Carlos Delgado: MLB’s best two-time All-Star

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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.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.