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.

Nick Markakis: ‘I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?’

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Earlier today, the Braves inked veteran outfielder Nick Markakis to a one-year deal worth $4 million with a club option for the 2020 season worth $6 million with a $2 million buyout. Though Markakis is 35 years old, he’s coming off of a terrific season in which he played in all 162 games and hit .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 705 trips to the plate. Markakis had just completed a four-year, $44 million contract, so he took a substantial pay cut.

Per David O’Brien of The Athletic, Markakis asked his kids where they wanted him to play and they said Atlanta. O’Brien also asked Markakis about the pay cut. The outfielder said, “I’m not mad at all. I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?”

This seemingly innocuous comment by Markakis is actually damaging for his peers and for the union. Baseball as a game is indeed a “kids’ game,” but Major League Baseball is a billion-dollar business that has been setting revenue records year over year. The players have seen a smaller and smaller percentage of the money MLB makes since the beginning of the 2000’s. Furthermore, Markakis only gets paid “a lot of money” relative to, say, a first-year teacher or a clerk at a convenience store. Relative to the value of Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, and relative to the value of Major League Baseball itself, Markakis’s salary is a drop in the ocean.

That Markakis is happy to take a pay cut is totally fine, but it’s harmful for him to publicly justify that because it creates the expectation that his peers should feel the same way and creates leverage for ownership. His comments mirror those who sympathize first and foremost with billionaire team owners. They are common arguments used to justify paying players less, giving them a smaller and smaller cut of the pie. Because Markakis not only took a pay cut but defended it, front office members of the Braves as well as the 29 other teams can point to him and guilt or shame other players for asking for more money.

“Look at Nick, he’s a team player,” I envision a GM saying to younger Braves player who is seeking a contract extension, or a free agent looking to finally find a home before spring training. “Nick’s stats are as good as yours, so why should you make more money than him?”

Contrast Markakis’s approach with Yasmani Grandal‘s. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million contract offer from the Mets early in the offseason and settled for a one-year, $18.25 million contract with the Brewers. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Grandal said on MLB Network, “I felt like part of my responsibility as a player was to respect the guys that went through this process before I did. Guys like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, These are guys who established markets and pay levels for upper-tier catchers like me. I felt like I was doing a disservice if I were to take some of the deals that were being thrown around. I wanted to keep the line moving especially for some of the younger guys that are coming up … to let them know, if you’re worthy, then you should get paid what you’re worth. That’s where I was coming from.”

Grandal’s comments are exactly what a member of a union should be saying, unapologetically. The MLBPA needs to get all of its members on the same page when it comes to discussing contracts or labor situations in general publicly. What Markakis said seems selfless and innocent — and I have no doubt he is being genuine without malice — but it could reduce the bargaining power players have across the table from ownership, which means less money. They are already being bamboozled, at least until the next collective bargaining agreement. They don’t need to be bamboozled any more.