PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Relationships with former New York Mets teammates that Darryl Strawberry says he still holds dear have been damaged by remarks he made in his new book, "Darryl." And comments Strawberry made in a news conference yesterday eventually may sever those relationships.
Several veteran Mets expressed surprise and outrage when they learned of accusations, speculation and opinions Strawberry and his co-author, Art Rust Jr., included in the book. They were upset, in particular, by Strawberry's speculation that Dwight Gooden had used cocaine during the 1986 World Series, speculation Strawberry said he based on Gooden's having tested positive for cocaine the following spring.
Advised during the news conference of negative reactions among Mets players, Strawberry said: "I could care less what the Mets think about me" and "Whoever don't like it, too bad." He said he had no regrets about the book.
Although Gooden declined to comment, teammates were quite willing to defend the pitcher. "Why would he bury his friend that way?" said Kevin Elster, himself a friend of Strawberry. "It's weak and it's premeditated. This is a book, man. This isn't something he said off the top of his head after a game.
"He's like Steinbrenner. He always wants a storm brewing. I saw him in January. He said he misses New York. This is his way of getting back to New York. But why bury Doc? I still love him. We still are friends, unless I hear from him that we're not. But I can be mad at him for this, and I am."
David Cone, also a close friend of Strawberry, reserved judgment on certain aspects of the book. "But I wonder why he'd alienate his friends," Cone said. He said he intended to speak with Strawberry.
Meanwhile, Frank Cashen and Al Harazin, respectively the chief operating officer and general manager of the Mets, dismissed charges of racism Strawberry had raised in the book.
Cashen said, "I don't plan to read the book. I don't plan to read excerpts from the book. I don't want to know about the book."
Harazin had termed the charges of racism "garbage" Monday night.
Earlier yesterday, before the Los Angeles Dodgers' morning workout in Vero Beach, Strawberry said some of the thoughts and passages in the book didn't originate with him, but with Rust, the onetime WABC radio talk-show host who was Strawberry's second choice as the author. Strawberry acknowledged Rust had "a thing for Cashen."
He said he chose Rust, who is black, "because I wanted someone who understood what it's like to be black in New York."
Dan Castellano, the Mets' beat reporter for the Newark Star-Ledger throughout Strawberry's tour with the Mets and the author of another book about Strawberry, had been Strawberry's first choice. But Castellano, who is white, declined.
Strawberry also indicated he hadn't read all of the book. "But I know what's in it," he said.
The following passage from the book was cited: "I felt as if I were playing baseball at Dred Scott Memorial Park in glorious downtown Johannesburg instead of in the middle of New York City." Strawberry couldn't identify Dred Scott, the slave, and identified Johannesburg as being "in Africa."
Still, he said, "It's my book. It's a great book, too. I'm proud of it."
A year ago, he was pushing a different book, the Bible. He said he had embraced Christianity and professed love for Cashen, Harazin, his new Dodgers teammates, his former Mets teammates and the Mets' beat reporters.
Yesterday, in the news conference in Dodgertown, he said he loved everyone and called himself "a wonderful person," and then, addressing the Mets' beat reporters, said, "You guys are sick up there [in New York]." He later said of Harazin, "I still feel today the man knows nothing about baseball."