Carlos Juan Delgado | 1B | 1993-2004
Carlos Delgado was born June 25, 1972 in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The Blue Jays signed him as an amateur free agent in 1988 when he was just 16 (one of the many who Epy Guerrero found for us, the Jays’ history would be a different thing without him). He went through the Jays’ minor league system as a catcher. He quickly became our top prospect; he hit 30 home runs in Dunedin in 1992 at 20 years old and then hit 25 the following season at Double-A Knoxville. Before the 1993 season, he was #4 on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list.
Carlos got called up to Toronto at the end of the 1993 season, our second World Series winner, but only got into a couple of games. The Jays gave him a ring anyway. In 1994 he started the year with the Jays, playing most of the games for the first couple of months in left field. Things started well, he had a 1.028 OPS on April 24th with 8 home runs, but it went downhill from there. He was sent back down to the minors in early June when he was hitting .215/.352/.438. Cito Gaston never had much patience with young players. It would have been nice if he showed some patience here. Bill James said that he would be an MVP candidate by 2000, turned out he was right.
In 1995 the Jays brought Delgado up at the end of April, but Cito used him mainly as a pinch hitter, and he didn’t hit much in the 25 at-bats he was given that month (it was more important to keep Joe Carter’s .300 OBP in the lineup) and was sent back down. They brought him back up in September, and he did play more but still didn’t hit much.
Finally, in 1996, Carlos got to stay up with the Jays for the full season. Playing DH, he hit .270/.353/.490 with 25 homers and 82 RBI. After the season, the Jays traded John Olerud to make room at first base for Carlos. I still wonder why they decided to keep Joe Carter and let go of Olerud.
Over the first couple of months of the 1997 season, Joe Carter played first base and Carlos DHed, but by late May, Delgado took over and played there for the next 8 years. He had a great year hitting .262/.350/.528 with 30 homers and 91 RBI.
In 1998 Carlos played first base full time, and his numbers took another big jump. He hit .292/.385/.592 with 38 homers and 115 RBI. For the first time in his career, he got MVP votes and finished 5th in the league in slugging average.
He had another great season in 1999, hitting .272/.377/.571, setting a new career-high in homers with 44, RBI with 134, runs with 113, and walks with 86. He won his first Silver Slugger award and finished 12 in MVP voting. He tied George Bell’s single-season team record for RBI. He would have set a new record, but he missed the season’s final ten games, breaking his tibia fouling a ball off his leg.
In 2000 Carlos played in all 162 games, led the league with 57 doubles. He hit .344/.470/.664, had 41 homers, and set a new team record with 137 RBI. Carlos also took 123 walks and led the league, being hit by pitch 15 times. For the first time, he made the All-Star team, came in 4th in MVP voting, won the AL Hank Aaron Award (for best hitter), and was the Sporting News Player of the Year. He also got his second Silver Slugger award. Carlos finished 4th in the league in batting average, 2nd in on-base %, 2nd in walks, 2nd in slugging, and first in total bases.
His .664 slugging average is still the Jays’ single-season record .344 BA and .470 OBP are both the second-best in Jay history. That season is also the Jay season-high in total bases, doubles, walks, extra-base hits, and runs created. He was AL Player of the Week twice and had a 22 game hit streak. He was one of 7 Jays to hit 20 homers and one of 3 with 30.
Delgado played in all 162 games again in 2001. His numbers dropped off some from the year before, hitting .279/.408/.540 with 39 homers, 102 RBI, and 111 walks. Pretty decent for a down season. It was his 4th consecutive season with over 35 HR and 100 RBI. He also stole a base for the first time in his MLB career.
His numbers fell off a bit more in 2002. He hit .277/.406/.549 with 33 homers, 108 RBI, and 102 walks. He finished 4th in the league in OBP, 8th in slugging, and 4th in walks. Carlos was the first Jay to hit 30 homers in 6 consecutive seasons and 100 RBI in 5. He missed a game on August 4th to snap a streak of 432 straight games played. Then he went on the DL for just the second time in his career, later in August, with a stiff back.
Carlos had a bounce-back season in 2003, hitting .302/.426/.593 with 42 home runs and a new career and franchise high in RBI with 145, leading the league. He made the All-Star team, got the Silver Slugger award, and came second in the MVP voting. Carlos finished 2nd in slugging, on-base, home runs, and walks. On September 25th, he hit four home runs in a game against the Devil Rays.
His 7th straight year with 30 home runs, 6th 100 RBI, and 5th with 100 runs. Among other achievements, he had 97 RBI at the All-Star break and 4 home runs in a game on September 25th. He reached base 334 times, setting another team record.
2004 was Delgado’s last season with the team. He missed about a month of the season with a strained rib cage and missed getting to 100 RBI for the first time since 1997. He still had 32 home runs and hit .269/.372/.545.
After the season, Carlos was a free agent, and the team decided not to sign him. JP was trying to cut salary, and Carlos made $19.7 million in 2004. I was not too fond of the move. I figured with Carlos and Roy Halladay. We should have had a contending team.
Delgado signed a four-year contract with the Florida Marlins. After one season, the Marlins decided to cut payroll and traded Delgado to the Mets for Mike Jacobs, Yusmeiro Petit, and Grant Psomas. Carlos played for the Mets for four seasons, making the playoffs for the first time in 2006, losing out in the NLCS to the Cardinals in 2007.
Hip problems cost him the most of the 2009 season. In 2010 he signed with the Red Sox but never made it to the majors, which was the end of his career.
Carlos finished just 27 home runs short of 500. Surprisingly, at least to me, he was a one-and-done on the Hall of Fame ballot.
In his 17 year career, he hit .280/.383/.546 with
483 473 home runs, 1512 RBI, and 1109 walks. The Blue Jays portion was .282/.392/.556 with 336 home runs in 1423 games over 12 seasons.
Rob Neyers’ Big Book of Baseball Lineups’ lists him as the best Jay first baseman. It also calls him the worst defensive first baseman in Jay history. Considering John Mayberry played first for us, that’s saying something. He’s right. Delgado was never much with the glove.
Carlos was given the Roberto Clemente Award in 2006 for ‘good play and strong work in the community.’ He does work for many charities in Puerto Rico.
He has had his moments of controversy. He protested the war in Iraq by not standing during ‘God Bless America. He said, “I just feel so sad for the families that lost relatives and loved ones in the war. But I think it’s the stupidest war ever.” That may have cost him votes among the Hall of Fame voters, but one would think that all the charity work he did would have offset that. He is in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
I really enjoyed getting to watch him come up to the majors and develop into a slugger. One of my favorite parts about being a baseball fan is seeing young players and growing to become veteran players.
He is married and has a son (Carlos Antonio and a daughter (Betzaida Garcia).
Carlos Delgado’s place among Jay Hitting leaders:
bWAR: 3rd, 36.8
Batting Average: 11th, .282.
OBP: 2nd, .392
Slugging: 1st, .556
OPS: 1st, .949
Games played: 2nd, 1450
Plate Appearances: 1st, 6018
Runs Scored: 1st, 889
Hits: 3rd, 1413
Total Bases: 1st, 2786
Doubles: 1st, 343
Home runs: 1st, 336
RBI: 1st, 1058
Walks: 1st, 827
Strikeouts: 1st, 1242
Hit by Pitch: 1st, 122
Sac Flies: 2nd, 61
Intentional walks: 1st, 128
At Bats per HR: 1st, 14.9