Straw's advice to Reyes: Stay in NY

Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets

Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets looks on during the sixth inning of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. (Sept. 24, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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With Jose Reyes playing in what could be his final games wearing a Met uniform, Darryl Strawberry had this message for him Saturday: Don't make the mistake I made.

Strawberry knows exactly what Reyes is going through because he had the same experience 21 years ago.

At the age of 28, just as Reyes is now, Strawberry was coming off a 37-homer, 108-RBI season and weighing offers from the Mets and his hometown Dodgers. When the Dodgers upped their bid to $22.25 million for five years, the Mets didn't match. Strawberry jumped to the Dodgers -- and spent the rest of his career wishing he hadn't.

"It's a tough situation to be in," Strawberry said. "I know if I had to do it all over again, I would have stayed. It looks good on the other side, but it's not always good as the place that you're used to. When you're young, you don't realize that, for me. I was young and didn't realize what New York meant to me.

"Tell Jose I said New York is a great place. No matter what you have to go through, how difficult it gets, this is the place where you want to play."

Reyes often has repeated his desire to finish his career with the Mets, so that doesn't seem to be the biggest issue in these negotiations. When told Saturday of Strawberry's cautionary tale, Reyes reiterated that stance.

"Everything is a consideration," Reyes said. "I think playing here in New York means a lot for me. Like I always say, I don't want to leave here. I want to stay here. But at the same time, I don't know. There's no doubt, I want to stay here."

Strawberry hit 252 of his 335 regular-season home runs with the Mets and became a New York icon as a larger-than-life member of the immortal 1986 club. Reyes has labored through much more disappointment than success in Flushing.

More than anything else, it was the business side of the game that pushed Strawberry to the West Coast. "I think I was just personally fed up with management," he said. "It never had anything to do with the media or the fans or playing in New York. When you look back over it, then you realize, God, that was so stupid, I was so young, what was I thinking about? Leaving New York City to go to L.A. or anywhere. This is the greatest place to play."

Strawberry visited Citi Field before Saturday's doubleheader to promote a new line of "All-Stars for Charities" fruit snacks that he's developed to help raise funds for his foundation's battle against autism.

On a different front, he said he's talked with former teammate Gary Carter, who is undergoing treatment for inoperable brain cancer. Strawberry is a colon cancer survivor who was first diagnosed in 1998.

"It's tough what Carter's going through right now," Strawberry said. "It's a real struggle for him. You see a guy like Gary, he's always been in the middle of battles, and winning, and he was a part of what we were all about over here, and now he's in the biggest battle of his life.

"We just continue to pray for him. Hopefully there's a miracle, because sometimes you need a miracle, and hopefully his miracle comes. I've had a few miracles and I'm just hoping and wishing that Gary has his miracle come true."

Strawberry is planning an '86 Mets reunion at his Douglaston restaurant on Oct. 21. So far, 29 players are scheduled to attend -- with Carter among them. That group is considered one of the most beloved in New York sports, and Strawberry feels as if Reyes -- if he stays -- can be remembered in similar fashion.

"The fans here never forget the legacy that you leave for yourself, and Jose has a chance to do that," Strawberry said. "He's a remarkable player and he still has a chance to do some greater things before his career is all over with. It's a place that cares about him. When you look around, you'll see a lot of [Mets fans] wearing No. 7. That speaks for itself."

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