Not to say that he was particularly unfortunate — he did make nearly $150 million in his career — but Carlos Delgado should have been more famous. He should have hit 500 homers, he should have made more than just one postseason and he should have gone to several All-Star games, not just two.
Delgado, who signed with the Blue Jays out of Puerto Rico at age 16 in 1988, was initially a catcher in the minors. His bat appeared ready for the majors after he hit .303/.430/.524 with more walks than strikeouts in Double-A in 1993, but he ended up spending most of 1994 and 1995 tearing up Triple-A anyway. Primarily, that was about defense: the Blue Jays gave up on him as a catcher in 1994, but he didn’t take to left field very well and he never got to settle in at first base until 1997.
From 1998 through 2008 — an 11-year span — Delgado finished in the top 10 in his league in homers 10 times. He hit 40 three times. In 2003, he led the AL in OPS at 1019 and in RBI with 145. That year he finished second in the MVP balloting.
Delgado was even better in 2000, when he hit .344/.470/.664 for an 1134 OPS. However, he finished fourth in the MVP balloting that year.
And those were his only two All-Star seasons. Playing in Toronto, Delgado was left overshadowed by Mo Vaughn, Jim Thome, Jason Giambi and Frank Thomas. But he did deserve to go to more All-Star Games than Tino Martinez. Vaughn went to three and he never had a season as good as Delgado’s two best.
Delgado ended up finishing in the top 10 of the MVP balloting four times, including in 2008 with the Mets. He had six top-10 finishes in OPS. He ranks 30th all-time with 473 homers, 38th all-time with a 929 OPS and 49th with 1,512 RBI.
Unfortunately, Delgado got to play in the postseason just once. He made the most of it, hitting .351/.442/.757 with four homers and 11 RBI as the Mets swept the Dodgers in the NLDS and then lost to the Cardinals in seven games in the NLCS in 2006.
Delgado, however, did get a World Series ring. While he wasn’t on the postseason roster, he was awarded one after receiving two September plate appearances with the Blue Jays in 1993.
So, no, Delgado probably won’t go to the Hall of Fame. He was good enough, but not quite for long enough. Maybe if he spent his minor league career as a first baseman and he was allowed to get started a bit earlier (the Blue Jays, though, had John Olerud and didn’t need Delgado there). Maybe if he didn’t hurt his hip in 2009 and he was able to add another 70-80 homers to his fine career total. Maybe if the Blue Jays won their back-to-back championships with Delgado leading the way in 1996-97, rather than before he established himself in 1992-93.
But Delgado is a definite first-ballot Hall of Very Gooder. Besides being a terrific player, he was the Roberto Clemente Award winner in 2006 for his sportsmanship and charity work. He won’t be forgotten anytime soon.