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TAKING THE RAP
Steve Wulf
July 13, 1987
Darryl Strawberry has been hitting a sour note with his teammates, and the Mets are singing the blues
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July 13, 1987

Taking The Rap

Darryl Strawberry has been hitting a sour note with his teammates, and the Mets are singing the blues

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My name is Darryl, I'm a baseball player
There's one thing I forgot to saya
When I'm on the field, I'm on top of the world
I get screams from all the girls.

That bit of creative poesy is from Chocolate Strawberry, written by The Kangol Kid of the Brooklyn rap group UTFO and recorded by New York Met star Darryl Strawberry on Monday of last week. On Tuesday night, Darryl wasn't on the field because he wasn't feeling on top of the world. He begged out of Wednesday night's game, too. So the only screams Strawberry heard last week were from his irate teammates who thought he was jaking it.

The Strawberry Affair was the most significant episode in a troubled week for the world champions, who have Metamorphosed from a backslapping, happy-go-lucky band that last season won only two games less than the '27 Yankees into a backstabbing, cranky-go-unlucky Murmurers Row that was trailing the first-place Cardinals by eight games as of Sunday, the season's unofficial halfway point. Last week, in no particular order, Jesse Orosco asked to be used more often or be traded, Ron Darling pitched his 14th consecutive winless start, teammates rapped Strawberry, Strawberry rapped his teammates and said he wanted out when his contract expires in '89, Gary Carter was booed for the first time in New York, club president Frank Cashen called Dwight Gooden on the carpet, Mookie Wilson asked to be traded and the whole team generally played baseball like it ought not to be.

The Mets' plight has not exactly evoked weeping in dugouts around the National League. The lack of sympathy probably has something to do with New York's arrogance, both real and imagined. "We really don't care," said St. Louis pitcher Danny Cox. "No one felt sorry for us last season," said Cardinal second baseman Tommy Herr.

"It's amazing how things happen the year after you win," says Cardinal manager Whitey Herzog, trying not to smile. "Strawberry wants to be traded. Wilson wants to be traded. If Frank Cashen obliged everybody, there wouldn't be many players left over there."

The week actually began in high anticipation for the Mets. The Cardinals were in New York for a three-game series, and though the Cards held a 6½-game lead, the Mets and their faithful felt they could get back in the race with a sweep. There was only a hint of trouble: a story in the New York Post with the headline JESSE'S IDLE THREAT: RUSTY OROSCO WOULD SEEK TRADE IF WORKLOAD DOESN'T INCREASE. It was a good headline, even if it did cause people to wonder if Rusty Orosco was any relation to Rusty Staub.

Strawberry spent part of the day in a Queens recording studio with The Kangol Kid, UTFO (Un Touchable Force Organization) and another renowned rap group, Whistle. First, Whistle gave its rap ("The pitcher threw a pitch and we all stared, and Darryl hit the ball to Korea somewhere"), then UTFO ("Four years in the major leagues, started at 20, once had nothing, now has plenty") and then Strawberry. Between raps, the female chorus would coo "Chocolate Strawberry."

While this was going on, Mets captain Keith Hernandez was in his New York attorney's office in a quite different session, giving seven hours of depositions concerning his divorce case. It was a bad day for Hernandez all around: Jack Clark of the Cardinals passed him in the voting for National League All-Star first baseman.

The game was no picnic either for the Mets. Cox plunked Howard Johnson in the ribs in the first inning, then turned his back as HoJo yelled, "Don't be starting anything with me." Cox later said he didn't hear a thing, adding cryptically, "I wake up, I hear birds chirping. Howard Johnson fits in that category." The Mets blew a 7-3 lead, losing 8-7 in 11 innings as Rusty Orosco gave up four walks, two hits and the winning run in two innings of much-needed work. Strawberry, who had two hits and an RBI in five times up, began to feel that he was coming down with something.

Everybody in the stadium screams for me Strike one, strike two, but no strike three 'Cause I'm def, that's right, I ain't soft, I even get paid on my day off.

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