Sunday, December 23, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 2007

Part 46 of our 50 Year Masher...
What is it: 2007 Topps #125, Carlos Delgado

What makes it interesting: Oh nice, another Topps Acid Trip. But just to cross you up, now they put these bizarre color swatches on a black background with the unreadable foil names. It's not the nightmare of 2004-2005, but it's pretty close.

Carlos Delgado only played three full seasons with the Mets, plus the beginning of a fourth that was derailed by injuries. In his time here, he probably conjured up every possible sentiment you could have towards a player, which I suppose makes sense because his Mets career ran the gamut from totally awesome to embarrassingly miserable.

Few Mets were as badass as Carlos Delgado was in 2006. He arrived in the midst of a Marlins fire sale after spurning a free agent offer from the Mets the winter before. Whether he wanted to be here or not, he was here, and he certainly made the best of it that first season, hitting 38 Home Runs, most of them of the monstrous variety and driving in 114 runs. His presence in the cleanup spot was the piece the Mets needed to become a championship contender. He provided more than adequate protection for Carlos Beltran and David Wright, who both took off that season while surrounding him in the lineup. Among his signature moments that season were a walk-off Home Run against the Pirates in May, a 3-run Home Run on a Sunday Night against the Yankees, and his 400th Career Home Run, a Grand Slam against the Cardinals that helped the Mets on their way to overcoming a 7-1 deficit. Delgado was also a unifying presence in the clubhouse, a charismatic leader who helped bring the club together and on to greater things. It's no shock that the Mets ran away with the NL East that year, aided by Delgado's huge season. After many years toiling away on losing teams in Toronto, Delgado would finally have his first taste of Postseason Baseball.

Delgado was great in the regular season in '06, but he was outstanding in the Postseason. He registered 4 hits in his first 4 At Bats against the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS, including a bomb of a Home Run off Derek Lowe that tied the game in the 4th inning, and a single to drive home the go-ahead run in the 7th inning. He also chipped in a key hit in the clinching Game 3. After a pair of Doubles in Game 1 of the NLCS vs the Cardinals, Delgado followed with a pair of Home Runs and 4 RBI in Game 2. In Game 4, Delgado hit another Home Run, and tied a Mets Postseason record with 5 RBIs as the Mets won in a rout. Unfortunately, few of his teammates matched his offensive output, and the Mets ultimately fell to the Cardinals in 7 games. In that 7th game, Delgado was walked 3 times.

But, for as good as he was in 2006, that's how badly he regressed in 2007. Delgado got off to a slow start and never did get going. The power wasn't there anymore, he didn't hit his first Home Run until April 23rd, and he was languishing with a sub .200 batting average. Nobody could put a finger on the problem, whether it was some operations he had on his wrist for carpal tunnel syndrome or something else, Delgado had just flat-out lost it. He still had his moments, including a walk-off Home Run against Armando Benitez (the famous "double balk" game) in May and a 3-run Home Run in a key game in Atlanta in August, but come September, Delgado would be knocked out of the lineup altogether with a hip injury, and though he would return, it wouldn't be enough. An errant fastball from Dontrelle Willis on the final day of the season broke his wrist, and much like the Mets themselves, Delgado's season ended crumpled in a heap outside the batter's box. His 24 Home Runs and 87 RBI the worst numbers he'd posted in years.

Clearly, Delgado was on the hot seat going into 2008. Whether or not he'd be able to rebound was very much in doubt, given the multiple wrist injuries and the hip impingement he'd been diagnosed with. The Mets needed Delgado to be Delgado, badly. But Delgado's start in 2008 was, perhaps, even worse. He was so poor in April that he was booed off the field and eventually benched for a few days. When he returned, he responded with a 2-Home Run game, but then went right back in the tank. On June 25th, Delgado was hitting .229 with 11 Home Runs and 35 RBI.

Then came that game at Yankee Stadium. 2 Home Runs and a club-record 9 RBI that turned both Delgado's season and the Mets season around. From that point forward, Delgado was like a freight train, hitting the same monster Home Runs we'd been accustomed to seeing from him. With the Mets in a fierce battle for a spot in the Postseason, Delgado stepped up and carried the Mets. He went 5-for-5, including the game-winning single in a game against Atlanta. 3 days later, he backed Mike Pelfrey with a pair of 3-run Home Runs against the Astros. Later that week, after a disastrous bullpen meltdown in Philadelphia, Delgado hit 2 more Home Runs, aiding the Mets to a comeback victory against their rival. In Milwaukee, he hit a key 2-run Home Run in the 8th inning to lead the Mets to a win. When the Phillies came to New York, Delgado stole the show on a Sunday Night, blasting 2 Home Runs off Cole Hamels that may still be traveling, and followed that up with another 2-Home Run game against Washington. Delgado wasn't just back, he was beginning to earn chants of "MVP!" at Shea Stadium. Delgado hit the final Grand Slam at Shea against the Cubs, after working Carlos Zambrano into a frenzy. Ultimately, the Mets fell short once again, but Delgado was a huge reason that they even had a chance to contend that final day.

Delgado's contract option for 2009 was picked up by the Mets. How could it not be after his awesome finish to 2008, that brought from the depths to 38 Home Runs and 115 RBI. But which Delgado would show up in 2009? That was still a question mark. The Mets could ill afford to have the bad Delgado. But though he got off to a decent start, the ultimate answer was that they would have No Delgado. The hip injury he suffered in 2008 had worsened to the point where he needed surgery. It was initially thought that he might be back before too long, but he ended up missing the remainder of the season. After another hip operation, Delgado ultimately retired, his final game coming innocuously on May 10th. Not surprisingly, the Mets as a team began to sink when Delgado was forced out of the lineup.

Carlos Delgado, for his 3+ years with the Mets, hit 104 Home Runs and 339 RBI, which is pretty damn good, and when you think about what the injuries and slumps did to him, well, his numbers could have been astronomical for those three seasons. For his career, Delgado retired with 473 Home Runs and 1512 RBI over his 17 seasons. His legacy with the Mets is somewhat mixed, I suppose, but I'll always remember him fondly. It helps that I witnessed many of his best moments in person. Perhaps seeing him being great colors my perception, but I think that deep down, most Mets fans will agree with me.

Card back:

No comments: