Darryl Strawberry admits he hasn’t followed Trevor Bauer’s career closely. But the former Mets slugger knows that a pitcher with Bauer’s swagger – and talent – could be an ideal potential fit in Queens.
“That’s what you have to have – you have to have personality,” Strawberry said. “But you have to be able to back it up at the same time. You could have the swag about you, but you have to play when you get here.
“Hopefully, any guys who do decide to come to New York – just bring it all with you. Bring it to the ballpark. That’s what fans love.”
Bauer, the former Reds ace who is the prize of the free agent pitching market, won the NL Cy Young Award last season with a 1.73 ERA. If Bauer – or another mega-free agent such as outfielder George Springer – ends up with the Mets, Strawberry says they should educate themselves on the challenge they’re taking on in a big market.
“You’re not playing in Cincinnati or Houston. Can you accept the fact of being booed by fans and challenged by the media?” Strawberry said. “That’s everything they have to look at before they come.”
Strawberry, who played for the Mets and the Yankees, knows what he’s talking about, especially since he was a linchpin of those powerful – and brash – mid-1980s Mets teams.
“That’s what made us history,” he said. “That’s what made us great. We had personality and swag and every year we had a chance to be in it.”
Strawberry, the 58-year-old who still holds the Mets’ career record for home runs, spoke in a wide-ranging telephone interview to promote his upcoming book, “Turn Your Season Around,” opining on everything from Sandy Alderson’s re-emergence as the head of the club’s baseball operations to which Mets stars ought to have their numbers retired next.
“Good question,” Strawberry said of potential retired numbers. “I think there’s quite a few that should’ve been in the book at some point, especially from the ’86 team: (Gary) Carter, myself, (Keith) Hernandez and Gooden from those years.
“David Wright, his number should be set aside.”
At that point in the conversation, Strawberry added that he hopes the Mets will make more of an effort to recognize the great “players of color” the team has had in its history.
“I think the Mets, in some sense, need to change their culture,” Strawberry said, adding that he feels they didn’t acknowledge enough of “the history of so many of us who have played and who stood out the most.”
“I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do. Me and Doc (Dwight Gooden) are big African-American players and did a lot at such a young age in the organization. I’m just saying players of color – José Reyes. They never, to me, really ever did anything for that.”
There are only six retired jersey numbers in Mets history and that includes No. 42, which was retired throughout baseball in 1997 in honor of Jackie Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodgers star who was the first African-American in MLB.
The jerseys of Tom Seaver (No. 41), Mike Piazza (No. 31), Casey Stengel (No. 37) and Gil Hodges (No. 14) are also retired. Jerry Koosman’s No. 36 is essentially retired, too, but the pandemic forced the ceremony planned for last season to be postponed until 2021.
Strawberry was inducted into the Mets’ own Hall of Fame in 2010, the same year as Gooden. Three other African-American players are in the Mets Hall of Fame, too: Tommie Agee, Cleon Jones and Mookie Wilson.
“I’m not saying it has to be us (Strawberry and Gooden),” Strawberry said. He added: “We had faults, Doc and me, but we performed all those years” – a reference to off-the-field problems, including addiction, during their careers.
Overall, Strawberry is optimistic about the Mets’ future, especially because he agrees with Alderson about the importance of player development. After all, Strawberry, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1980 MLB Draft, came up through a Mets system that produced stars.
“Sandy is a baseball guy and he knows how to build. My hope for the Mets organization is that they can go back to building up the farm system,” Strawberry said.
He also had some advice for Pete Alonso, the slugger who shattered Strawberry’s rookie record for homers in 2019. Alonso encountered some struggles in 2020 as his batting average fell 29 points to .231 and his OPS sagged from .941 to .817.
Alonso hit 10 home runs in his final 91 plate appearances to finish with 16, which put him on a pace for 45 over a 162-game season.
“I think the key is, having the season he did, you either learn from it or you don’t,” Strawberry said. “I saw some games where there was too much trying to pull everything. It’s about staying on the baseball and hitting it hard.
“With his kind of power, it’ll go a long way. I learned that with my own skill set. Power, it takes care of itself.”
Strawberry’s book, which will be published Jan. 12, isn’t about baseball. “It’s about my faith, the way I am today,” Strawberry said. “I’m such a totally different person than when I was playing baseball.
“I’m an evangelist. It’s such a joy to go out and help other people find their way.”
In a non-pandemic year, Strawberry would spend 250 days a year traveling for his ministry (findingyourway.com). He switched to Zoom events this year and now hopes a book can add to whatever help he can provide.
“I know so many have lost direction with the pandemic, the racial tensions, the divisions between people,” Strawberry said. “I’ve written it because I believe it’s a tool to help people understand, no matter where you are, God can help you, can change you. He reached me.”