Darryl Strawberry, recently selected for the Mets’ Hall of Fame, did not return the favor to his former team when asked Tuesday about its roster moves this winter. Pushed to grade the Mets’ offseason – good or bad – Strawberry was not very flattering of the front office.
“Oh, man, you’re putting me on the spot, huh?,” Strawberry said. “Well, I’ll put it like this: Could have been better. You could have put a couple more pieces in the puzzle for them. I know they signed Jason Bay. The big loss was the Beltran situation. This team, if they want to really get over the hump, they need Carlos Beltran in their lineup and to perform like he’s capable of performing to help this team move forward.
“But I think when you look at pitching, I think a little bit more pitching. Hopefully guys will bounce back – [Mike] Pelfrey, [John] Maine will bounce back this year, and be more consistent in what they do. [Johan] Santana is going to be Santana. You’ve got to get your other guys in that rotation to be able to come through and I think that’s important for them.”
Strawberry, along with Joba Chamberlain and Lou Piniella, was honored Tuesday at the 30th annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner, a fundraiser for the AHRC New York City Foundation. He’s also a special instructor for the Mets – he’ll visit Port St. Lucie for a week starting Feb. 27 – and a commentator for the team’s network, SNY. Regardless of his role, Strawberry still swings from his heels, and he believes these Mets need to get some attitude.
“Of course they do,” Strawberry said. “I mean, they haven’t quite found that yet. I know a lot of times the players probably get tired of hearing about the ’86 team, but that’s what the fans adore – our confidence, our swagger. We didn’t take anything for granted. But at the same time, we wouldn’t let teams push us over either.
“I think playing in New York you have to have that. You can’t be pushed over. Teams come in here and drill hitters, stuff like that, and you don’t retaliate. We didn’t allow that to happen.”
Even so, Strawberry believes these Mets can fight back – if they stay healthy. Despite his proclamation of a so-so offseason, he won’t bail on the Mets before the equipment truck leaves for Port St. Lucie.
“They have the capability. It’s just a matter of are they confident enough? Do they believe in themselves? Are they sensitive about dealing with the media? You looked in our clubhouse, guys couldn’t wait to talk, to tell you a story. That’s just the way it is here in this city, that’s what made us the way we were, and I think that’s what’s going to have to happen with this ballclub.
“Because when you look across town, those boys over there, they play and they play together, and that’s what it’s all about when you play here. You’ve got to play together. It’s not about individual stats – it’s about a team effort.”
In addition to his snap analysis of the Mets, Strawberry also had a curious response when asked about Mark McGwire’s recent admission of steroid use. It was during spring training last year that Strawberry sat on a dugout bench and said he would have used steroids if given the chance – a claim he reiterated Tuesday night. But Strawberry shared McGwire’s dubious claim that they did not influence his power numbers.
“Well, I don’t believe it helped him,” Strawberry said. “How do I know? I never used them. I wish they had it when I was around because I would have used it. But I can say this as far as the home runs -- the 70 home runs, the 60 home runs, those guys having years like they were having -- I just believe that the pitching was watered down, and these guys were already great players, established as home run hitters. I just believe the ballparks were smaller, so it’s hard to say. I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. I couldn’t really tell you what they do for you.”