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The Toronto Star

Politicos Silent; Delgado's Bat Speaks

By Dave Feschuk

July 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Toronto Star. All rights reserved.

Godfrey adopts diplomatic stance

In Saturday's Star, Blue Jays slugger Carlos Delgado said he doesn't stand during the playing of "God Bless America" because he is against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Delgado called the conflict "the stupidest war ever."

In the article, by sports reporter Geoff Baker, the first baseman also told of his work to aid residents of his native Puerto Rico in their effort to clean up an island that has been left contaminated by six decades of U.S. weapons testing.

Last night Delgado returned to the playing field after a 33-game recovery from a strained muscle in his rib cage. And while the U.S. talk-radio airwaves were buzzing with debate yesterday about Delgado's political statement - sports radio king Jim Rome, for one, generally applauded the slugger for his bold stance - the sleepy SkyDome was no cauldron of conflict.

Not that a baseball clubhouse is the best place to scare up an anti-war protest; the big leagues probably harbour more right wingers than the NHL. When one of the Dixie Chicks criticized U.S. President George W. Bush's march to war, Jays catcher Gregg Zaun, then of the Houston Astros, was quoted as saying, "There's a lot of idiot liberals in the entertainment industry. ... I don't think I'll ever buy another Dixie Chicks record as long as I live."

Still, even the staunchest of pro-war Blue Jays wouldn't criticize Delgado. Paul Godfrey, the club president who last year slammed the Canadian government's decision not to send troops to Iraq, supported Delgado's right to make a stand by taking a seat.

"Even though we may be on the opposite sides of the issue about whether to play 'God Bless America' or not, I totally respect where he stands," said Godfrey, the driving force behind the team's decision in 2003 to play "God Bless America" during the seventh inning stretch at SkyDome, a practice which has since ceased.

"(Delgado) is not a guy who would be disruptive. There are certain people I'm sure who'd protest in much more rebellious ways. I think that if he wants to show his protest (by not standing), I respect that. I have less respect for people who block traffic."

Delgado was caught moving at a rush-hour crawl in last night's sixth inning when he was picked off first base by Seattle Mariners pitcher Ron Villone, who'd hit Delgado in the shoulder with a pitch moments before. But the rust wasn't as evident for the rest of the evening.

Delgado used his first at-bat to bloop a double to centre field.

He promptly scored a run. And after going 14-19 in Delgado's absence, the home team won 7-6.

"It's good to have him back," said manager Carlos Tosca. "It's a relief."

Said Miguel Batista, the starter who got the win: "(With Delgado in the lineup) things can turn around for us in a heartbeat."

But this was no breathtaking return and Delgado doesn't promise to be a season-changing saviour, not with Vernon Wells and Frank Catalanotto still on the shelf with injuries, not with the Blue Jays nine games under .500.

Delgado was batting just .227 with eight home runs in the 49 games before he was hurt. And last night his bat wasn't the one that mattered most, not when Reed Johnson and Josh Phelps yanked long dingers to left field.

These, of course, could be the final days of Delgado's 12-year Hogtown tenure. His mammoth contract, which pays him some $19 million (U.S.) per annum, expires at season's end and the cash-poor Jays are unlikely to retain him next year.

Delgado's five-week rehabilitation has perhaps rendered him just healthy enough to be moveable before the July 31 trading deadline. The swirl of rumoured deals, already fierce before Delgado was hurt, will no doubt intensify as that date approaches.

And so the chief question surrounding him isn't necessarily "Should he stand?" It's "Will he last?"

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