Free to go, with all that money

May 26, 1994|By Michael Ventre | Michael Ventre,Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES -- I wish he would give all the money back. The entire $8 million. Every penny.

I know it's a pipe dream. I know this is the '90s, and professional athletes are as likely to pass up a check as they are to pick up one in a restaurant.

But I wish Darryl Strawberry would do the decent thing for once and hand back all of the money he's taking out of the pockets of the Dodger faithful for this season and next.

Remember, Dodgers fans, you're paying for this. When you buy tickets, hot dogs and pennants, when you pay for parking, when you fork over your hard-earned cash so that you and your family can go to the park and take in a game, all that money flows to one central fund.

And out of that kitty, they pay the ballplayers.

Since Darryl Strawberry became a Dodger, he has been getting paid for doing almost nothing. He was a money pit with legs.

In fact, he may have been the worst waste of money in the history of sports.

But it isn't only because he failed to produce at the plate or in the field. After all, human beings do fail.

No, Darryl should be held accountable for his lack of effort. He should be responsible for all the off-the-field shenanigans that brought disgrace to the Dodgers organization. He should pay for all the times he didn't run after a ball in the field, or when he complained about fan interference, or when he fought the club over when and where he was to do his back rehabilitation, or when he suggested that L.A. should keep burning.

Instead, he got millions, and now he's getting more.

Yesterday, the Dodgers held a news conference to announce what many had predicted for weeks: Darryl Strawberry was being put on waivers.

But not only that: He had been paid off. The club and Strawberry's representatives had reached a financial settlement.

He is free to go now. Darryl and his millions.

A man who has never been much of a role model is now leaving behind for the kids of his home city the ultimate example of greed and sloth:

Poor performances, plus poor work habits, plus poor behavior equals rich man.

There is the suggestion that because Darryl decided to give in a bit and agree to a settlement of his final two years -- worth a cool $8 million -- he is being big about the whole thing. Nonsense.

If Darryl had any guts, he would give back all the money. He wouldn't take a dime in exchange for two years of inactivity. Two more years, that is.

If he had any concern for how he'll be remembered here, he would do the decent and honorable thing and give the Dodgers back all the loot.

Or, at the very least, take the money and donate it to a Los Angeles charity. After all, the Dodgers should absorb some of the financial pain from all this, since they were dumb enough to sign him to a long-term deal in the first place.

Strawberry probably feels he's on the road to recovery. He thinks he'll be back in the majors soon -- perhaps this season -- and he'll show everybody.

If that's the case, then he'll be able to make more money honestly, with his ability and his determination. He shouldn't take the last $8 million -- or any portion thereof -- from a contract that he never came close to honoring.

I'm sure the Dodgers consulted over and over with their legal department concerning the morals clause in Strawberry's contract. I'm sure if there was a way to challenge their financial obligation to Strawberry, they probably would have done so. I'm no lawyer, and I wouldn't presume to call for the Dodgers to fight something in court they would probably lose.

But the average fan -- the person who pays for the tickets, which in turn pays for the players -- doesn't quite understand why this is happening. He or she doesn't quite comprehend why the ordinary citizen has to perform the duties of the job and act responsibly in the process, yet ballplayers can not only disregard these behavioral standards but prosper as a result.

All I know is that this settlement is the final insult in an irritating series of events involving Darryl Strawberry and his association with the Dodgers and the city of Los Angeles.

He has not lived up to expectations, and most of the time, he hasn't even made the attempt. He has tried the patience of the most patient organization in sports. He has worn out his welcome on a club where all you have to do is give an honest effort on and off the field to be welcomed.

Darryl Strawberry will be remembered in Los Angeles as a guy who took the money and didn't run. He didn't throw, catch or hit, either.

He also doesn't seem to care. His final Dodgers paycheck is evidence of that.

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