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The Baltimore Sun
O's Don't See Delgado As Political Baseball Baseball
November 17, 2004
Carlos Delgado refuses to join his teammates on the field during "God Bless America."
THE ORIOLES have it right regarding the politics of Carlos Delgado, the slugging first baseman who is high on the team's free-agent wish list.
"As long as any issue connected with a player does not detract from his being able to play, or the team from being able to function as a team, there is not a large concern," said Jim Beattie, the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations.
Amen. Delgado's convictions might elicit support from some fans and rub others the wrong way, but the Orioles' goal is to try to field a winning team. A player's political leanings shouldn't matter.
Delgado, 32, has batted .282 and averaged 38 home runs and 120 RBIs per 162 games for the Toronto Blue Jays since 1993. He is a perfect fit for the Orioles, who need a first baseman and a cleanup hitter, and there is speculation he might be inclined to sign here because Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada is his buddy.
Delgado also is opposed to the war in Iraq, which he has called "the stupidest war ever," according to the Toronto Sun.
When "God Bless America" was played at ballparks he was in last season, Delgado, a Puerto Rican, quietly refused to join his teammates on the field.
He never sought attention, and his stand, such as it was, went unnoticed until a July series at Yankee Stadium, where "God Bless America" is played during the seventh-inning stretch of every game. The papers wrote about it, and Delgado was booed.
"I'm not trying to get anyone mad," he said at the time. "This is my personal feeling. I don't want to draw attention to myself or go out of my way to protest. If I make the last out of the seventh inning, I'll stand there. But I'd rather be in the dugout."
The issue never intensified, possibly because Delgado continued to stand respectfully for the American national anthem before games, and also because he played mostly before sparse crowds at Toronto's SkyDome, where "God Bless America" is never heard. It just didn't come up that often. Most U.S.-based teams, such as the Orioles, play the song only on Sundays and holidays.
There could be more scrutiny if Delgado signs with a U.S. team, however, and it is possible some front office might worry about fan reaction or other complications. As a Toronto columnist recently wrote, the Yankees also need a first baseman, but owner George Steinbrenner is a noted patriot who probably isn't fond of Delgado's stand.
But most teams won't care, and shouldn't.
"What we found out," Beattie said, "is Carlos is a very principled young man who has some stands on things, and he sticks by them. If people talk to him and find out about him, they'll understand his thoughts behind this. He does things quietly. I was told [during "God Bless America"] he just walked back to the runway, out of sight."
Delgado has a history of acting when so moved. He was a longtime opponent of the U.S. Navy's use of Vieques, a Puerto Rican island, as a testing site for weapons.
Along with singer Ricky Martin and boxer Felix Trinidad, fellow Puerto Ricans, he protested in a full-page New York Times ad. The Navy pulled out of Vieques earlier this year.
Agree or disagree with him, Delgado is just voicing his conscience. It's shocking only because so few athletes do.
But if Delgado really wants to come to Baltimore after the recent, dismal years when no one would take the Orioles' "Confederate money," it shouldn't matter what his politics include. This is a player you would want under any circumstances.
Off the field, he is reportedly a positive clubhouse force, upbeat, thoughtful and team-oriented. On the field, although his production declined in 2004, his career numbers speak for themselves.
The Yankees and Mariners are among those also looking at him, and "it's going to take some time," Beattie said.
The fact that some fans might be offended by his politics isn't a factor for the Orioles.
"The political positions of our fans are not constant across the board," Beattie said, "so some will like [Delgado's position] and some won't."
But they would all cheer if Delgado led the team to the playoffs, which, it seems, is precisely the point.
This is baseball, not Congress; a world divided into winners and losers, not reds and blues. And while Delgado's politics might fire up radio talk show callers, they won't win a single game.
His bat, on the other hand, would.