Older, wiser Straw helps sell Cameron

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Mike Cameron insists that it wasn't just the chat with Darryl Strawberry that persuaded him to embrace his right field assignment with the Mets. <P> But it sure didn't hurt.

One day after Cameron's agent, Mike Nicotera, called the Mets front office and urged them to scrap any ongoing trade talks they might have involving Cameron, general manager Omar Minaya laid the credit squarely on the shoulders of Strawberry, who is in camp as a guest instructor.

"Having Darryl around has helped, put it that way," Minaya said. "There's a fraternity [between players]. A front office man can tell a player a lot; a player can say one or two words and it goes a lot farther."

On Monday, Strawberry said he arrived in camp and had a sit-down discussion with both Cameron and Cliff Floyd, who have been overlooked and discussed as trade chips at alternate times in the past few months.

At one point, it looked like the Mets might wind up trading both players. Now, it looks like both Cameron and Floyd are near-locks to begin the season enveloping Carlos Beltran in center field.

"I walked in those shoes," Strawberry said. "Playing right field, playing at Shea Stadium, dealing with the New York media. You don't want guys to lose sight or get a chip on their shoulder. It can easily happen."

Though Cameron insisted that it wasn't solely the talk with Strawberry that put him over the top of his comfort level, he allowed that Strawberry carries with him great credibility. The centerpiece of the '86 Mets World Championship team and a player who once moved from right field to left field, Strawberry's words carried extra value with Cameron.

"No. 1, he's been through a lot in life," Cameron said. "No. 2, he went through it in New York City. No. 3, he's been successful in New York City. I'm glad he's around."

"He knows I'm not going to come in here and lie to him," Strawberry said.

Count Cameron among those sold on the Mets' alumni atmosphere, which continues later this month when Lenny Dykstra checks into Port St. Lucie. Cameron had visits with heroes of the past when he was a member of the Seattle Mariners, greeting stars like Alvin Davis and Gorman Thomas. He's happy to see the trend continuing.

"I think every team should do that," Cameron said. "You stand in the outfield and have an opportunity to talk to a Darryl Strawberry. They're still fans of the game, and they see what's going on."

"That's what they brought me in here for," Strawberry said. "To give a boost. To encourage what it takes to win. The bottom line is, it's about winning."


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