It is unfair to second-guess the Mets for acquiring George Foster
back in February 1982. The new ownership needed a big-name player in
star-loving New York until its farm system produced. And, after all,
hadn't Foster once hit 92 homers over back-to-back seasons in
Cincinnati? He gave the Mets PR credibility, but while the Yankees
have their monuments of Ruth, Gehrig, et al. in centerfield, Foster
gave the Mets a wholly unwanted defensive monument in left.
However, when Foster, hitting only .227, was released last week
before his five-year contract had expired, he was hardly considered a
hero. He was unhappy about having been benched since July 22 by
manager Davey Johnson. He felt that he was a media scapegoat,
failing to realize that fans have a right to expect a $2
million-a-year player to cross the warning track and to slide, both
of which he rarely did.
Teammates complained that since his demotion Foster was showing up
later and later for batting practice and that last Monday he reported
for batting practice at Wrigley Field only minutes before it began.
The next day he was quoted in the Gannett Westchester Rockland
Newspapers as saying, ''I'm not saying it's a racial thing, but that
seems to be the case in sports these days. When a ball club can,
they replace a George Foster or a Mookie Wilson with a more popular
white player. ''I think the Mets would rather promote a Gary
Carter or a Keith Hernandez to the fans, so parents who want to can
point to them as role models for their children, rather than a Darryl
Strawberry, a Dwight Gooden or a George Foster.''
Foster's remarks infuriated Johnson, and last Wednesday he got
what he had wanted for a long time -- Foster's outright release, as
the ball club swallowed the $1.6 million it still must pay the
The young blacks on the Mets generally backed Foster. ''I'm
disappointed in the way the organization handled it,'' Strawberry
said. ''They could have waited until the end of the season. It just
shows you how the game is. It can happen to anyone. Who knows? I
might be next.'' Gooden said, ''He did a lot for me. He was a great
guy. It's too bad it had to happen this way. He could have helped us
in the playoffs.'' Although Wilson said, ''I'm not sad,'' he added,
''but I don't have to like the situation.''
However, many of the Mets weren't sorry to see the release. ''It's
too bad he (Foster) couldn't have been satisfied with getting a few
key hits down the stretch,'' said Ron Darling. (Foster was 0 for 8
as a pinch hitter.) Wally Backman said, ''He brought it on himself.
You don't bury teammates and act the way he's acted the last few
weeks. You don't come up with this racist stuff and call yourself a
teammate. No teammate would respect that.''
In an effort to clear the air, Foster held a press conference at
Shea Stadium on Monday morning in which he denied that he had
characterized the Mets brass as racist. Foster said that his earlier
remarks had been misinterpreted.
RONALD C. MODRA Foster is gone, but the Mets have $1.6 million in payments to remember him.