Tom Verducci of SI.com has written an interesting article which theorizes that Carlos Delgado is the best "clean" power hitter of the Steroid Era. While history has hopefully taught us to take such a lack of taint with a grain of salt, it's a strong premise.
Delgado may wind up his career with 500 home runs, 500 doubles and 1,500 RBI, yet he's never mentioned as a contender for Cooperstown, something that Verducci finds unfathomable. He'd probably have a better shot if he'd won the MVP in 2003. Alex Rodriguez won that year, a year in which he's now admitted to using steroids.
When Verducci asked him if he doesn't get the credit he deserves because others took steroids, Delgado offers a different opinion.
"I didn't get full credit because I was playing in Toronto," he said. "That's it. That's my opinion. I might be wrong. I don't think about the whole steroid deal. I don't know if somebody did it or how much it affected the game. I just look at the numbers. That's the only thing you can go on. It's pretty hard to prove how big the impact is. I'm not good with those guessing games. I just go with the numbers."
Again, it's a strong argument, but Verducci (and Delgado for that matter) are ignoring another reason why Delgado hasn't been bathed in acclaim. He's never been the warmest character in baseball and hasn't played the political game of baseball all that well. Last season, for example, Delgado, mired in a terrible slump, refused to take a curtain call after hitting a home run. It was silly, but it created more of a furor from fans who were already down on him.
More significantly, Delgado's refusal to stand for "God Bless America" during several seasons is probably something that sticks in the minds of many people. It was a principled stand, but principles don't much matter in such situations because they get lost in the headlines of a guy refusing to stand for a patriotic song.
The funny thing is, Delgado has used his wealth and fame to do plenty of good things for plenty of people. He won the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player in honor of their sportsmanship and humanitarian works, in 2006 and has been an advocate for causes that he believes in. He doesn't share that part of himself, though, so the sometimes sullen, quiet face becomes his public face.
That doesn't mean he's a Hall of Famer, but it does offer another thought about why Delgado may not be appreciated for being as good a player as he has been throughout his career. There's more to playing the game than just playing the game, something that, for better or worse, doesn't interest Delgado.