Delgado says '07 meltdown was a disappoinment because Mets were 'the best'

Updated: January 4, 2008, 2:14 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Carlos Delgado thinks the New York Mets have learned their lesson.

Carlos Delgado

Delgado

Trying to win their second consecutive NL East title, the Mets went 5-12 down the stretch last year and became the first major league team that failed to finish in first place after leading by seven games or more with 17 remaining.

"It was very disappointing because we know that we had the best team. And I believe that we still have a great team," the first baseman said Thursday on a conference call.

Delgado, who slumped through 2007, broke his left hand when he was hit by Dontrelle Willis' pitch during the final game of the season, when the Mets lost to Florida 8-1 and dropped out of a first-place tie with Philadelphia. It was a fitting end to a year in which Delgado batted .258 with 24 homers and 87 RBIs, his poorest totals since he became a big league regular with Toronto in 1996.

He hopes to start hitting off a tee on Monday.

"I was on a splint for about seven weeks after the season was over and then from that moment on I started my rehab," he said. "The first step was getting my range of motion back. I did that. And then we're in the process of strengthening. So I'm back to where I want to be, where I was before the injury."

Until the Mets make it back to the playoffs, their collapse will stick to them like gum to a shoe. New York had a 5.96 ERA during the final 17 games, third-worst in the majors during that span, and made 21 errors -- including a club-record 10 in a two-game span.

"We kind of assumed, for a lack of a better term, that we were going to win," Delgado said. "If you look back to 2006, which was a magical year for us, where everything kind of went our way, maybe we thought it was going to be the same way. And we kind of didn't play it out the last three weeks."

Why?

"I don't think it had anything to do with extracurricular activities," he said. "You've just got to kind of narrow your mind and go out and do what you've got to do and don't have any other thoughts in your mind except to win that game instead of thinking, oh, when we make it to the playoffs, we might play San Diego."

The 35-year-old slugger will make more of an effort to speak out this year if he sees teammates are not focusing.

"Every time I talk about leadership, it's a very sensitive issue because being vocal when you don't need to be vocal, it doesn't make any great leader," he said. "I think we have to deal with this situation as it presents itself."

New York hasn't made any splashy moves, but the Mets are among the teams hoping to acquire Johan Santana from the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees and Boston Red Sox are believed to be the top contenders for the two-time Cy Young Award winner, who can become a free agent after the season.

Tom Glavine left the Mets to re-sign with the Atlanta Braves, and New York hasn't replaced Glavine in the rotation.

"It would be nice to have a guy like Johan Santana. I'm not going to lie to you," Delgado said. "When you bring a guy from that caliber, obviously, it's going to make your team better. But, what is he going to cost you?"

Regardless of the team's pitching, Delgado knows he has to produce far more than he did last season.

"I had a horrible year, and I don't think I had an excuse," he said. "I did not make the adjustments when I needed to make the adjustments. It got to a point where I was thinking too much about what I was doing wrong instead of just going out and playing the game."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press