A Word From Our Sponsors


The Most Selfish of Desires

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be the team that's cursed: the Red Sox, the Cubs or the White Sox. It would even hurt to be a team without a championship in franchise history, like the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers or the Exponationals. The Mets would be experiencing quite the drought had they not won the 1986 World Series. Sure, they were good in 1985, 1987 and 1988, but all of those seasons ended without titles. This team was composed of many key pieces. You had Darling and Ojeda as aces. McDowell and Orosco provided a tag-team closer tandem. Carter was a slugger with a smile built for Madison Avenue. The slick-fielding Keith Hernandez and Rafael Santana provided gloves in the infield, with Ray Knight and Teufel/Backman providing good batwork as well. In the outfield, the speedy Lenny Dykstra, the emerging speedy slugger Darryl Strawberry and the catalyst Mookie Wilson. Kevin Mitchell provided some rookie thump as well.
However, one could argue that the fate of the Mets of the late 80s and early 90s rested squarely on the shoulders of Dwight Gooden. Doc had unquestionably the best performance since Bob Gibson in 1985. Dr. K posted numbers which surely echo in your head as you read this. Twenty-four wins, four losses. 276 innings pitched: 268 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.53. Doc dominated that year and made the Mets what they were as the ace of that staff. Unfortunately, that would be the greatest success of his career. Nobody exactly knew why his ERA went up nearly a run and a half the next year, but with emerging information, it surprised no one that he never posted a sub-three ERA the rest of his tenure. He missed almost half of the 1987 season due to a positive cocaine test in spring training. To avoid news of the suspension, he entered rehab. Gooden became trapped under the spell of cocaine, a drug which had held baseball players prisoner during that time period. Mets, like Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry, used the drug. It ate up the careers of other promising stars, like LaMarr Hoyt and Pascual Perez. While Gooden struggled to fight his addiction, other players relented and stopped using after Commissioner Bowie Kuhn threatened year-long suspensions without pay. Gooden, however, faced problems the rest of his career. The immense strain that pitching in excess of 250 innings per year caused Gooden to break down and miss time during the 1989 and 1991 seasons. Gooden was also accused of rape in 1991, and the charges were later dropped. By 1992, Gooden and Sid Fernandez were the only players left on that team from 1986. But the promising ace had already begun to burn out. At 27, the pitcher put up the first losing season of his career (10-13, 3.67 ERA) and another one followed in 1993 with a 12-15 mark. 1994 marked the end of hope for Dwight. In 1994, he played through seven starts and posted a troubling 3-4 record with a 6.31 ERA before being suspended sixty days for cocaine use (For a more detailed account of this particular incident, check out this post at Mets Walkoffs). Gooden received a full-season suspension for the 1995 season due to a positive test for cocaine during his suspension. He came back in 1996 with the Yankees as a free agent, being reunited with his equally troubled former Mets teammate, Darryl Strawberry. His campaign with the Bronx Bombers that year was far from impressive, but he tossed a no-hitter and posted a winning record. Gooden's career after 1996 was the career of a journeyman. He pitched for the Yankees in 1997, was released, signed by the Cleveland Indians for 1998 and 1999, and then was released. He signed with Houston in 2000, was traded to Tampa Bay and, following his release from the Rays, returned to pitch for the Yankees for the rest of the 2000 season. During this time, he beat the Mets at Shea and captured a World Series ring at the end of the year, despite not pitching during the Subway Series. This is what it would be like if Tom Seaver was on a Red Sox roster while the Mets were playing the Red Sox during the World Series.
Gooden pitched through 2001 Spring Training with the Yankees, but, without a chance to make the team, he retired with a career record of 194-112. Gooden took a job in the Yankees front office, and lived a relatively quiet existance compared to Darryl Strawberry's, who had battled cocaine addiction after retirement as well as prison time and colon cancer. Gooden was arrested for DUI, throwing a phone at his girlfriend's head, but nothing too serious. Most thought his problematic past was behind him. In 2005, Gooden was a fugitive for three days, and ran from the police until he turned himself in for DUI. Now we find that Gooden has once again been arrested for cocaine.
I'm disappointed. That's not because his downward spiral is a terrible tragedy or a sad tale of what drugs can do to a person. I'm disappointed because the Mets didn't win more than one championship when that great team was together. Gooden, Strawberry and others know they didn't live up to their responsibility. The fingers can be pointed at everyone: Cashen, Davey, George Foster. However, the inevitable truth is that there is only one culprit. It was Doc's fault. It was his choice to try this drug. It was his choice to keep using it. It was his choice to stop being Doc and to start being Dwight Gooden on cocaine. His addiction caused the relative failure of those Mets. One championship was great, but who knows what magic laid in waiting for this team. One could have thought the future of this team was held in the cards, held in the promising future of all of the players. Unfortunately, the future of that team is nowhere near there.
The future of those teams is currently being held in a cell near Tampa, Florida. Without bond.

No comments: