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COMMENTARY : The Bigger Villain Here Is Steinbrenner

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Here is how desperate Darryl Strawberry is to play in the big leagues again: He is willing to go to work for the likes of George Steinbrenner, who has spent the last month trying to change a deal on which he and Strawberry shook hands. Strawberry’s record hasn’t changed during this time. He is still an admitted felon and tax cheat, he still has two violations of baseball’s drug policy on his record, and two trips to rehab, and also a record of spousal abuse. But when you put him up against a bully like Steinbrenner, even Strawberry comes out a winner.

Steinbrenner has been the cheat here, and anyone who has come near this deal knows it. Shake hands with him and count your fingers. Maybe Strawberry will let Steinbrenner down the way he has let almost everybody else down in his life. He still deserves better treatment than Steinbrenner has given him lately, as Steinbrenner runs around and tries to play God. Steinbrenner has been too much of a public failure as a man to ever try that, with anyone. If Strawberry had any real options in baseball, he would be better off walking away from the Yankees now. He will not. It is clear by now he would make a deal with the devil to play ball.

Steinbrenner has run around saying he wanted to save Darryl Strawberry’s life, that is why he gave him this job with the Yankees. I heard him on the radio the other day, saying that Strawberry was too young a man at 33 to be told his career was over. Steinbrenner sounded as if he might begin to weep over his own goodness. And all the while, Steinbrenner has been doing everything possible to make Strawberry’s life miserable. Strawberry should know things will only get worse.

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Strawberry isn’t the bad guy on this one and neither is his lawyer Bill Goodstein. This is all about Steinbrenner. Only he could come up a louse when he is supposed to be giving someone a second chance.

Here is a case where Steinbrenner starts bullying a Yankee before the contracts are even signed. He had one story going when he was wooing Strawberry, a great drama about redemption. But once he and Strawberry shook hands, Steinbrenner immediately began to treat him as shabbily as he treats everyone else in his baseball operation.

The problem, of course, is this: Steinbrenner wanted to be a hero for signing Strawberry. He was under the impression that this would be such an exciting play that interest in his struggling team would soar, and attendance would go through the roof once he got Strawberry into uniform. Only no one believed that Steinbrenner was doing this to be noble. People no longer believe George Steinbrenner when he says water is wet.

He really can be a miserable man. Strawberry finds out before he even puts on a Yankee uniform. A new record.

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