Former Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado announced his retirement from baseball yesterday after a 17-year career that saw him become one of the most consistent power hitters in baseball.
From his major league debut as a catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993 to his final game as a Met in 2009, Delgado gave pitchers headaches by hurting them when he swung the bat (473 career HR) and when he didn't (1,109 career walks).
But is Carlos Delgado a Hall of Famer? Let's look at a few of his career numbers and decide for ourselves.
Delgado finished his career with 473 HR and 483 doubles, falling just short of the 500 mark in both categories. Only ten players in major league history have reached that number in both categories: Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Robinson, Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez, Ted Williams and Eddie Murray. Of those ten, six are in the Hall of Fame. The other four are either not yet eligible (Bonds, Griffey) or admitted steroid users (Palmeiro, Ramirez). As of now, Delgado has never been attached to steroids, so one has to believe his power numbers were all attained legitimately.
Only six men in major league history hit 30 or more home runs in ten consecutive seasons. Alex Rodriguez (1998-2010), Barry Bonds (1992-2004), Jimmie Foxx (1929-1940), Sammy Sosa (1995-2004) and Albert Pujols (2001-2010) have all accomplished this rare feat. The other player to do it was Carlos Delgado, who hit 30 or more blasts every season from 1997 to 2006.
For 13 consecutive seasons, Delgado drove in at least 87 runs, including nine years of 100+ RBI and seven campaigns where he drove in no fewer than 114 runs. In two seasons that he failed to drive in 100 runs, he missed significant time with an assortment of injuries. Delgado picked up 99 RBI in 2004, despite not playing in 34 games. Then in 2007, as a member of the Mets, Delgado finished the year with 87 RBI. Although 2007 was viewed as an off-year for the slugger, he also missed 23 games, which denied him the opportunity to approach triple digits in RBI.
While on the topic of runs batted in, Carlos Delgado finished his career with 1,512 RBI, making him one of 51 players to surpass the 1,500 plateau. Thirty-six of those players have already received their golden ticket to Cooperstown, while the majority of the others are either still active or not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame.
Despite his gaudy power numbers, Delgado never won an MVP Award, although that could be attributed to the fact that he never played for a playoff team until he played for the Mets in 2006. He also only made two All-Star teams and won three Silver Slugger Awards, both numbers that are very low for potential Hall of Famers.
So does Delgado get elected to Cooperstown when he becomes eligible in 2015?
Rafael Palmeiro, whose power numbers exceed Delgado's, received support from only 11% of the voters in the most recent Hall of Fame election. However, he was found to have used steroids during the latter part of his career, which kept his vote total low. Jeff Bagwell was never directly linked to steroids, but only received 41% of the vote in January, despite averaging over 100 RBI and 100 runs scored per season throughout his entire career (1,529 RBI and 1,517 runs scored in 15 seasons). Both Palmeiro and Bagwell were contemporaries of Delgado. That could work against him in 2015.
Another thing that could work against him is the controversy he generated when he chose not to stand for the singing of "God Bless America" due to his personal convictions against the United States' involvement in Iraq. Although Delgado is entitled to his opinions, his silent protest came at a time when Americans were peaking with patriotism, and his stance was viewed by some as being unpatriotic and anti-American, although he has vehemently denied this on multiple occasions.
Despite the potential roadblocks, it cannot be denied that Delgado was highly successful as a major league baseball player. His power numbers are among the best of his era, if not all-time. But until players like Jeff Bagwell, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza get into the Hall of Fame (the latter two will become eligible in 2013), it will be difficult for Delgado to get in.
For a power hitter to reach the Hall of Fame in this era, he'll have to bring more to the table, whether it be speed, Gold Glove-caliber defense, or regular trips to the postseason. Carlos Delgado stole 14 bases in his career, never won a Gold Glove Award and only reached the playoffs once (he was not on the postseason roster when the Blue Jays won the World Series in 1993). Maybe someday Delgado will make the Hall of Fame, but don't expect it to be in 2015.