Darryl Strawberry has a lot of growing up to do. On Friday night, the Mets' rightfielder was late for batting practice for at least the second time this season and was fined and benched for an entire weekend series against Pittsburgh. Earlier in the week Strawberry, who is hitting only .258 after a 6-for-42 slide, irritated his teammates with some indifferent outfield play in Wrigley Field as the Mets, who have lost 13 of 18, were swept in a four-game series. A week earlier in St. Louis, he also loafed and helped cost the Mets a couple of games.
Part of Strawberry's problem is the inordinate pressure he has been under since he was the No. 1 draft pick in the country four years ago and heard himself compared to Ted Williams. The other part of the problem is his inability to understand and meet that challenge.
"Maybe it's better that I have a mediocre year this season and come back strong next year," he told the New York Post last week. "It's been so different for me. Last year pitchers threw me fastballs inside all the time, challenging me. Now I'm seeing breaking balls outside, fast-balls outside, and it's been tough."
He ought to talk to Reggie Jackson or Eddie Murray and find out how tough it is to be great. The most difficult part is accepting the responsibilities of greatness. You don't do that by writing off the season in the middle of August when your team is only 4½ games out. That's a cop-out.
Seattle catcher Bob Kearney is fighting mad. On Aug. 4 he got into a fistfight with pitching coach Frank Funk after Funk tossed Kearney's mitt into the toilet. Kearney, who was upset about a cut in his playing time, had refused to warm up Salome Barojas; hence, Funk's bathroom humor.
On Aug. 9 Kearney opened the local papers and saw himself misquoted in a three-quarter-page ad promoting the Mariners' weekend series with Minnesota. The ad quoted Kearney as saying, "It seems every time we play Minnesota my batting average goes up. This series I really intend to come out swinging."
Kearney says: "I never said those things. That's bush-league. They put a bull's-eye on my face." But not his bat. He went 2 for 11.
Pittsburgh's Bill Madlock, a four-time National League batting champ, will miss the rest of the season; he'll undergo surgery to remove a bone spur in his right elbow.... Mike Schmidt has three RBIs on hits other than homers since the All-Star break, and two homers and six RBIs since July 20.... If Tony Gwynn keeps up his pace (.362), he'll become only the sixth National Leaguer to finish with 230 hits since Ducky Medwick had 237 in 1937. Would you believe Gwynn's struck out only 17 times in 459 at bats? He may just be as deserving an MVP candidate as Ryne Sandberg.... L.A.'s slumping Steve Sax, known for his imitations, was chided by a teammate: "How about you imitating Ryne Sandberg?"...Padre players, already among baseball's best paid, demanded that the club pay for newspapers delivered to their hotel rooms. Demand granted.
Marvin Miller is going to work for an owner. Will the republic survive? Miller, the former head of the players association, has been temporarily employed by the Buddy LeRoux faction of the Red Sox ownership to decide how much their shares are worth; a Massachusetts appeals court has ordered that the LeRoux-aligned limited partners must sell out. Former Houston G.M. Tal Smith will negotiate for the Haywood Sullivan-Jean Yawkey side, and Miller and Smith will agree—or try to—on a third negotiator.
For years Miller fought to get a look at baseball's financial records but was rebuffed by the owners. Now, he gets to see all in Boston.
Don Sutton became the first pitcher to strike out 100 or more batters in 19 different seasons. He also won No. 277.... Seattle's Alvin Davis set an American League rookie record with his 14th intentional walk.... Rod Carew still doesn't know what's causing the pinched nerve in his neck. He's started only eight games since the All-Star break and is 84 hits away from 3,000.... Frank Robinson didn't stay unemployed long. Five days after the Giants dumped him as manager, Harry Dalton, an old friend from Baltimore, hired him as hitting coach for the sixth-place Brewers, who scored 10 runs in his first game. Believe Dalton when he says Robinson was not hired to replace Rene Lachemann.
Rockin' steady (14-6) as a Yank, Niekro, his wife, Nancy, and Turner got a laugh from the gift.
AUG. 6: THE DAY TED TURNER KNUCKLED UNDER
As Braves owner Ted Turner knows too well, the Yankees' Phil Niekro isn't ready for the rocking chair he received Aug. 6 during Phil Niekro Night ceremonies in Atlanta. The Braves were thanking him for his 25 years in their organization. Perhaps atoning for trading Niekro to New York, Turner and Braves boosters will spend $100,000 for a statue of Knucksie to stand outside Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
JOHNNY RAY: The Pirate second baseman went 17 for 31 (.548), knocked in nine runs and scored five. With five doubles and his first homer of the year, he also had a 1.129 slugging percentage.
"That's my first good outing since I got married," the Reds' Jeff Russell said last week after he shut out first-place San Diego. "Guess I'm getting my leg strength back."