One of the top players in Toronto Blue Jays history, Carlos Delgado would sign with the organization in 1988 out of Puerto Rico, making his MLB debut in 1993. The left-handed hitter would spend 12 years as a Blue Jay, with injuries pushing Delgado to retire in 2011 after stints with the Florida Marlins and the New York Mets.
For his career, Delgado is a leader in many of the statistical categories over the franchise’s history. He currently has the most home runs (336), RBI (1058), runs (889), walks (827), extra-base hits (690), and doubles (343), finishing his Blue Jays career with a .282/.392/.556 slash line with a .949 OPS in 1423 games. The Puerto Rican native would play 17 seasons in the MLB, finishing with a .280/.383/.546 slash line with 473 home runs, 1512 RBI, and a .929 OPS.
During his time in Toronto, Delgado would make two All-Star appearances while winning three Silver Slugger awards and the 2000 AL Hank Aaron award, earning himself a place in the Blue Jays Level of Excellence in 2013 as well as the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015. Known for his talents on the field, Delgado was also recognized for his political/social activism and his charity work in Puerto Rico, winning the Roberto Clemente Award in 2006 for his work through his foundation Extra Bases, as well as supporting education initiatives back in his home country, and also for visiting children in hospitals during his spare time.
In his first year of being eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame, Delgado received only 3.8% of votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America. This was below the minimum 5% threshold to remain on the ballot, meaning Delgado was a one-and-done candidate on his first year of eligibility.
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One major dilemma Delgado had to face was the 2015 ballot itself, as the inductee list was stacked with other talents like Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, and a host of other players on the ballot. Considering writers could only vote for a maximum of ten players, it is easy to see why Delgado was left off some ballots considering many of the players mentioned made the Hall of Fame either in 2015 or in subsequent years. He most likely would’ve received more votes in years with less notable players, but unfortunately found himself off the ballot very quickly.
Another aspect going against Delgado was his views off the field in regards to the American occupation of Iraq, with the slugger silently protesting in the dugout during the seventh inning stretch during ‘God Bless America’ during the 2004 season. This led to widespread media coverage and to Delgado being booed while playing against the New York Yankees, leading some to believe that his social activism may have been a contributing part in him not receiving some additional votes that may have helped him remain on the ballot. He also protested the United States using the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico for bombing/military practice, a practice that was ongoing until it was stopped in 2003.
Lastly, one could argue that Delgado did not have the stats and defensive ability to be considered for the Hall of Fame. Known for being a slugger at the plate, Delgado did finish his career with 1745 strikeouts in 8657 plate appearances and didn’t have the highest on-base percentage or batting average when compared to other HOF sluggers. At first base, Delgado would wrack up a -36 fDRS from 2002-2009 and would finish his career with 131 errors and a .992 fielding percentage in 1827 games. While his defensive ability was not abysmal by any means, he was primarily used as a first baseman after attempting to make the Blue Jays as a catcher and as an outfielder, and wasn’t really utilized other than as a designated hitter or first baseman from 1996 until he retired.
In an era headlined by players using steroids, Delgado has never been linked to using performance-enhancing drugs, and was still able to put up impressive numbers. When comparing him to other Baseball Hall of Fame members, Delgado has:
- More home runs (473) than the likes of Chipper Jones (468), Dave Winfield (465), Jeff Bagwell (449), and Vladimir Guerrero (449)
- A higher batting average (.280) than the likes of Ralph Kiner (.279), Cal Ripken Jr. (.276), and Eddie Matthews (.271)
- More RBI (1512) than Mickey Mantle (1509), Vladimir Guerrero (1496), Robin Yount (1406), and Larry Walker (1311)
- Higher OPS (.929) than Hank Aaron (.928), Tris Speaker (.928), Ken Griffey Jr. (.908), and Willie Stargell (.889)
If Delgado were to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, he would sit 22nd overall in terms of home runs, 42nd in terms of RBI, 137th in batting average, 25th in OPS, 17th in slugging percentage (.546), and tied for 65th in on-base percentage (.383). Not to mention that he was one of the main forces on some really rough years in Blue Jays history record-wise, and it’s a real shame that one of Toronto’s most prolific players isn’t seeing his name enshrined in Cooperstown or even on the current ballot.
While Delgado’s chances of making the Hall took a hit considering he is no longer on the ballot, the former first baseman can still make his way into Cooperstown via the Eras Committee (formerly the Veterans Committee). While this process will be years down the line, with his stats and off-the-field charity work, there is a chance that the Blue Jays could have another player represent them in the Hall of Fame, even if it’s years away.