All Smiles As The Mets Introduce Delgado
By Joe McDonald
FLUSHING, NY - Nothing could stop Carlos Delgado’s million dollar smile at his press conference at Shea - not any question from about his political views, nor any inquiry about his handling of the New York media.
But there was nothing to frown at, because the slugging first baseman went from the fire sale Florida Marlins to a contender in Flushing.
“I’m very open to the idea of coming to New York,” Delgado said. “I’m here because I want to be part of the New York community. I’ve never had the opportunity to play in a playoff race.”
The first baseman now gets to be the centerpiece of a lineup which boasts hitters he calls “Mr. Wright and Mr. Reyes” along with Cliff Floyd and his friend Carlos Beltran, who Delgado was in touch with numerous times since the trade was consummated last Wednesday.
And it was the thought of that lethal lineup which made manager Willie Randolph light up on a warm late November day.
“When you add a Carlos Delgado, it stretches out your lineup,” Randolph said. “And it gives you another solid foundation piece. The thing about Carlos is he hits lefties and righties very well.”
The manager said he is not thinking about batting order, but he will have a few months to figure it out.
Mulling it over was what Delgado had to do last January when he decided to take Florida’s offer over the Mets. After he signed with the Marlins, the first baseman said he was upset with the way the Mets played off his ethnicity.
The organization and their new acquisition consider that matter closed and looked forward to having a lasting relationship over the next three years of the deal.
Another problem, which seems solved, is Delgado’s refusal to stand for “God Bless America.” The first baseman started his protest in 2003 over his disapproval of the War in Iraq and said it took four months for anyone take notice. The situation was brought up to Delgado by Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon and his new employee agreed to abide by the Mets’ team policy of standing for the patriotic song.
“I will not put myself in front of the team,” Delgado said. “What I believe as a person is not going to be a distraction to the ballclub.”
Delgado now needs too win over the fans. He said he would be able to handle the New York scrutiny and will “be in front of his locker” not matter what how he performs during the season. If he duplicates the .301 with 33 home runs and 115 RBI he hit last year in Florida, there shouldn’t be any problem.
And the Mets will need him to anchor the offense. Even with talks with Manny Ramirez talks heating up, Delgado needs to bring consistency to a lineup, which at times had trouble scoring runs last year.
“I have known Carlos for a long time,” Randolph, who considers Delgado a friend, said. “He’s solid and you get the total package with him. We get to see first hand what kind of person he is.”
Delgado will wear number 21 next season for the Mets in honor of fellow countryman and Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, but didn’t comment on if he would switch if Kaz Matsui’s 25 became open. Yet that’s for the future and nothing could wipe Delgado’s smile off his face at Shea.