Strawberry back in Mets' good graces

NEW YORK – Darryl Strawberry was standing by, warming up his left arm for a toss measuring exactly sixty feet, six inches, when he was informed that his ceremonial throw would have to wait at least one more day.

Strawberry was to kick off the Mets' first National League Championship Series in six years on Wednesday, but those plans were scrapped when the Mets and Cardinals were postponed by rain.

Before that, though, Strawberry was happy to note that the Mets – after years upon years of Yankee dominance – finally have their chance to take back the city.

"There's no question about it," Strawberry said. "They have some outstanding young players. The young players are very exciting. I think that's what brings the excitement to this organization. When you can keep the young players and you can blend them in with some of the veteran players, it gives you a chance to bring out the recognition that you have as an organization.

"You're starting to build back up, bringing in David Wright and Jose Reyes and the young guys that may come up in the future. It just brings the energy back to the city for the New York Mets fans."

Strawberry has been one of the centerpieces of the Mets' celebration of the 1986 season, after numerous years in which the organization distanced itself from their last championship team.

The 44-year-old former slugger said he did not miss playing the game, knowing that his days of effectiveness had passed.

"There comes a point in time when it's over," Strawberry said.

But he did miss the Mets, and was happy to feel that the bond between him and his former organization was quickly tightening.

"It means more to me than anybody can imagine," Strawberry said. "I know, truly, in my heart when I stepped on the field here, I laid my heart out on the plate, played the game the way the game is supposed to be played."

Strawberry said that he feels equally embraced by Mets fans, who figured to roar loudly when the right fielder made his way to the mound.

"I think the years of the '80's, the way we played, the swagger we had, the kind of team we were," Strawberry said, "it brought something back to New York Mets fans and the National League and baseball. ...

"We wore that uniformon our sleeve because we were the most hated team in the National League, wherever we went. We (were) kind of proud of that."

The '06 Mets may not be hated, but they are proud. As manager Willie Randolph said Wednesday, the Mets are now the only game in town.

Strawberry has been on both sides of that coin, and he carefully toed the line between disparaging the Yankees' early playoff exit and the Mets' continuing success.

"We all like to question the Yankees, but the Yankees (are) a dynasty," Strawberry said. "They are not going anywhere. They might have got eliminated, but they're not going anywhere."

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