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Darryl Strawberry: Aaron Judge made ‘right’ decision picking Yankees over West Coast

New York Post logo: MainLogo New York Post 2/6/2023 Mark W. Sanchez

A larger-than-life New York outfield slugger, fresh off a tremendous season, weighed massive free-agent offers from his incumbent team, which helped launch his stardom, and his hometown club in California.

That’s where Darryl Strawberry and Aaron Judge diverged. Strawberry went home to the West Coast, while Judge elected to stay with the Yankees.

“I’m glad [Judge] made the right decision,” Strawberry said Sunday at a “Pinstripe Pride” event at American Dream in East Rutherford, N.J., where Yankees icons signed autographs.

Strawberry apparently made the wrong one. Following his seventh-straight All-Star season with the Mets, in which he drilled 37 home runs with 108 RBIs in 1990, the former No. 1 pick hit the open market as the prize of free agency.

Strawberry, a Los Angeles native, left Queens for the Dodgers on a five-year, $22.25 million contract that was the second-richest contract in MLB history at the time. The Mets reportedly offered him four years and $15.5 million.

© Provided by New York Post Judge signed a massive deal to stay with the Yankees and become the team’s captain.Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

The right fielder posted one solid season with the Dodgers before his career was derailed by issues ranging from colon cancer to drug addiction.

With the benefit of hindsight, Strawberry is uniquely positioned to talk about Judge and playing in The Bronx, where he played the final five seasons of his career.

“You just don’t leave New York. It’s the greatest place to play,” Strawberry said after Judge signed a nine-year, $360 million contract with the Yankees.

Judge, a Northern California native, was the No. 1 target for the Giants, for whom he grew up rooting. The Padres also were involved in the bidding during a drawn-out process this winter that did not end until Dec. 7, when Judge essentially agreed to spend his entire career with the club that raised him.

The Yankees were desperate to bring back their record-setting face of the franchise, who slugged 62 home runs last season. Judge, who nonetheless heard boos when he struggled in the postseason, might never experience a rival fan base that can be more patient.

© Provided by New York Post Strawberry commended Judge for sticking with the Yankees.Getty Images

“The difference in playing in New York is just the fans. They have great knowledge about the game. So they are going to let you know that you suck,” Strawberry said with a smile. “That’s something you have to learn how to deal with. … They made me a tremendous player because of that.”

As Judge visited other clubs, a lot of attention was paid to a Yankee Stadium crowd that had turned on its best player and demanded excellence (or at least some hits) from the Yankees, who were swept by the Astros in the ALCS.

To Strawberry, the fans’ venom is less of a drawback and more of a motivator.

“Being booed is not a bad thing. Everyone makes it out like it’s a bad thing. Some players can’t take it,” said Strawberry, who said he has not talked with Judge this offseason. “But they’re going to pay you to play in the best place, and they’re going to pay you a lot.”

Judge, who like Strawberry has stood out with both his size and his prodigious swings, will be a bigger star with the Yankees than he could be with any other team. There can be more money to be made at events like Sunday’s if Judge wishes.

Of course, Judge’s Yankees legacy ultimately will hinge partly upon whether he wins a championship. Strawberry won rings with the Mets in 1986 and the Yankees in 1996, ’98 and ’99.

“The market is incredible,” said Strawberry, who will be 61 next month. “And when you win here, it’s forever.”


New York Post

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