Carlos Delgado: Cooperstown Hall of Fame credentials compared to other first basemen

Carlos Delgado was a “one and done” ex-MLB player, with 3.8 percent of the writers’ votes for the Cooperstown Class of 2015. How could someone with 473 HR—two fewer than Stan Musial and Willie Stargell; 24 more than Jeff Bagwell; 20 less than Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff—be “one and done?” Readers can refer to Jayson Stark’s January 8, 2015 blog, below, for more facts.  https://www.espn.com/blog/jayson-stark/post/_/id/1051/delgado-deserved-far-better-in-hof-voting Before covering Cooperstown-related issues, we will transition to Delgado’s Puerto Rico career.

Delgado was born June 25, 1972, and raised in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, off the Island’s west coast. His preference for wearing #21 with the New York Mets was due to his admiration for Roberto Clemente, who passed away when Delgado was 27 weeks old, December 31, 1972. Delgado had an OK career in the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League, with a .245 AVG and .437 SLG, 36 HR and 120 RBIs, in 783 AB, equivalent to 25 HR and 84 RBIs, in 550 AB. His best (Puerto Rico) season was in 1994-95, for champion San Juan: .323 AVG and .658 SLG, with a league-leading 12 HR and 47 RBIs, in a 54-game season. His 12 HR outpaced Santurce’s Héctor Villanueva (11) and Caguas’s Juan González (10). Of note is that Delgado was traded by Santurce to San Juan, for Villanueva, 1992-93 season. San Juan won the 1994-95 best-of-nine finals over Mayagüez, five games to three, after finishing second to them, in a four-team, round-robin event. Delgado, 1994-95 league MVP, caught for San Juan.

The best team Delgado ever played on was the February 4-9, 1995 Caribbean Series “Dream Team,” with him catching; Carmelo Martínez (1B), Roberto Alomar (2B), Carlos Baerga (3B), Rey Sánchez (SS), Juan González (LF), Bernie Williams (CF), Rubén Sierra (RF), and DH Edgar Martínez. This was the first time a Puerto Rico Caribbean Series team wore Puerto Rico on their uniforms. Prior to then, they wore the uniform of the league champs. The Dream Team scored 55 runs in six games, with a .346 AVG and .533 SLG. Delgado had a .300 AVG and .450 SLG. Roberto Alomar (.560 AVG, .840 SLG) was series MVP for undefeated Puerto Rico (6-0). Toros del Este—managed by Art Howe, with pitching coach Luis Tiant—came in second (4-2), representing the Dominican Republic. Mexico (1-5) and Venezuela (1-5) tied for third-place. “That was a great experience and a great team,” Delgado told the author, prior to the 1995-96 season. “San Juan also won it in 1993-94 [35-13, .729]. I hit well [.364 AVG, .864 SLG] in the February 1994 Caribbean Series, in Venezuela, and made its All-Star Team at catcher.” (Delgado went eight-for-22, with two doubles, three HR and seven RBIs.) In his two Caribbean Series, Delgado was 14-for-42, a .333 AVG, with four HR and 13 RBIs. His .667 SLG was impressive!

Delgado went from being a LF with the 1994 and 1995 Toronto Blue Jays, to a 1B and DH in 1996. (He played in two games with the 1993 Blue Jays.) Many Statewide baseball fans who focus on MLB stats may not be aware that Delgado began his pro baseball career as a catcher. Here is a snapshot of Delgado’s MLB numbers with the Blue Jays (1993-2004), Florida Marlins (2005) and New York Mets (2006-09): 7,283 AB, 1,241 runs, 2,038 hits, 483 doubles, 18 triples, 473 HR, 1,512 RBIs, 1,109 walks, 1,745 strikeouts, .280/.383/.546 slash line, with .929 OPS. The 2x AL All-Star and 3x AL Silver SLG, hit 30+ HR in 10 straight seasons, 1997-to-2006. He had 100+ RBIs in eight of those seasons; led the AL with 57 doubles in 2000; 145 RBIs in 2003.

Delgado has the most MLB career HR for players from Puerto Rico—473, or 38 more than CF Carlos Beltrán (435), and 39 more than RF-LF Juan González (434). Here is how Delgado’s career HR compare to other 1B from the Caribbean, with 300+ career HR.

TABLE I: Elite Eight Caribbean Players who primarily played first base—Dominican Republic (DR); Puerto Rico (PR); and Venezuela (VZA)

PlayerCountryHRRBIsOPSHOF Outcome
Albert PujolsDR6562,075.927Still active with Los Angeles Angels.
Rafael PalmeiroCuba5691,835.885Failed drug test makes HOF unlikely.
Miguel CabreraVZA4771,694.935Still active with the Detroit Tigers.
Carlos DelgadoPR4731,512.929Got 3.8 % of the vote, 2015 ballot.
Andrés GalarragaVZA3991,425.846Got 4.1 % of the vote, 2010 ballot.
Orlando CepedaPR3791,365.84975 percent-Veterans Committee (1999).
Tony PérezCuba3791,652.80477.2 percent-Writers’ Votes, 9th try (2000).
Adrian GonzálezMexico3171,202.843Eligible on 2024 HOF ballot, first-time.

Pujols, in 19 MLB seasons, could be the best 1B in history, but it is best to compare players at the same position, during a similar era. David Ortiz (1,768 RBIs and .931 OPS) hit 541 HR, but was mainly a DH. Cabrera is on a path to Cooperstown. Delgado’s stats will be compared with Jeff Bagwell, Fred McGriff, Frank Thomas, and others of his era. Galarraga played quite a few home games in Denver, Colorado. Cepeda’s 1958-to-1974 career, and Pérez’s 1964-1986 career, show that the (Hall of Fame) writers had higher standards—in terms of power numbers—for players in Delgado’s performing-enhancing drug (PED) era, 1995-to-2005, and 2006-2019.

How Does Carlos Delgado Compare to Existing Hall of Famers?

The author, as do our readers, enjoys baseball history. This section deviates from players of Delgado’s era, to ascertain some of Delgado’s achievements relative to stars of bygone eras, i.e., Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Fox, among others. Only seven other HOF eligible players in history have even had nine (or more) 30-homer seasons in a row. Four of them—Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Mike Schmidt and Eddie Matthews—are in the Hall of Fame. The other three—Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro—all have PED storm clouds hovering over them, but Bonds is still eligible via the writers. So, why was Delgado a “one and done” player? Delgado achieved:

Only 10 HOF eligible players ever had an OPS of .900 plus in at least nine consecutive seasons in which they qualified for the batting title. Eight are in the Hall: Gehrig, Foxx, Schmidt, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle and Mike Piazza. The other two are Bonds and Delgado. Pujols had 11 straight .900 plus OPS seasons, 2001-to-2011 with St. Louis; and 12 consecutive years (2001-to-2012) hitting 30+ HR, but he is still active.

JAWS and Hall of Fame Monitor (HOFM)

Wins Above Replacement (WAR), seven-year peak WAR and JAWS (Jaffe’s Average War Score System) are one comparison metric. Bill James’ Hall of Fame Monitor (HOFM) is another tool to compare players and pitchers: https://www.baseball-reference.com/about/jaws.shtml and https://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2014/11/9/7052865/baseball-hall-of-fame-bill-james-monitor-standards.

For 21 first basemen (excluding Buck Leonard and Mule Suttles) inducted in Cooperstown, average career WAR is 66.9; average seven-year peak WAR is 42.7; and average JAWS is 54.8. How does Delgado fare in these components versus era players?

TABLE II: WAR, Seven-year peak WAR and JAWS, six 1B

Player (alpha order)CountryWAR7-peakJAWSHOF Outcome
Jeff BagwellUSA79.948.364.186.2 %-writers’ votes, 7th try (2017).
Carlos DelgadoPR44.434.539.4Got 3.8 % of the vote, 2015 ballot.
Andrés GalarragaVZA31.726.429.1Got 4.1 % of the vote, 2010 ballot.
Adrian GonzálezMexico43.534.639.1Eligible on 2024 HOF ballot, first-time.
Fred McGriffUSA52.636.044.3Got 39.8 % of the vote, 10th try (2019).
Frank ThomasUSA73.845.459.683.7 %-writers’ votes, 1st try (2014).

Bagwell was the 50th HOF player to spend his entire MLB career with one team (Houston). He and Craig Biggio were the fourth pair of inductees to be enshrined, with at least 15 years as MLB teammates. The other pairs are: Carl Hubbell and Mel Ott (New York Giants), Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle (New York Yankees), and Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski (Pittsburgh). Bagwell was 1991 NL Rookie of the Year, 1994 NL MVP and Gold Glove recipient; 4x NL All-Star and 3x NL Silver SLG. He led the NL in RBIs (1994) and doubles (1996). Thomas, a vocal proponent of PED testing, won a 1997 AL batting crown; hit 521 HR and drove in 1,721; and was a 2x AL MVP. His 2005 White Sox swept Bagwell’s Astros in the World Series, but neither player was a factor. Thomas did not play in the 2005 post-season, prior to signing with Oakland for 2006; Bagwell had one hit in eight AB versus the White Sox, a .125 World Series AVG.

McGriff’s HOF case by Chris Bodig, via his February 24, 2019 blog, can be reviewed at:  https://www.cooperstowncred.com/true-crime-fred-mcgriffs-disappearing-hall-of-fame-chance/. There was a concerted effort to get the “Crime Dog” noticed by the writers going into his 10th and final try. Delgado never got a 10th opportunity. This “one and done” team is courtesy of Jason Stark. They all got less than five percent of the writers’ votes, their first year on the ballot.

Carlos Delgado versus Fred McGriff

This comparison includes old/traditional metrics with some sabermetrics. McGriff had very fine post-season stats in 50 games: .303/.385/.532 slash line, with a .917 OPS. He got a World Series ring with 1995 Atlanta. In two Fall Classics versus the Yankees (1995-96), he cracked four HR and drove in nine, in 43 AB, with a .279/.385/.605 slash line, and .989 OPS. Delgado went six-for-14 against the Dodgers in the 2006 NLDS with one HR and two RBIs. Then, his seven hits in 23 AB versus St. Louis in the NLCS, included three HR. He drove in nine in that series, and was walked six times. However, St. Louis advanced to the 2006 World Series after winning Game Seven of the NLCS. Delgado’s 10 post-season games produced a .351/.442/.757 slash line, with a 1.199 OPS.

In regular season stats, McGriff’s 493 HR were in 8,757 AB, for 17.76 AB per HR, 76th all-time, all MLB players. Delgado’s 473 HR in 7,283 AB, for 15.4 AB per HR, is 25th best, all-time. (Top three are: Mark McGwire, 10.61; Babe Ruth, 11.76, and Barry Bonds, 12.92.) Delgado’s AB per HR is better than these five 1B: Hank Greenberg (15.69), Willie McCovey (15.73), Frank Thomas (15.74), Gehrig (16.23) and Pujols (16.38). Delgado surpasses Hank Aaron (16.38) and Willie Mays (16.49). Juan González (15.11), Mickey Mantle (15.12) and Jimmie Foxx (15.23), Mike Trout (15.23) and Mike Schmidt (15.24) rank just above Delgado in career AB per HR.

Delgado drove in a run every 4.82 AB, compared to McGriff’s one RBI every 5.65 AB. Their Hall of Fame Monitor (HOFM) comparisons indicate Delgado’s HOFM batting index was 110 versus McGriff’s 100, with 100 as “average” for a HOF. Delgado’s OPS and OPS+ (.929 and 138) surpass McGriff’s .886 and 134, respectively, per Table III.

TABLE III: AB/HR and RBIs, HOFM Batting Index, SLG, OPS and OPS+

Carlos Delgado versus Fred McGriffAB/HRAB/RBIsHOFM Batting IndexOPSOPS+
Carlos Delgado15.44.82110.929138
Fred McGriff17.765.65100.886134

McGriff’s .285 career AVG surpassed Delgado’s .280 AVG, but Delgado’s .383 OBP and .546 SLG are superior to McGriff’s .377 OBP and .509 SLG. Note: OPS is the sum of OBP and SLG. OPS+ is an index, factoring in ballpark dimensions, altitude, among other factors.

Jayson Stark’s One and Done Team

C: Ted Simmons (voted in by an Era Committee; to be inducted in 2021)

1B: Carlos Delgado

2B: Lou Whitaker

SS: Tony Fernández

3B: Matt Williams

LF: Brian Giles

CF: Kenny Lofton

RF: Moisés Alou

DH: Andrés Galarraga#

Pinch-hit specialist: Julio Franco

Opening Day starter: David Cone

# The author might insert Mo Vaughn (.906 career OPS) at DH, since Galarraga was in the NL.

Delgado (473 HR), José Canseco (462 HR), Dave Kingman (442 HR) and Darrell Evans (414 HR) are the only MLB hitters with 400+ career HR who were “one and done.” Simmons (1968-1988 MLB career) got “the HOF call” at age 70, after he and Marvin Miller received enough committee votes. Simmons’s eventual HOF induction is the only bright spot for Delgado here.

Delgado played part of the 2009-10 Puerto Rico winter season for the Carolina Giants, after concluding his MLB career with the 2009 New York Mets. The Giants played their home games at the Roberto Clemente Walker Stadium, Carolina, Puerto Rico.

Delgado’s Off-the-Field Work, Outspokenness and Links to Past Athletes

Perhaps Delgado’s greatest honor was receiving the 2006 Roberto Clemente Award, during the 2006 World Series, via Doña Vera Clemente, widow of Roberto. Delgado was quoted by Adrian Burgos in a June 8, 2019 La Vida Béisbol blog:

“The reason why I wore 21 is because of Clemente,” Delgado said at his Extra Bases Foundation office in Dorado, Puerto Rico. “As a Puerto Rican, you understand how big Clemente was. Obviously, we can go into his stats, the Gold Gloves, the All-Star games, and the batting titles … but the legacy, that fight for justice, social justice, I think is more important.”

Delgado opposed the U.S. Navy bombing of Vieques, a Puerto Rico off-shore municipality, as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He did so as a U.S. citizen, cognizant of the fact that Puerto Ricans serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, but cannot vote for President. (Residents of Puerto Rico can only vote in Democrat and Republican Primaries, but not in a general election.)

When the Atlanta Braves fired Fredi González as manager, mid-May 2016, leaving MLB without a Latino manager for the first time in 25 years, Delgado said: “It’s really sad. With all the players that come from Latin American countries, you’d want to see more managers.”

Delgado was the batting coach for Team Puerto Rico in the 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classics (WBC). Both teams won Silver Medals, after reaching the finals versus the Dominican Republic in 2013, and Team USA in 2017.

Delgado speaks his mind. There are those in the Caribbean (and elsewhere) who find this refreshing. Others opine that pro ballplayers and ex-ballplayers should just focus on the game, and ignore politics. Jackie Robinson, for example, befriended U.S. Senator Richard M. Nixon, in 1952, when Nixon was campaigning for Vice-President. Nixon, a huge baseball fan, visited with Robinson after Game Five of the 1952 World Series, in the visitor’s locker room at Yankee Stadium. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/07/upshot/jackie-robinson-and-nixon-life-and-death-of-a-political-friendship.html. Eight years later, Jackie supported the Republican ticket of Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge over John F. Kennedy JFK) and Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ). Robinson felt that JFK’s commitment to Civil Rights, then, was “insincere.” Moreover, the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket earned 39 percent of the black vote in 1956. Fast forward to 1960 when Jackie Robinson was denounced as an “Uncle Tom” by many, prior to this 1960 election. He supported Nelson Rockefeller to be the Republican nominee in 1964, before voting for LBJ in the November election, after Barry Goldwater became the Republican nominee. The point is this: it is OK for persons to express their opinions in a democracy, whether they be Carlos Delgado, post-2000, or Jackie Robinson, 1960-64, who spoke his mind.

With thanks and appreciation to Carlos Delgado, for conversing with the author at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, pre-1995-96 season. He was personable and pleasant. Jorge Colón Delgado furnished Carlos’s Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League regular season stats.

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