Last week we named our catcher for the Mets All-Time “2 Guys” Team. Now we move to first base, and the winner was not as immediately clear to me. Dave Magadan? Nope. Eddie Murray? Hmmm. Ornery to reporters, certainly. And tough, too. Kingman? Anybody nicknamed “Kong” has to be given consideration. He certainly was tough on female reporters. But for pure tough-mindedness, and iron will, I’ve got to go with the player who ranks fourth on the list of most games at 1B for the Mets: Mr. Carlos Delgado. His also happens to be the story of one of the more frustrating acquisitions in Mets history, because Omar handled this one bass ackwards. As you recall, the fiercely proud Delgado was a free agent after the 2004 season — and stood as one of the most ferocious hitters in the game. From ’96 to ’04, you could pencil Delgado in for 35 HRs and 110+ RBIs annually. After Piazza’s transition to 1B didn’t take, the Mets were in need of a first baseman not named Jason Phillips. So Omar saw Delgado as the answer. However, negotiations became muddled — there was a strange rift between Delgado and Omar’s assistant, Tony Bernazard — and Delgado signed a backloaded, four-year, $52 million deal with the cursed Fish from Florida.
A problem with Tony Bernazard — what a surprise! Tony never had any problems with anyone. Seriously though I like the idea of Delgado, he was tough, just look at that picture above. I’m a little surprised though that you didn’t even mention Keith Hernandez — he was hard-nosed. I certainly would trust him in a rough situation more than Dave Kingman. But I can’t argue the overall choice, I loved Delgado.
One of my biggest memories of Delgado was when he made his first career postseason in 2006. He raised his considerable game and became a total beast. He had a 1.071 OPS against the Dodgers and a 1.274 OPS against the Cardinals. Eventually Tony LaRussa started walking him as they couldn’t get him out.
But for me the biggest example of his toughness was his refusal to stand for “God Bless America.” I personally disagreed with him. I felt it showed a lack of respect and it is not something I would have done. But he felt strongly otherwise and didn’t back down from his position. Misguided toughness is still toughness.
Yes, it took courage for Delgado to stand up for his convictions, and I respected him for it. And I believe that’s the way it was in the clubhouse, he was a quiet guy who commanded respect. But I want to briefly get back to those Fish again. Because a year after he signed with the Marlins, Omar worked out a deal for the prize that got away. Note this, prospect lovers: in addition to Mike Jacobs, we surrendered our top pitching prospect at the time, the incredible . . . Yusmeiro Petit. If I concentrate, I can still hear the anguished cries, “We gave up Petit?! Noooooo!” The lesson in that is, most of these hyped prospects are never gonna make it.
One more point in favor of Delgado: He opted to wear #21 when he came to the Mets in honor of his hero, Roberto Clemente. In 2006, Delgado won the Roberto Clemente Award as the player who “best exemplified sportsmanship, community involvement and contribution to his team.” Commented Delgado, “Roberto’s legacy to me is that it’s an athlete’s obligation to give back. That’s what I have tried to do throughout my career.”
Another thing about Delgado that I always admired was “the Notebook.” The SNY cameras loved to show Carlos writing away in the dugout after his at-bats. It was a huge looking thing. I love the extra work and preparation that showed. Congratulations to our newest official Mets All-Time “2 Guys” Team member, Carlos Delgado, who joins John Stearns on the toughest squad in orange and blue.
I cry like a little girl every time I see that movie. Oh, what? Nevermind!