News - The last Straw

Dying golden boy now targeted for ‘justice’

For the second time in 10 months, Darryl Strawberry is in trouble with the law. There are some who want to lock Strawberry up and throw away the key; some who want to “make an example” of him. What they don’t know is this: Darryl Strawberry is an example. He’s an example of the avarice of Major League Baseball and of the hypocrisy and futility of America’s “war on drugs.”
For those of you unfamiliar with (or not interested in) Major League Baseball, Darryl Strawberry is the very definition of all that is wrong with the sport. He was a gifted athlete with a sweet swing and enough talent to land him in the Hall of Fame.
But Darryl Strawberry will not be venerated as one of baseball’s great players. Instead, he will be remembered as a cocaine-addicted underachiever who exhibited greatness at times but, more often than not, succumbed to his own arrogance, profoundly poor judgment and lack of discipline. While Strawberry’s career held great promise (1983 National League Rookie of the Year), it was his off-field performances that seemed to define his career.
Beginning in 1990 and running through last month, Strawberry’s numerous run-ins with the law (cocaine possession, income tax evasion, spousal abuse, soliciting a prostitute) are well documented. Yet, because of his stature as a cash cow for Major League Baseball, he never had to answer for his transgressions. The war on drugs was designed to incarcerate gang-bangers from South Central L.A. and Colombian cocaine cowboys, not multi-millionaire jocks who lead the National League in home runs.
In short, so long as Darryl Strawberry could drive the ball over the fence, he could drive under the influence. As long as his life held value as a revenue-producing asset on the field, the powers that be (in MLB and the criminal justice system) gave Strawberry carte blanche off the field.
But now Daryl Strawberry is out of baseball (suspended for the third time in five years for violating the league’s drug policy) and battling cancer. The colon cancer which first appeared in 1998, requiring doctors to remove a portion of the slugger’s large intestine, has reappeared. In August he underwent a second surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his stomach. Statistics suggest that a when colon cancer returns, the chances of survival beyond five years is less than 10 percent.
In a recent pre-sentencing hearing in Tampa, Strawberry, who has been living in a Tampa halfway house, told Circuit Judge Florence Foster that he’s quit his chemotherapy and lost his will to live.
So with his career — and perhaps his life — all but over, why does the State of Florida now see fit to throw the book at Darryl Strawberry? Joe Papy of the Florida Department of Corrections in Tampa thinks that Strawberry, who prior to last month’s arrest has never spent more than 24 hours in jail, might finally learn his lesson after serving a longer jail term (30 days to five years).
The idea that, after a decade of “wrist slaps,” society now sees fit to save Darryl Strawberry from himself — or to punish him for his crimes — is ludicrous. Darryl Strawberry doesn’t need our compassion or our on-again off-again brand of justice. He needs a one-way ticket to Amsterdam.
I don’t know why Darryl Strawberry is addicted to cocaine, nor do I care. People who use drugs do so regardless of the professional or legal consequences. While most would agree that Strawberry’s cocaine use prevented him from recognizing his full potential as an athlete, it certainly didn’t keep him from earning millions.
And I think that bothers people like Joe Papy.
That being said, I do not feel that Darryl Strawberry’s sad, pathetic existence makes him worthy of any special treatment under the law. Nor does the fact that he is battling cancer. But is seems to be “too little, too late” to revoke his “get out of jail free” card now. The time to throw the book at Strawberry was 10 years ago.
On a very basic level, this case is more about how Darryl Strawberry chooses to deal with his cancer than it is a case of how the judicial system should deal with Darryl Strawberry. Be it crack cocaine or chemotherapy, it would appear that Darryl Strawberry’s fate has been sealed. I say, leave him alone and let him live — and die — as he sees fit.

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