Delgado is a Rattlesnake

rattle_delgado.jpgRattlesnakes are venomous, and thus some people refer to them as “poisonous”. Similarly, Carlos Delgado is poisonous, in the way he approaches and executes his job. Poisonous because as the de facto veteran “leader” of the club, other Mets look to him as an example and might consider emulating his style.

For example, in the bottom of the fifth of last night’s game, there was a popup hit into foul territory on the first-base side by Aaron Rowand with two outs and men on base. Brian Schneider ran a good 100 feet in a hustling effort, but missed the ball by about two feet as the wind blew it just out of his reach. Watching the entire play, and taking digital photographs, was Carlos Delgado, who had a fine view and thanks to the zoom lens was able to get nice, clear shots of the effort. Earlier in the game, we watched Delgado make a half-hearted effort at a ground ball that skipped past him and Luis Castillo and into right field, with neither player making a diving effort.

This was not the first time we’ve seen Delgado make half-assed efforts at baseballs. Rather, this is his usual approach to balls that come off the bat. Sometimes it looks like he’s making a valiant attempt to AVOID batted balls.

I didn’t expect Delgado to get the ground ball, nor the popup. But, my feeling is this: if you are making SIXTEEN MILLION DOLLARS to play baseball, you best be a.) sweating; b.) breathing heavy; and c.) getting dirty. These three elements really need to occur when you are supposed to be, but not delivering as, a cleanup hitter and major offensive threat.

Here’s the thing. I know that age has robbed Carlos Delgado of his most valuable skills. However, that doesn’t mean he should be sleepwalking his way to his paycheck. If you can no longer do one thing well because your age makes it out of your control — then you must at the very least make a full effort with the actions that are in your control. This is called “earning your salary”. Delgado is good at scooping balls in the dirt, and good at occasionally hitting a pitcher’s mistake — sometimes over the wall, sometimes for a single. Every other aspect of his game is awful. His awfulness would be mildly acceptable if he hustled, dove for balls, and looked like he was trying. But he doesn’t — he looks like a lazy bum who doesn’t want the ball hit to him.

ron_swoboda_catch.jpg

Right here is where I bring up Ron “Rocky” Swoboda, a fan favorite from the late 1960s and early 70s. For those of you too young to have seen him, Swoboda was a terrible fielder. He played the outfield — or rather, the outfield played him. Every fly ball was an adventure, and ground balls were far from routine. But, he hustled after every ball hit his way, regularly dove for balls, and thought nothing of smashing into walls. He’s most famous for a reckless, full-extension, diving backhand stab of a line drive in the 1969 World Series (this was known in NYC as “The Catch” after Willie Mays went west and before Endy Chavez robbed Scott Rolen). Bottom line: he was far from the most talented player on the field, but he was almost always the smelliest and the dirtiest. In other words, he earned his paycheck — which was probably around $40,000. Nice pay for an average Joe back then, but even with inflation it’s a far, far cry from the eight-figure salary collected by Delgado.

These days, Delgado is a very old 35. He labors around the bases, can’t bend down on ground balls, and has cinderblocks for feet. It takes three base hits to score him from first. In the past few years, his OBP has dropped 100 points, his slugging percentage slid double that. He always struck out at a high rate, but in the past at least he took walks. Now, walks are rare, in part because pitchers would be silly not to throw him strikes, and mostly because he rarely sees more than three pitches in an at-bat. His forte is his ability to hit homeruns, but he only hits one every 28 times to the plate (that comes out to around 17 in a 500 at-bat season). He’s also supposed to be an “RBI guy”, but he has driven in a total of only 18 runners (besides himself) in 55 games. That is AWFUL. You want to know how awful? Let me throw this at you: Delgado has driven in those 18 runners, out of 163 “ducks on the pond”. That’s right — Delgado has seen 163 runners on base when he’s come to bat, and driven in only 18 of them. That’s a rate of about 11 percent. To put that into perspective, consider that David Wright and Ryan Church are around 18%, Carlos Beltran is at 17%, and Luis Castillo is at 14%. (Most MLB hitters are somewhere around 15-20%, with the true run producers closer to 20).

Carlos Delgado is a wonderful human being, a truly nice guy with a big heart, and he has an extremely impressive resume. However, his once-amazing skills have diminished greatly, and he plays the game like a tired senior citizen on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Even if he starts to hit for power with some regularity, it won’t be enough to make up for his other shortcomings. Most importantly, he is the acting leader but doesn’t provide an especially inspirational example. A leader should have an insatiable hunger to get to the baseball while on defense, and a relentless need to beat the ball to the bag on offense. Every time Delgado pulls up and jogs down the line on a routine grounder, or waves his mitt at a passing grounder, he’s sending a signal to everyone else on the team: “No need to sweat, no need to dirty the uniform — save your energy. Hustling and diving are not important to winning.”

And THAT message is poisonous to everyone else on the field and in the dugout.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude June 5, 2008 at 8:22 am
    Pretty much reinforcing what we already know. Delgado stinks, and his attitude is detrimental to the team. So what do the Mets do? Or, perhaps more appropriate, what CAN the Mets do? For $16 million smackaroos, Delgado ain’t going to be cut, nor will he be flat out benched, unless his average slips to under .200 or something. I also don’t think he’ll be traded, not because Omar wouldn’t be open to it, but because I think it’s next to impossible to find a suitor for him. Yes, the Indians’ offense has been anemic and might roll the dice. Yes, Boston has lost David Ortiz to injury and way want a replacement at DH. Yes, other teams have big contracts they want to shed and may agree to a bum-for-bum swap and hope Delgado is rejuvenated by a change of scenery. But other teams can see just as well as we can that Delgado is pretty much finished. His bat speed is gone, his plate coverage is poor, his approach on offense is woeful, his defensive range is non-existent, and his attitude is “poisonous.” He really has nothing to contribute, even as an AL DH.

    The one speck of good news is that Delgado is done as a Met after this season. Guaranteed. Until then, all we can do is figure out how Delgado can best help the team in his current state, and surround him with players who can make up for his shortcomings. Platoon him, bat him 7th, replace him in a defensive switch late in the game. All I know is that the last 2 weeks have shown us that the Mets can still win despite of him. And as long as he stays around .240-.250 while stroking 20-25 HR, it should be good enough to keep him in the lineup.

    I don’t want to sound like I’m defending him. I agree there’s nothing that gets me angrier than watching a multi-million dollar player not give his all on the field and seemingly not give a damn about his team’s success…especially when that player is on my favorite team. I’m just saying there really aren’t very many better alternatives, so let’s just live with him until he’s cut loose this offseason.

  2. debmc June 5, 2008 at 9:38 am
    Joe, this is a dead on piece about the biggest piece of dead wood I’ve seen on this team in a long time. He absolutely looks as if he simply mails it in, and I think it cannot be considered coincidence that that’s the type of attitude with which the Mets have played for a year now, up until very recently.

    I think there are issues with Delgado and Willie, and there should be. No way can Willie be happy about what he’s getting from Delgado.

    Unfortunately, there really isn’t a way to hide him, either on the field or in the lineup. Or in the clubhouse. As isuzudude said, we will probably have to live with him until his contract mercifully expires at the end of this season.

    We don’t have to like it, though.

  3. Coop June 5, 2008 at 9:57 am
    Tell us how you really feel Joe, LOL. Just kidding because you are a lot nicer than I ever will be to Laverne Delgado or Carlos Delwhiffo, as we like to call him over at GBU. As Deb says, we have to live with him, but we don’t have to like it. I do like, however, that Willie is challenging him, even if Delwhiffo aint responding to it, except for his little “I need to talk to Willie about that.” Right, like Delgado can’t see (or rather smell) that he is stinking up the joint. Nope, that wasn’t shea’s bathrooms, Joe. Anyway this piece was dead on but judging by the way the team has been stepping in spite of Laverne, I think someone is taking the reigns of the team behind the scenes. Maybe it’s Wills, maybe is D-Dubs. But in any case, they are saying, your multi million dollar contract aint keeping us down anymore Delgado. yeah!
  4. David W. June 5, 2008 at 9:58 am
    Delgado needed to take charge on that play–much easier for a first-baseman than for a catcher. But–not to defend a player who irritates the hell out of me and everyone else–maybe he is all too aware of his declining skills and thought that Schneider would have a better chance of catching the ball.

    What about the Omar Vizquel pop-up that Beltran didn’t catch in the 8th? That was the center fielders ball all the way, no reason not to catch it. But I doubt that Beltran was somehow emulating Delgado–he makes too many great,great plays for me to believe that. Or think about Church’s hardnosed-play, Pagan going over the wall—I’m not as worried as you that Delgado sets the tone for the team. Its bad enough that he plays awful defense.

    Speaking of which, Tatis looks overmatched in left field. I will be happy when Alou returns, and happier still when somebody athletic plays that position again.

    SWOBODA! Good days. Loved the sliding catch also….

  5. caryn June 5, 2008 at 10:03 am
    need to chime in with my assent for the general excellence of this piece. it’s the best discussion of both the physical and the mental issues that i’ve read yet.

    i keep thinking about the quote about buck o’neil and ernie banks, how people say that buck taught ernie how to play, and buck would always insist that ernie already knew how to play – all he did was teach ernie how to play with love. and i realize that today that’s not going to happen, but the leadership/mental/attitude issue is frighteningly important. people keep getting on david wright’s case to step up and be a leader (hi, coop!) and while i fervently agree, there’s no way he can with delgado’s attitude dominating.

    i don’t see how he is helping this team right now.

  6. joe June 5, 2008 at 10:17 am
    Caryn — that’s exactly what I was trying to get out: Delgado is in David’s way.

    True enough, PERHAPS Beltran, Church, etc. are not influenced by Delgado dogging it. But when any player (young or old) sees a top veteran starter jogging down to first, and sees the manager look the other way, that player must think “huh, I guess that’s OK to do here.”

    What is Nick Evans thinking, watching Delgado trudge around the field? “Wow, I like the big leagues! You don’t have to carry your luggage, you stay in great hotels, you eat steak dinners, and you don’t even have to sweat when you’re on the field!”

    Delgado did not set the tone in the last week, and the Mets can win in spite of him — for the short term. But what about April and May?

    And BTW, isuzudude, send me a note when Delgado gets up to .250 … it’s going to be a quick flash and I don’t want to miss it.

  7. Coop June 5, 2008 at 11:46 am
    I think the team attitude has changed greatly from 2007 and we can see this in the way not only they are winning, but the WAYS in which they are winning. Coming from behind in the late innings, not backing down when the opposing team comes back in later innings, they want to win and it’s clear that guys like Beltran (with his famous “we’re the team to beat Rollins” quote at the beginning of the season) and Wright WANT TO WIN, regardless of fat lazy and slow loafers who cover first base. Oops, sorry did I say that out loud? LOL – And Joe, i truly hope that the guys are treating Nick Evans as “badly” (LOL) as Floyd treated DW in his early years.
  8. Micalpalyn June 6, 2008 at 10:56 am
    speaking of Uncle Cliffy……thats the attitude difference we are looking for…is it any wonder the Tampa Rays have found a speck of life.
  9. Coop June 6, 2008 at 6:01 pm
    Well there’s the diff – the Rays were a team with virtually NO vet leadership. Cliff is just one guy – mets are overrun by not only aging broken veterans, but the young guys are just diminished. cliff is teaching the young guys how to win – Delgado is just collecting a paycheck. Shame, really.
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