09/25/2003 11:54 PM ET
Delgado smashes four homers
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
Carlos Delgado pumps his fist after hitting his fourth homer Thursday night. (Aaron Harris/AP)
Delgado's homers: 56k | 300k
TORONTO -- The champagne was on ice before the changeup left the playing surface. Carlos Delgado swung his way into the history books on Thursday night by slamming four homers in as many at-bats, and his teammates celebrated by bathing him in bubbly once he entered the clubhouse.
Need some historical perspective? Delgado's monstrous night at the plate has been equaled just five times in baseball history. Fifteen players have hit four homers in a game, but the slugger was just the sixth to do it in four at-bats. The four long balls added up to 1,646 feet in distance -- or a little bit less than a third of a mile.
And this next nugget is amazing, if not unprecedented: Two of the four homers tied the game, and one gave the Jays an early lead.
"That's the best feat I've ever witnessed on a baseball field -- bar none," said Toronto manager Carlos Tosca. "That's as amazing a thing as I've ever seen."
Tosca wasn't alone in that opinion. Delgado's teammates gave him a standing ovation from the top step of the dugout, and the team's general manager returned to his baseball roots. The awesome display of power made a giddy fan out of J.P. Ricciardi, who's normally as cool and unflappable as they come.
"At some point, we're all fans, where you sit back and respect the game for what it is. You respect when people do great things," Ricciardi said. "Even those of us who have been in the game a long time, there are things that make you sit back and say, 'Oh my God.' Tonight was one of those nights. I don't mind saying I was a fan."
And Delgado? The slugger was thrilled with both the results and their circumstances. His career day at the plate happened on a day when he felt less than 100 percent. Complaining of a cold, he took a brief pregame nap and awoke in a dream state. Players often talk about getting in the zone -- but this was more like the Twilight Zone for Delgado.
"I forgot about it. I'm on antibiotics for a cold, but I felt good out there," he said. "You never know what's going to happen on a baseball field. You can't predict it. I felt pretty crappy before the game today, but this is definitely the best day in my baseball career."
That's saying something, especially for a full-fledged superstar. Delgado already owns franchise records in several categories, including home runs (303), RBIs (955) and runs scored (814). He set several other team marks on Thursday, including the single-game standard for total bases (16) and the single-season RBI record (141).
Delgado never really likes to talk numbers, though. He's more impressed with the intangible aspects, the fact that he came up big when his teammates needed him most.
"It's a responsibility that comes to you -- you don't ask for it," he said. "The best analogy I can do is Michael Jordan, and I know I'm not as good as him. When the game's on the line, everybody knew he was going to get the rock, but he got the rock and he scored. It's the best feeling for a player, doing something against all the odds. That's what keeps me going."
What does it mean in the grand scheme of things? Well, it may just be one game, but it's an incredible highlight that will inevitably remain in everyone's minds when it comes time to vote for postseason awards. And in one of the most tightly-packed fields in recent memory, any advantage helps.
In the first half of the season, Delgado was everyone's obvious candidate for AL MVP. He put together a gaudy RBI total (97) by the All-Star break, but he cooled off considerably in the second half. Still, he leads the league in RBIs and is in the top five in home runs, runs scored, walks (109), on-base percentage (.428) and slugging (.592).
What does all that add up to? As far as his teammates are concerned, it means an MVP resume.
"I think it should. He was already going to be one of the top vote-getters," said Wells, a candidate in his own right. "I think this should help his chances a little bit."
"I don't know if he was ever out of it. He's had a fantastic year and he's had a fantastic career here," Tosca said. "It doesn't happen a whole lot nowadays, because of free agency and that type of stuff. But he's a special player, and on top of that, he's a special person."
Like statistics, Delgado doesn't like to talk much about awards. What he will talk about is his everyday effort and the improvement of everyone around him. With three days left in the season, the Blue Jays are just one positive result from their preseason goal of 85 wins.
"I'm just going to go out, play hard until the last day. I'm very happy with the way things have gone this season," he said. "We got three games left, and every little bit counts. I think we're in the middle of doing something really special with this ball club. I really think we turned the corner. The guys in here understand how close we are to being really good."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.