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A Man Of Principle: Delgado Makes Headlines Speaking His Mind The Ultimate Professional Sticking To His War Protest
A Man Of Principle: Delgado Makes Headlines Speaking His Mind
SAM BORDEN DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
January 23, 2005
New York Daily News
Bland, limp, mindless quotes are the general rule among professional athletes these days, diplomacy valued far above candor when it comes to talking about anything deeper then the dip of a slider or the pop of a fastball.
But Carlos Delgado is different. A 32-year-old Puerto Rican who has spent the past 12 seasons playing for a Canadian baseball team, Delgado fiercely embraces his American right to pretty much say whatever the heck he wants, whenever the heck he wants to.
Don't be fooled: He isn't a loudmouth. To the contrary, those who know him well bristle at the idea he might be seen as boorish and use words like "soft-spoken" and "respectful" and "polite" to describe him.
Still, those who don't know him well might think otherwise. In particular, the thousands of fans at Yankee Stadium last summer who booed him for refusing to stand with his teammates during the singing of "God Bless America" in protest of the war in Iraq might see him as a pot-stirrer who may soon have an even bigger forum to air his views if he signs a free agent contract with the Mets.
"To be honest, that's just crazy," says Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi, actually breaking into laughter at the thought. "Carlos is not like that. He's a smart guy, there's no doubt about it, and he's a worldly guy. You won't see him just reading the funny pages in the paper. But he's not a preacher, not a guy who's going to be on the front and back pages of tabloids for the wrong reasons. That's not his style."
Indeed, Delgado carried out much of his protest in silence last season. No one even noticed his retreat to the clubhouse during the song until he commented on it midway through the year.
At that point, however, it was hard to ignore.
"I think it's the stupidest war ever," he told the Toronto Star in July. "Who are you fighting against? You're just getting ambushed now. We have more people dead now, after the war, than during the war. You've been looking for weapons of mass destruction. Where are they at? You've been looking for over a year. Can't find them. I don't support that. I don't support what they do. I think it's just stupid."
That's a label he would also use to describe the United States' use of Vieques, a tiny island off the mainland of Puerto Rico, as a location for testing its Navy's military weapons. Not surprisingly, Delgado was the first high-profile athlete to speak out against America's six-decade presence in Vieques, echoing the complaints of many of the island's residents who claimed that uranium-depleted shells used in the testing were causing increased cancer rates and other illnesses.
He became involved in the Vieques protests after his father, Carlos Sr., introduced him to Ismael Guadalupe, a friend of the elder Delgado's from the Socialist Party in Puerto Rico. Guadalupe was a long-time leader of the protest movement, according to the Star, who had been imprisoned for six months in 1979 after trespassing on the Navy base.
"He wanted to help out with more than just the situation with the Navy," Guadalupe told the Star last summer. "He wanted to help the people there. He wanted to help the children."
Delgado certainly isn't the only athlete to make a political statement on the field or court, but the motivation isn't always the same. Former Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf's 1996 protest against the playing of the national anthem was based on his Muslim beliefs and, after sitting during the playing of the song - in violation of NBA rules which state all players must stand on the foul line - Abdul-Rauf was suspended without pay for two days before saying he would stand during the anthem but pray silently.
Toni Smith, a basketball player for Manhattanville College, turned her back on the American Flag during the anthem in 2002-03 season as an anti-war statement and says she felt a sense of duty not to lie to herself about her opinion by simply standing still during the anthem. In a phone interview last week, she said she can understand what may have motivated Delgado to take his stand.
"Celebrities so often get praised for speaking out, particularly when they express a majority view," Smith says. "But it should also work the other way. We should embrace those people who use their fame to also voice a minority one. My decision was a spontaneous one. It didn't affect my teammates in any way at all and that was important to me because it wasn't designed to be anything more than a personal statement. I didn't want to do anything that would hurt the team."
Delgado, apparently, agrees. His agent, David Sloane, has said several times this winter that if Delgado's new club has a rule on players standing for "God Bless America" then Delgado will follow it.
The Mets do not have such a policy and several players frequently missed the playing of the song last season because they ran into the clubhouse for one reason or another - like changing into a fresh jersey. Major League Baseball does not have any firm rules regarding players' presence for "God Bless America" and a spokesman for the league said there weren't any firm rules requiring each player to stand for the pregame anthem, either.
Ricciardi said Delgado did not approach him before beginning his protest and pointed out that, while he personally disagrees with Delgado's opinion, the club had no rules about standing for the song and thus, had no problem with Delgado's choice.
"Look, he doesn't like wearing a hat much either during batting practice and infield," Ricciardi says, "but we have a rule about that: You've got to wear a hat. So what does Carlos do? He wears the hat. He's never been about doing anything that would disrupt the team."
The Mets are surely much more interested in Delgado's career .282 batting average or the fact that he hasn't hit less than 30 home runs since 1996. Landing Delgado would give GM Omar Minaya a trio of Hispanic stars - along with recently signed Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez -to lead the Mets back to respectability and, in their minds, competitiveness with the Yankees for the city's limelight.
"He is a unique player," says Al Leiter, who played with Delgado in 1995-96 and was part of the Marlins' contingent that tried to woo him last week. "He has all the tools and is a presence in the lineup every day."
Earlier this winter, Delgado visited Sloane and spent a few nights at his Florida home. Delgado wanted to take a cerebral approach to his free agency, so the two men examined each of the 29 other clubs besides Toronto and created a list of places Delgado would be interested in going.
"He wants to make a thorough, well-thought-out decision," Sloane says. "That's what you'd expect from Carlos."
But wherever he ends up, his protest will always be remembered. "One thing about New York is that they are passionate," Delgado said after being booed in the Bronx. "You know what they like and don't like."
At this point, it's safe to say most Mets fans like him at first base next season, whether he's sitting, standing or just plain-old stretching once the seventh inning ends.
Delgado Lauded For Professionalism
By Mike Berardino
January 26, 2005
Two words spring to mind for Carlos Tosca when he considers Carlos Delgado.
"Ultimate professional," Tosca, the former Toronto Blue Jays manager, said Tuesday night. "This guy will play with pain and not let you know about it. This guy wants to tee it up every single day."
Having managed Delgado for parts of the past three seasons, Tosca knows better than most what sort of impact the slugging first baseman could have on the Marlins. It's not just the fat statistics or the way he balances out a lineup with his left-handed power.
The positives go way beyond the obvious when it comes to the Marlins' $52 million investment.
"Carlos is a guy that shows up on time, does his work and is very prepared going into a game," said Tosca, a former Marlins minor league manager now coaching for the Arizona Diamondbacks. "He keeps notes on pitchers that he faces. Even in the dugout, he's going to be making notes on what that particular pitcher is trying to do to him.
"From a teammate standpoint, he's a guy that is very congenial, very approachable. He has a wealth of knowledge and experience, and is willing to share it."
Marlins pitcher Al Leiter, who played parts of three seasons (1993-95) with Delgado in Toronto and was part of the delegation that met with him Jan. 15, raved about the signing as well.
"It's not only that Delgado is left-handed, but the guy walks," Leiter said. "He takes pitches. How nice will that be for these guys that are first-ball swingers to see this? ... He's a good guy. Smart. Articulate. He's worldly in the sense he's very into art. He immersed himself in Toronto, which is a very cultural city."
Like Leiter, Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell spoke with Delgado before he made his decision to choose the Marlins over the Mets and Orioles. Even though the acquisition figures to bump Lowell down a notch in the batting order, he was all for it.
"It's a big pickup for us," Lowell said. "When I heard we were one of the last four teams, I was getting excited. Then as it started getting closer you start imagining what the lineup is going to look like. Just him being left-handed and the perennial home run guy everyone fears around the league is a huge boost.
"With our two leadoff guys, it gives us a legitimate three, four, even five run producers behind them. He solidifies the whole lineup without a doubt. His numbers show that he's a lineup-changing force."
In his nine full seasons with the Blue Jays, Delgado suffered through five losing seasons and never won more than 88 games or made the playoffs. But that wasn't for lack of trying.
"He really wanted to make the Toronto situation a winning situation," Tosca said. "He felt that's what he lacked to kind of [put an] exclamation point on his career. He really wanted to see that team win."
With the Marlins, Delgado figures to get that chance.
"I'm very happy for him," Tosca said. "I know you guys have a good team. He will be a tremendous asset to your ball club."
Who's Carlos Delgado
January 26, 2005
Position: First base.
Opening Day age: 32
Birthplace/Residence: Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.
Bats: L; Throws: R
Ht.: 6 feet 3; Wt.: 230.
Career highlights: On Sept. 25, 2003 against Tampa Bay, became the 15th major-leaguer to hit four home runs in a game. Was the sixth - fourth in the American League - to hit four homers in consecutive at-bats. ... Also that season became the ninth player to total 90 or more RBI (97) before the All-Star break. ... One of 11 players with four three-homer games. ... Made his major league debut Oct. 1, 1993, against the Orioles.
Superlative stats: Finished among top five AL RBI leaders three times (1999-'00, 2003), including first in 2003 with 145; top six in AL on-base percentage from 2000-03; top 10 in AL slugging percentage from 1998-'00 and 2002-'04; led the AL in on-base plus slugging (1.019) in 2003; Led the league in total bases (378) and doubles (57) in 2000; fell one RBI short in 2004 of reaching the 30-homer and 100-RBI marks for a seventh straight season; Is the Blue Jays' franchise leader in runs, doubles, home runs, RBI, walks, strikeouts, total bases and slugging.
Awards and honors: Two-time All-Star (2000, 2003); AL MVP voting (fourth in 2000, second in 2003); Sporting News Player of the Year (2000); AL Hank Aaron Award (2000); Silver Slugger Award (1999, 2000); USA Today Baseball Weekly 1992 Minor League Player of the Year.
Delgado Sticking To His War Protest
From Inquirer Wire Services
January 28, 2005
Carlos Delgado is willing to stand up for his beliefs - or, in his case, not stand up.
At his introductory news conference yesterday with the Florida Marlins, Delgado said he will continue to refrain from standing this season during the playing of "God Bless America."
An opponent of the war in Iraq, Delgado refused to stand when "God Bless America" was played last season at games involving his Toronto Blue Jays. Instead, the native of Puerto Rico would stay on the bench or go into the dugout tunnel.
Marlins officials, who gave Delgado the richest per-season contract in the team's 12-year history ($52 million over four years), made no objection to his war protest.