Delgado picks team that 'has a chance to win'
MIAMI -- Carlos Delgado is willing to stand up for his beliefs -- or, in his case, not stand up.
At his introductory news conference Thursday with the Florida Marlins, Delgado said he'll continue to not stand up 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, he would stay on the bench or go into the dugout tunnel.
"I wouldn't call it politics, because I hate politics," Delgado said Thursday after finalizing his $52 million, four-year contract. "The reason why I didn't stand for 'God Bless America' was because I didn't like the way they tied 'God Bless America' and 9-11 to the war in Iraq in baseball.
"I say God bless America, God bless Miami, God bless Puerto Rico and all countries until there is peace in the world."
Marlins officials, who gave Delgado the richest per-season contract in the team's 12-year history, made no objection to his war protest.
"The Marlins don't support it, and we don't not support it," team president David Samson said. "He's an adult. The club's position is that what he does is up to him."
Florida is mostly interested in Delgado producing runs the way he did with Toronto, where he hit at least 30 homers each of the past eight seasons. He's the kind of hitter the Marlins have long coveted -- a left-handed slugger capable of altering the balance of power in the NL East. He's also a box-office draw who boosted season-ticket sales at least fivefold this week.
The Marlins won out in the bidding over Texas, Baltimore and the New York Mets. Delgado wasn't surprised by the fervor with which he was pursued.
"What do you think I am, chopped liver?" he said with a grin.
Texas offered $48 million, then withdrew. The Mets offered $52 million and the Orioles $48 million.
"It wasn't that I came to the Marlins over the Mets. We were talking to a few different teams. It seems like the media made the Mets a bigger deal (than) what it actually was," he said. "I think this is the best fit for me to have a chance to win. And the fact that it's nice and warm here, the fact that it's only two hours from Puerto Rico, yeah, it is very nice as well, it's gravy."
His news conference took place at the Marlins' stadium in the Miami Dolphins locker room, and for a change the mood in the room was jovial. Among those in attendance were manager Jack McKeon and three of Delgado's new teammates -- Mike Lowell, Al Leiter and Jeff Conine.
As usual, McKeon drew the biggest laugh. He has lobbied for a left-handed power hitter ever since becoming the Marlins' manager in 2003.
"Jack, I guess now you know you've got the left-handed bat you want," owner Jeffrey Loria said.
"It's about time," McKeon responded with a playful grumble.
One factor influencing Delgado's choice of teams: He has yet to reach the postseason, while the Marlins own two World Series titles since 1997. The slugger said he noticed Loria's enormous 2003 championship ring.
"How can I miss it?" Delgado said. "He says he's going to make next year's bigger. ... This ballclub has a very, very good chance to make it to the playoffs. After being somewhere else for 10 years and not having the opportunity to smell the playoffs, I wanted to put myself on a team that had a chance to win."
During negotiations with the free agent, teams raised the issue of Delgado's stance regarding the Iraq war, said his agent, David Sloane. It wasn't an obstacle to a deal with any club because Delgado was willing to follow team policy regarding "God Bless America," Sloane said.
"He didn't like the politicization of baseball making use of the song," Sloane said. "But he told me, 'I will never do anything to place myself above my teammates.' If you have a policy that everybody has to be on the top step, he'll be on the top step."
The Blue Jays had no such policy, and neither do the Marlins.
Even Toronto teammates who disagreed with Delgado accepted his right to refuse to rise for the song. Conine predicted there will be little reaction from Delgado's new teammates.
"That's an opinion of his, and you have to respect that," Conine said. "He's man enough to stand by it. I don't think there's going to be one thing said or one ill thought in the clubhouse."
While Delgado doesn't make a public show of his protest, he was the target of scattered jeers when he played last summer at Yankee Stadium, the only park in the majors where "God Bless America" has been played during every game since the Sept. 11 attacks.
But he said reaction to his stance has been mostly supportive.
"Probably 90 percent of the people I've talked to say they agree with that," he said. "I don't do stuff so people agree with me. But it's always nice to get some sort of support."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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