What Darryl Strawberry brings to the New York Yankees, besides a record as a two-time drug loser and income tax evader, is more power with a bat in his hands than any player on the roster. Those who contended his entrance into the clubhouse would cause open revolt are wrong.
His new teammates have greeted him with affection, even a hug and kind words from Don Mattingly, the playing captain. Strawberry's presence hasn't hampered the Yankees or torn them apart with dissension. It didn't figure to have any such negative impact because professional athletes don't think that way. Only sportswriters do, figuring something called "team chemistry" is a part of winning when, in truth, natural God-given ability is the paramount factor.
Any fear that Strawberry's arrival would cause the Yankees to become so disenchanted they would forget about applying themselves is the kind of stuff found in fairy tales. His first two games were counted as victories for the Yankees.
The ability to drive a baseball long distances is what attracted the Yankees to sign Strawberry. They needed his swing, and what a picture of rhythm and strength it represents. How much he has left to give them will be determined on the field, not in what anyone perceives, during the last two months of the season.
One thing the Yankees were able to do in Strawberry's rehabilitation process was give him ample time in the minors. They assigned him to three different leagues, the Gulf Coast, Florida State and International, before adding him to the varsity roster.
Owner George Steinbrenner, whom Strawberry mistakenly called "Steinberg" at a news conference, has placed himself in line for the Humanitarian of the Year award.
He picked up Strawberry when he was down and out . . . after two losses to drugs and the income tax rap for not reporting monies he had received for appearing at card shows.
Steinbrenner, after making a deal to sign Strawberry, dispatched a senior vice president of public relations, one Arthur Richman, to Tampa as a personal representative and/or handholder. You have to remember Strawberry is still under what's known as house arrest and won't regain his normal freedom until November.
He can't travel the streets or loaf in saloons but has the option of being in one of four places: church, drug counseling sessions, the ballpark and his hotel room.
Strawberry r and Richman have traveled together for the last six weeks. "A couple times when I looked in on him in his hotel room he was reading the Bible," explained Richman, whose friendship goes back to when Strawberry was hitting home runs for the New York Mets and Richman was working as the team's traveling secretary.
"I told him again and again that this is his last chance, but I wasn't telling him something he didn't already know. Darryl is fully aware what George is doing for him."
Steinbrenner also has provided Strawberry with his own security officer, a man who will accompany him about New York and in other cities when the team takes to the road. Obviously, he's to keep the wrong kind of people away and detect situations that could lead to trouble. The personal agent hired by the Yankees is one James Williams, formerly of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The main questions the Yankees must address relating to Strawberry are: (1) Is he finally, once and for all, going to be able to walk away from drug temptations and (2) how much batting help can he actually provide? His career home run totals, before joining the Yankees, are an imposing 294 but only 14 have come in the last three years. That's a barometer that would suggest his talent has seriously diminished.
Because of what he has done to himself, the drug scrapes and the tax matters, Strawberry had no bargaining power when he came to an agreement with the Yankees on June 19. If he wanted a chance to try to play in the major leagues again then he was going to have to accept what was offered, simply a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.
For right now Darryl Strawberry is the master of his own fate. He should be indebted to Steinbrenner for the opportunity he's getting. Other teams weren't so compassionate or even remotely interested in what they perceived as taking on a headache they didn't need.
Forget what he does or doesn't do for the Yankees. Hopefully, a fallen man finally will save his own life.