, blowing five in 44 appearances. In 2011, he posted 29 saves, only blowing four in 62 appearances, but lost the closing role to Betancourt. In his three years with the Rockies, Street went 9-9 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.058 WHIP in 167 1/3 innings with 170 strikeouts and ratios of 1.2 HR/9, 1.8 BB/9, 9.1 SO/9, and 5.15 SO /W.
In 2020, MLB.com Rockies reporter Thomas Harding named Street as the fourth-best reliever in team history, despite having fewer innings than everyone else on the list (Fuentes, Rafael Betancourt, Adam Ottavino, and Steve Reed). Even if it’s fair to assume Daniel Bard has worked his way onto that list, Street would still be top five. If he can get and stay healthy, Tyler Kinley could also crack the list.
In Colorado, Street rediscovered himself, only to be traded to San Diego and become a two-time All-Star before finishing his career with the Angeles after four more seasons. He retired after the 2017 season with some impressive numbers: 324 saves (20th all-time in MLB), 2.95 ERA, 665 strikeouts, and 1.07 WHIP in 680 innings over 668 appearances.
It could be tough for Street to punch his ticket to Cooperstown, especially in his first year and with Francisco Rodríguez (fourth all-time in saves in MLB at 437) and Billy Wagner (sixth all-time in saves in MLB at 422) on the same ballot. To earn the nomination is an honor. For the Rockies to have a pitcher on the ballot, it’s something to celebrate.
Stay posted for part two next week when we look at the possible Rockies who will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot in the next five years.
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The good news is that, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Yankees still have the edge. The bad news is that Aaron Judge has met with the Giants, who play two hours from his hometown, and San Francisco is expected to offer him a deal soon. the Dodgers also remain in the mix for the moon-shot slugger, but Hayman thinks Judge might cost too much to their already high payroll. Judge met with members of the Giants front office, as well as manager Gabe Kapler, on Monday and Tuesday.
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