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On This Date in Sports March 2, 1989: Picture Day Fight

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Cracks begin to show in the New York Mets as Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez get into a fight while taking the team picture in Spring Training at Port St. Lucie. Strawberry was angry over rumors that Hernandez told reporters not to vote for him for MVP. Though Darryl Strawberry threw a punch, it did not connect as teammates intervened before things got uglier.

The late 1980s were the glory days of the New York Mets, as they won at least 90 games in five straight seasons between 1984-1988. They had taken over the city of New York, overshadowing the Yankees, as they drew more than three million fans in 1987 and 1988 at Shea Stadium. The Mets were flashy, brash, and every bit the symbol of the 1980s. They played hard on the field and partied harder off the field. Despite this, they only went to one World Series, winning in 1986. In 1988, the Mets had posted a 100-62 record but fell short in the NLCS, losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games. The Mets were further disappointed as Kirk Gibson was named MVP, with Darryl Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds splitting the vote.

The Mets were expected to win the National League East again in 1989 as they celebrated their recent success with a special #1 logo that seemed to tempt fate. Nonetheless, the Mets were expected to dominate again, as Gregg Jeffries, who finished strong in 1988, was an overwhelming favorite to win the National League Rookie of the Year, as his rookie cards were seen as a big investment for fans and collectors.

The spring training fight between Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez would be the first sign of troubles in a troubled season, as the Mets got off to a slow start and never made that run. In a weak National League East, the Mets saw their string of five straight 90-win seasons come to an end as they finished 87-75. Darryl Strawberry first hinted at a desire to play in his hometown of Los Angeles before the NLCS began a seeming countdown to leaving as a free agent. While fighting Hernandez, the Mets team captain, Strawberry, made threatening remarks to co-captain Gary Carter.

It would be the final season in a Mets uniform for both Hernandez and Gary Carter, who were both non-tendered at the end of the season. In June, the Mets looking to shake things up, made one of the worst trades in team history, trading Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell to the Philadelphia Phillies for Juan Samuel. Samuel was simply awful in half a season with the Mets as he struggled to adjust to playing in the outfield. Making matters worse, the Mets traded longtime fan favorite Mookie Wilson to the Toronto Blue Jays for Jeff Musselman.

In addition to team disappointments, an injury to Dwight Gooden after becoming the youngest pitcher to reach 100 wins, the Mets saw their expected rookie of the year Gregg Jeffries become a gigantic bust as he batted .256 with just 12 home runs with 56 RBI. Making matters worse, Jeffries' fielding was a liability as he clashed with teammates. This was displayed fittingly in the final home game of the season when he fought with former teammate Roger McDowell after making the final out. In subsequent years, several Mets targeted Jeffries as a major disruption to team chemistry as those cards that were expected to be collectibles for years are found in the common bin. Jeffries' relationship with fans would be no better as the Mets traded him after the 1991 season when he wrote a sniveling open letter to the fans.