A beloved franchise legend saying goodbye in style. A slick-fielding left side of the infield flashing the leather. Those are just a couple of the highlights from the Rockies' 2013 season that will have a chance to be recognized with a Greatness in Baseball Yearly Award.
The Rockies collected eight GIBBY nominations overall, including two involving retiring first baseman Todd Helton. A Rockie for his entire 17-year career, Helton is up for the best regular-season moment for his emotional final game at Coors Field, when he gave his fans -- and himself -- something to remember forever with a home run in his first at-bat. Earlier in the year, Helton also showed his veteran guile by pulling off the hidden-ball trick, something that snagged the Rockies a shared nomination (with the Rays) in the oddity category.
All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and rookie third baseman Nolan Arenado are up for best defensive player, with Arenado also nominated for top play. Michael Cuddyer (top hitter), Rex Brothers (top setup man) and Carlos Gonzalez (best hitting performance) also received nominations.
Major League Baseball's A-listers will take home 2013 GIBBY trophies -- the ultimate honors of the industry's awards season -- based on votes by media, front-office personnel, MLB alumni, fans at MLB.com and the Society for American Baseball Research.
This year's GIBBY Awards feature nominees in 22 categories. Individual honors will go to the MLB MVP, in addition to the year's best starting pitcher, hitter, closer, setup man, rookie, breakout hitter, breakout pitcher, comeback player, defensive player, manager, executive and postseason performer.
GIBBY trophies also will be awarded for the year's top play, storyline, hitting performance, pitching performance, oddity, walk-off, Cut4 topic, regular-season moment and postseason moment, from MLB.com's Must C highlight reels.
In the past five years, fans have cast more than 50 million votes across the various GIBBY categories, none of which was restricted to individual League affiliation. Fan voting runs through Dec. 1.
Winners will be presented their GIBBY trophies at the MLB.com Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards extravaganza during the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla.
While Yankees closer Mariano Rivera held the retirement tour spotlight throughout the season, Helton stepped into it Sept. 25, about 10 days after announcing his decision. Honored before his last game in front of the Rockies' home fans, Helton proceeded to give them all goosebumps in the second inning, launching a pitch from Boston's Jake Peavy over the right-field wall for his 369th and final home run.
"It was kind of surreal," said Helton, who took a long curtain call after crossing home. "I hit it, and I'm like, 'That's a homer.' But I really wasn't sure. I thought, 'That couldn't really happen.'"
But it did. And so did Helton's deft use of the rarely successful hidden-ball trick about a week earlier in a game against the Cardinals. That time, St. Louis' Matt Carpenter was in disbelief after he dived back into first on a pickoff attempt and stepped off the base to dust off, only to be tagged out. Helton had faked throwing the ball back to the pitcher and waited for Carpenter to stray.
"It had never worked; that was the first time," Helton said afterward. "Five or six times, I've given it a half-hearted effort. I can't believe it worked."
Helton was not the only Rockies star to accomplish a rare feat in 2013. On June 5 in Cincinnati, Gonzalez put himself in the running for the year's top hitting performance by smashing three home runs, including a huge blast that almost cleared the bleachers in right-center field. The Reds estimated it at 476 feet, the 11th-longest shot in Great American Ball Park history. It was Gonzalez's second career three-homer game and fourth career six-RBI game.
While Gonzalez enjoyed a career day, Cuddyer picked up his GIBBY nomination through his sustained excellence at the plate. After hitting just .260 in his first season with the Rockies, the 34-year-old shattered his previous career high (.284) with a .331 average to claim the National League batting title by a whopping 10 points over Atlanta's Chris Johnson. Cuddyer put together a club-record 27-game hitting streak from May 28 to June 30 and added an overall .919 OPS, with 20 home runs and 84 RBIs.
"It's more singles -- a lot more singles," said Cuddyer, who even managed to hit .313 away from Coors Field. "I don't know what to attribute that to. It just happened. My approach didn't change. Nothing really changed. For some reason, I got more singles."
The Rockies were not all about high-octane offense, however. They also racked up the web gems, particularly on the left side of the infield. Arenado and Tulowitzki were both NL Gold Glove finalists, in addition to GIBBY finalists.
Arenado came up with the team's standout play of the season June 15 against the Phillies. Pitcher Jonathan Pettibone slapped a bouncer down the line, and Arenado -- playing way in on the grass to defend against a bunt -- launched himself in a full-extension dive to his right to snare it. He then rolled over and threw to first from the seat of his pants, his one-hop throw beating Pettibone by a few steps.
"Basically trying to take the bunt away," Arenado said afterward. "I kind of went too far in, and the ball was just hit to my left. It wasn't hit too hard. I was able to make a dive, and it was just reaction. I got the ball, and I just threw it. Just try to get it out of my hand as quickly as I can, and luckily [the first baseman] made a good scoop."
On the pitching side, Brothers has a chance to be recognized for his strong work out of the bullpen. Although nominated as a setup man, the left-hander also filled in admirably for injured closer Rafael Betancourt, converting 19 of 21 save opportunities. In 72 appearances, he posted a 1.74 ERA, struck out 76 batters and held opponents to a .209 average.