Strawberry Says the Dodgers Must Be Rid of Daniels : Baseball: His refusal to play in pain has affected the team’s attitude, right fielder says. Left fielder denies the allegations.
The quiet of the Dodger off-season was shattered Tuesday when Darryl Strawberry, saying that he was speaking for many teammates, said it was imperative that the Dodgers trade Kal Daniels.
“I don’t want to deal with what we dealt with last year, a guy like Kal, a player who doesn’t want to play,” Strawberry said. “Trade Kal. If he doesn’t want to play, get him out of here. And you can quote me on that.”
Daniels, who seemed stunned by the charges, retaliated by saying Strawberry has a “mental problem.”
“I love the guy like a brother, but if he is going to back-stab me like that, evidently he has a mental problem,” Daniels said. “If he back-stabs me like that and we’re supposed to be friends, what does he do to players he doesn’t like?”
Daniels added, “Darryl signed the big contract and he thinks he’s all-world. Well, he’s not. The first half of the season he was invisible. If he doesn’t want to play with me, well, the feeling is mutual.”
Strawberry said that other players felt the same way about Daniels last season but were reluctant to speak up.
“Somebody has to finally say something about him, and I’ll be the guy,” Strawberry said. “I’m talking about us needing somebody who is determined to play with injuries, somebody who won’t get kicked out of a game in the first inning in the pennant race, somebody who always wants to be in there.
“When it comes to winning, you can’t have players who do some of the stuff that Kal did. Others agree with me. Of course they do.”
It’s believed that some players registered the same complaints to the front office about Daniels after the 1990 season, requesting that he be traded instead of Hubie Brooks, shortly before Brooks was sent to the New York Mets.
Daniels, who has arthritis in both knees, defended his ability to play in pain.
“Nobody plays with injuries like I do,” he said. “I’m in pain every day, but you never hear me complain. Darryl complained the whole first half about his shoulder.”
Daniels played in 137 games in 1991, seven more than in 1990. But he hit 10 fewer home runs, 17, and had 21 fewer runs batted in, 73. He batted .249 after averaging .300 for his first five seasons.
Strawberry, who had only eight home runs and 30 RBIs at the All-Star break, finished with a team-leading 28 homers and 99 RBIs. Both figures were near his career average.
Fred Claire, the Dodgers’ vice president, said he does not think such dissension existed openly in the clubhouse during the season. Some players, however, have blamed poor team chemistry on the club’s inability to maintain its 9 1/2-game lead over the Atlanta Braves after the All-Star break.
“I know the team was disappointed, just as I was disappointed, that we didn’t win,” Claire said. “But dissension? I don’t believe so.”
Claire is probably going to trade Daniels soon, regardless of Strawberry’s charges. Claire has said that one off-season goal is to get more right-handed hitters in a heavily left-handed lineup. Daniels is the left-handed hitter with the most market value.
Trading Daniels and perhaps pitcher Tim Belcher or Bob Ojeda for a right-handed power hitter who can play left field is part of the Dodger master plan. That cannot be done, however, until free agent pitchers Orel Hershiser and Mike Morgan are signed.
Although it would be a surprise if either player did not re-sign, negotiations have moved slowly since other teams began courting the pitchers last week.
Negotiations with first baseman Eddie Murray, the Dodgers’ other premier free agent, are not moving at all. Team sources say Murray has already told friends he will not return.
He has been approached by several teams, and could be receiving an offer from the New York Mets by the end of the week.
The Dodgers apparently are unyielding on their one-year offer, and Murray, who will be 36 next season, seems insistent on two years.
The Dodgers are so far unwilling to increase the length of their offer because it would mean that prospects Eric Karros and Henry Rodriguez, who could be ready by 1993, would be wasted.
Strawberry, who recently spoke to Claire about the Dodgers’ inactivity, said the Dodgers need to re-sign Murray or make other major moves.
“One move is signing Steve Buechele to give us a set guy at third base,” Strawberry said.