This Day in Baseball History: March 2nd, 1989

Yep, he’s now in Just for Men commercials (left). Do you really need money that bad, Keith?

On March 2, 1989:

During a photo session for 1989 Program, Darryl Strawberry throws a punch at Keith Hernandez.

By 1989, Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry were two of the most recognizable faces on the New York Mets, one at the end of his career and the other peaking. Keith Hernandez was 35 and at least two years removed from a good season. Still, he had won a couple Silver Sluggers and been to a few All-Star games as well as been in the MVP voting. Strawberry, before the cocaine but at the time of the spousal abuse, was a blossoming star. He had just had two amazing years (39 HR each, 104 and 101 RBI, and OPS+’s of 162 and 165). Strawberry appeared on the cusp of greatness.

Then, in the next spring training, Hernandez got under Strawberry’s skin. The team was having its annual photo shoot, and everyone on the Mets seemed to have a mustache, except for the 27-year old Strawberry. Hernandez called him a “coked-out-ninny” for not having a mustache. Strawberry retaliated by throwing a punch at Hernandez. Hernandez later quipped, “It was the first time he ever hit the cut-off man.” A year later, the Mets players had some fun with the incident. A player, on the day of the photo shoot, came racing over to Strawberry and pretended to hold him back from friend Dwight Gooden. Strawberry, apparently not pleased, stated that he was keeping a low-profile and wouldn’t be participating in any fights this year.

1989 would not be a good year for the two Mets stars. Hernandez continued his decline, and he only played 75 games with a line of .233/.324/.326. Never one to be powerful force, Hernandez could no longer hit for average or high on-base percentage, which had made him successful. Strawberry’s counting numbers didn’t look too bad (29 HR, 77 RBI), but they were a far cry from his previous seasons. His batting average also dropped down to .225. He would improve back up to standard the next season, but Hernandez would only play 43 games for the Cleveland Indians. Four years later, Strawberry’s substance abuse problem became public.

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