Carlos Delgado Talks Career, Retirement

When Carlos Delgado cracked the Blue Jays’ Opening Day roster 17 years ago, the two-time defending World Champions knew the 21-year-old catching prospect was powerful. He had punished Southern League pitchers the year before, hitting 25 home runs, posting a .954 OPS and establishing himself as one of the best prospects in baseball. But when he had eight home runs after 13 games in April of 1994, everyone was surprised, including Delgado.

“I was a kid in a candy store,” he told MLBTR over the phone from Puerto Rico. “I’m at the big league level, I’m hitting, I’m hitting home runs and it’s great. I was on cloud nine."

Pat Gillick, a 2011 Hall of Fame inductee who was Toronto's GM at the time, credits Blue Jays scout Epy Guerrero for his role in discovering and signing Delgado in 1988. Seeing the teenager develop from a prospect to a big leaguer was nearly as exciting for Gillick as it was for Delgado.

"We all knew that he had tremendous power potential," Gillick recalled. "But potential is one [thing and] results and performance is what counts."

Delgado

The Blue Jays weren’t sure of Delgado’s defense behind the plate, so they put him in a new position, left field. Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash was Toronto’s assistant GM at the time and he says Delgado’s hitting ability forced him onto the big league roster.

"Obviously his bat earned him the opportunity but we struggled as to where to play him defensively," Ash said in an email. "I think in retrospect that brief opportunity helped him better transition when he came back to stay."

Nearly two decades later, Delgado has announced that his playing days are over and the reasons for his retirement are firmly grounded in reality. His hips allow him to do normal daily activities, but they prevent him from swinging the way he once did.

Delgado had hoped to play in the majors again, so after a brief comeback attempt with the Red Sox last year, he underwent hip surgery in the fall and started preparing for the rigors of another MLB season. About two weeks ago, Delgado was watching video of his swing and he realized his playing career was over.

“I watched myself hit a few times and it didn’t resemble anything like the swing that I had, so at that time and with the discomfort I had, I knew that it wasn’t there anymore,” Delgado said.

Before his hips started limiting his mobility, Delgado was one of the most durable and powerful players in the game. He averaged 35 home runs and 148 games per season from 1996-2008, posting a .937 OPS over the course of that 13-year stretch. Now 38, Delgado finishes his career with 473 home runs, four of which came on a single night. Delgado won’t say his historic power outburst is the highlight of his career, but he acknowledges that it’s up there.

“That four home run night in September of 2003 was great, but I can also say that Opening Day 1994 was phenomenal because it was my first Opening Day at the big league level,” Delgado said. “I can look back to my first All-Star Game in 2000, which was a great experience. It was pretty surreal. Even when I was in Puerto Rico in 1995, I played for the so-called ‘dream team’ and we swept the Caribbean Series.”

Delgado spent four seasons with the Mets and another one with the Marlins, who signed him to a $52MM contract in 2005. Yet he spent most of his career – 12 seasons of it – in Toronto and he remains grateful that the Blue Jays didn’t give up on him when he didn’t work out as a catcher or a left fielder.

“They were patient with me,” he said. “The city embraced me like family. It was phenomenal having that opportunity and I met some great friends there like Shawn Green, Pat Hentgen, Jose Cruz Jr., Darrin Fletcher [and] Roger Clemens.”

The Blue Jays didn’t make the playoffs once during Delgado’s tenure (excluding 1993, when he had two plate appearances as a callup). So he looks back at the Mets’ 2006 playoff run as one of the best experiences of his career, even though the Cardinals beat the Mets in the seventh game of the NLCS.

“It was phenomenal,” Delgado said. “It was a great experience. It was an energy that you’d never experienced before. I wish I could have done it more often. I wish it had happened every year, but it didn’t happen. After 12-13 years when I finally made it, it was great.”

Now that it’s all over, Delgado says he’ll spend some time with his wife and children before deciding whether to pursue other opportunities in baseball. When eligible, he’ll become a candidate to join former teammate Roberto Alomar in the Hall of Fame, but he says he doesn’t intend to worry about Cooperstown.

“It would be a great honor,” Delgado said. “I would be lying if I told you that it wouldn’t be. But by the same token, I try to keep it real, because that’s a situation where I really have no control. I played the game with passion, I played the game as hard as I could for as long as I could and I did what I wanted to do, which was have fun and play … I think I had a pretty good career. I put some numbers on the board, but like I said it’s beyond my control."

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.


30 Responses to Carlos Delgado Talks Career, Retirement Leave a Reply

  1. pastlives 4 years ago

    cheers to a great person, player, and career. thanks for making some tough years in toronto watchable, carlos.

    • BenchedMark 4 years ago

      one of the greatest Jays of all time!!

      • Lunchbox45 4 years ago

        best home grown position player by far

        • Encarnacion's Parrot 4 years ago

          Hmmm.. I’m not sure I can agree with this. Tony Fernandez was ok, and played a premiere position like a beast.

  2. He hit so many home runs off of windows restaurant that it looked easy. Now it very rarely happens that anyone hits one up there. He is one of the classiest players to ever play. He is one of the main reasons I have become such a big baseball fan and he has been missed in Toronto since 2004. Enjoy your retirement.

  3. I feel this weird sense of pride and accomplishment that MLBTR gets phone calls and emails from players and teams now. I’ve been around since the days when you could actually go a full day with no new updates, there really weren’t regular features and you certainly weren’t getting inside info. *sniff* our little website is all grown up.

  4. Shows you how skewed the steroid era was. Averaged 35 homers over a 13-year stretch and made exactly two all-star teams.

    • $1519287 4 years ago

      I heard some people talking about that yesterday and I don’t think ASG appearances are a fair way to evaluate Delgado. Giambi and Tino Martinez got much more support in terms of fan votes, as far as I can recall, and first base is a competitive position. Delgado has 49 WAR which puts him in Vizquel, Puckett, Grace, Lou Brock, Carlos Beltran, Will Clark territory. HoF territory but no sure thing.

      – BNS

  5. One of the greatest Jays ever… in true “where is Toronto?” style, pictured in a Mets uniform.

    • Infield Fly 4 years ago

      Ey, I loved Delgado in Toronto AND NY.

      Two great towns, and two teams to love him on. Works for me!
      (But yeah, he is definitely pride of the Jays. I give props!).

    • $1519287 4 years ago

      We didn’t have access to any Jays photos. Mets and Marlins only. Would have loved an old shot of him in the catching gear.

      – BNS

      • Lunchbox45 4 years ago

        ask and you shall recieve

        • Infield Fly 4 years ago

          I see you’re still smarter than us (and more drunk)!

          GO JAYS!!
          (didn’t forget it THIS time!)

          • Encarnacion's Parrot 4 years ago

            Glad you filled in the last bit this time.

        • $1519287 4 years ago

          That’s great!

  6. boraswannabe 4 years ago

    God Bless America…

  7. NickinIthaca 4 years ago

    So here’s my question… with all of the hooplah and backlash against confirmed (and accused) steroids users getting into the Hall, does that mean that someone like Delgado, who has never been implicated as far as I know, gets in now? His numbers are close/borderline (if only because of the injuries), but if all of the players with first ballot numbers (Bonds, Manny, A-Rod, Palmeiro, Clemens, etc.) are going to be ignored because of their association with steroids, someone has to get in right? Are voters just planning on not voting any one in for the next 15 years because those with Cooperstown numbers are thought to have juiced, and those who didn’t juice didn’t reach those numbers?

    Just wondering where the madness will end, I guess….

    • The real problem is that there are still enough guys who would vote for Bonds, Sosa, Clemens and McGwire that they’ll stay on the ballot, but not enough to actually vote them in. This, combined with the 10 vote limit, will really hurt some of those fringe candidates.

    • Lunchbox45 4 years ago

      I think your phrase ‘someone has to get in right?’ is the biggest issue..

      I for one don’t think that because admitted or caught steroid users are refused entry that lesser players make the cut. I think they will just not annoint anyone a HOF instead

  8. to this day i will never understand how A-Rod beat Delgado in the 2003 MVP voting. Delgado’s stats were better than A-Rod’s, and he wasn’t juiced, but was it because of A-Rod’s defense? I know Delgado wasn’t a valuable fielder, but he still put that Jays team on the map for sure. He made players around him better, ala Vernon Wells. Too bad we can’t take MVP awards away :( delgado still deserves it over that steroid freak.

  9. BlueJaysFTW 4 years ago

    Why is there a picture of him as a Met?

  10. Carlos Delgado, the 2003 AL MVP.

  11. wickedkevin 4 years ago

    Delgado comes off as the guy who would cry his eyes out for a WS ring late in his career. I wish that could have happened for him.

  12. Looking forward to all the hack sports writers stories about how they can’t vote for him.

  13. How did you get Carlos Delgado’s phone number?

  14. bobbybaseball 4 years ago

    Delgado and Shawn Green both benefitted from Roger Clemens, if you know what I mean.

    • buchachan 4 years ago

      Hmm… Trolling, what a new concept. Now go away.

      • bobbybaseball 4 years ago

        Hmmm…ignorance, what a new concept. You are blind.

  15. Another Traffic Post! Keep Going…

  16. He had a great career. Disappointed he couldn’t make one last run.

    I was in the crowd his last day as a Blue Jay. He fell short of 100 RBI that season, finishing with 99. He was on deck for the last out with one man on (Orlando Hudson was on base, Vernon Wells flew out to end the game). If he had hit 100, he would’ve had 9 straight years of 100 RBI seasons.

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