Work in Sports
Suspension looming for beleaguered Strawberry
Posted: Friday February 25, 2000 07:11 AM
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- The New York Yankees know a yearlong suspension might end Darryl Strawberry's career. They also realize a lesser penalty could send the wrong message to youngsters who view star athletes as role models.
The Yankees debated the pros and cons Thursday while awaiting word of what action commissioner Bud Selig will take in the wake of Strawberry's positive cocaine test.
A high-ranking Yankees official said Selig's decision is not expected before Monday.
Strawberry, an eight-time All-Star, has twice been suspended for drugs, and there have been strong signs that he will be penalized for the season. There also have been reports that baseball might include a provision to shorten the ban if Strawberry stays clean.
"It's not an easy situation when you've had multiple infractions and a long history," pitcher David Cone said.
And while none of the Yankees want to see Strawberry's career end -- he turns 38 next month -- no one can be sure what penalty would be in the designated hitter's best interest.
"What's best for him as a person? I don't know. More intensive care, obviously, to begin with," Cone said.
"But I'm reluctant to link his baseball career with staying clean. One's a life issue, one's a career issue. For me, the life issue is more important. If you're going to piggyback the career onto this life issue, and how it affects him, to me would be a mistake. Regardless of what happens, he's got to get his life in order."
Strawberry failed a drug test Jan. 19, violating terms of his probation from a no-contest plea to charges of cocaine possession and soliciting a prostitute in Tampa last spring. A judge approved the Florida Department of Corrections" recommendation for enhanced supervision and treatment.
"He's trying. I believe that," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
"If you don't know somebody I think you're quick to judge and say there's no excuse for this, no excuse for that. But when you know somebody who seems to be fighting this thing, I think you become a little more patient with situations. But again, he still has to be accountable for what he's done. There's no question."
Owner George Steinbrenner has been supportive, too, calling Strawberry's problem with drugs a medical condition that "we're going to have to keep working to find a cure for." He said Selig will study the facts of the case and consult with medical experts before making a decision.
Torre was opposed to Steinbrenner signing Strawberry in 1996, but he's now glad the owner made the move because he was able to get to know a side of the player that most people don't see.
"Baseball has been his whole life, and this could be the end of that part of his life. ... I feel more empathy than I do any kind of anger or being upset," the manager said.
"When you know Darryl, it's not easy to be objective in this whole thing," he said.
With the retirement of Chili Davis, the Yankees were counting on Strawberry to be the team's regular DH this season. A trade to fill the spot is a possibility, however Torre also has options within the team.
"I'm sure there's choices that can be made outside the camp," general manager Brian Cashman said. "It's premature to talk about that stuff while we're waiting to find out what is going to happen."
Torre said Jim Leyritz, who had been expected to be a right-handed compliment to the left-handed hitting Strawberry, could wind up with the job on a full-time basis.
"It's tough to think that you'd want to do this thing with a right-hander all year because of Yankee Stadium for no other reason," Torre said. "A lot depends on what the rest of the club looks like."
Switch-hitting Tim Raines, who is coming back after missing all but 58 games last season with Oakland because of Lupus, might be considered depending on his early play.
"You want a guy like Raines around, but first things first," Torre said. "First, you have to make a decision if we're better with him or not."
The Yankees would like to stay away from using young players, such as first base prospect Nick Johnson, from filling the DH spot. The left-field battle between Shane Spencer and Ricky Ledee could also impact the decision.
"You get halfway through spring training, we'll start developing in our mind who fits in certain places," Torre said. "You don't want to do something out of desperation, where you're going to wind up weakening one part to strengthen the other."