When it looked like the Mets' entire season was coming apart in Washington last Thursday, one man stepped into the void to inspire the troops to play up to a higher level. Such speeches have been given many, many times in the past but they have rarely come from as unlikely a source as Darryl Strawberry.
This was a man whose sense of team spirit ran so deep that he punched Keith Hernandez during picture day. A man whose work ethic was such that he made running after fly balls look like it was harder than spending a shift in a coal mine and a man who recently quit "The Celebrity Apprentice" because reality television was too much of a grind. He has his good points, to be sure, but he's not exactly a traditional casting choice.
Strawberry reportedly told the Mets to stop worrying about what the media had to say and simply play better. The speech was not well received by a couple of new Mets as various reports had Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur asking the team to bar Strawberrry from coming in and giving his Chris Farley impersonation any future spins. Those players both deny having a negative reaction to the visit, but Strawberry told Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record that he's done offering his expertise where it isn't wanted.
When reached by phone on Tuesday, Strawberry declined comment, but he's let the Mets know he'll never set foot in the clubhouse again. Darryl was wounded, but was nevertheless able to understand that his message – and the in-your-face delivery of yesteryear – no longer resonate in the new millennium clubhouse.
We get it, they don't make 'em like the '86 Mets anymore. That team's heady mix of dirty uniforms, pugilistic notions and take no prisoners approach to nightlife led to a prodigious amount of wins. It would be spectacular if every team was like that but they aren't and that is easy to lament.
Here's the thing, though, the Mets are right now proving that this kind of stuff does resonate in a new millennium clubhouse. They've gone 4-1 since Straw paid a visit and Bay has been on a tear that's reminding people why the Mets signed him in the first place. Heck, Francoeur has avoided striking out in three of those games. It might not sound like much, but perhaps the memory of Strawberry's words are clouding his head just enough to stop him from flailing wildly at pitches nowhere near the strike zone.
There's been a lot of scrapping and fighting around the Mets in the last five days, including K-Rod's tussle with Randy Niemann before nailing down Sunday's victory. Niemann was on that '86 club as well, so evidence is that something those oldsters are doing is having the desired effect.