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  • Lincoln Mitchell

Mets to Retire Dwight Gooden's Number

by Lincoln Mitchell


NOTE - This article comes from Lincoln Mitchell's Substack page, Kibitzing with Lincoln . Please click HERE to follow Lincoln on Substack. (This was originally published on April 7, 2024.)


On April 14th the Mets will retire Dwight Gooden’s number 16. The narrative of Gooden’s career goes something like extremely talented pitcher who had several good years, including one amazing season, but ultimately squandered much of his talent as he got pulled further into drug addiction and ended up never living up to the extraordinary early promise he showed.

That narrative is not just wrong, it is kind of offensive, suggesting that Gooden was responsible for his own failure to become one of the greatest pitchers ever, while downplaying what he accomplished on the mound. It also obscures an interesting question about Gooden’s career and pitchers more generally.

Gooden’s best year was 1985 when he went 24-4 while leading the league in wins, ERA (1.53,) complete games (16,) innings (276.2,) and strikeouts (268). He won all 24 first place votes in the Cy Young voting that year. It was one of the greatest seasons by a pitcher ever and particularly impressive because Gooden was only 20-years-old. The 12.2 WAR Gooden accumulated in 1985 was the most since Walter Johnson’s 15.2 in 1913.

That extraordinary season was Gooden’s second in the big leagues. In his rookie season, Gooden had gone 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA and a league leading 276 strikeouts, and finished second in the Cy Young balloting. I remember seeing Gooden do this from my seat in the upper deck at Candlestick Park during the 1984 All Star Game.

In his third season, 1986 when he was 21, Gooden dropped to seventh in the Cy Young voting, but had a very good year going 17-6 with a  2.84 ERA while striking out 200 batters. The Mets won the World Series that year, although Gooden pitched poorly in the Fall Classic, losing both games he started. By 1986 Gooden and fellow young Mets star Darryl Strawberry were already involved with cocaine use and both would be dogged by substance abuse issues for many years.

By the time he turned 21, Gooden had won 41 big league games, struck out 544 batters, accumulated 17.7 WAR and pitched 494.2 innings. At the time of his 22nd birthday , Gooden had pitched 744.2 big league innings and his best years were behind him. Only 12 pitchers in the post-war era and two since 1980-pitched that many innings at such a young age-and nobody has done it since Gooden. Gooden pitched for 13 more seasons, but never came close to being the same pitcher. During that period, he had a few solid years, but was never more than a middle of the rotation pitcher.

Gooden lost the first two months of the 1987 season while in rehab and was later suspended for much of the strike-shortened 1994 season and all of 1995. Gooden has continued to wrestle with drug addiction since his playing days ended after the 2000 season.

Given all that, it is not difficult to see how the narrative about squandering his talent due to drug addiction emerged, but the truth remains that Gooden pitched an enormous amount of innings at a very young age. and few pitchers who do that remain effective into their thirties.

24 comentários

12 de abr.

Back in 84 and 85, my frat brothers and I used to go to many Mets games, so I saw Doc in his heyday. I haven't seen anything like him since. Lots of respect for Dr. K!


Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
11 de abr.

Dwight Gooden will always be more associated as a Mets ace, and will forever be an important part of New York Mets history, yet the biggest personal moment of his career (other than winning a World Series with the Mets) happened to come as a member of the Yankees.


Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
11 de abr.

Yes the Mets should have taken much better cate of Gooden's arm. But he still would have destroyed himself hoovering Bolivian Marching Powder. Retiring his number is disgusting, as it will be with his buddy Darryl Snortberry.

12 de abr.
Respondendo a

Pastor Strawberry actually grew up in the rough Watts section of South Central LA. Crenshaw is just a "neighborhood" in Watts, sort of like Bensonhurst, Canarsie, and Bay Ridge are "neighborhoods" in Brooklyn. (Crenshaw Blvd is the main boulevard through the Crenshaw neighborhood) Strawberry attended Crenshaw High School, whose sports program not only produced Darryl Strawberry, it also produced MLB players Eric Davis, Ellis Valentine, Chris Brown, and Trayvon Robinson, plus NFL players Akbar Gabaja-Biamila, Kabeer Gabaja-Biamila, Greg Ducre, Don Goodman, Dominique Hatfield, Charles Lockett, Jim Looney, Brandon Mebane, De'Anthony Thomas, Wendell Tyler, and Eric Yarber, plus NBA players Darwin Cook, Stan Brundy, Marques Johnson, Kris Johnson, John Williams, and Marcus Williams, plus Professional Wrestler Willie Mack and Olympic Go…


11 de abr.

and still.......

May 14, 1996

Darren Bragg lf

Alex Rodriguez. ss

Ken Griffey, Jr. cf

Edgar Martinez dh

Jay Buhner. rf

Paul Sorrento. 1b

Dan Wilson. c

Joey Cora. 2b

Russ Davis 3b

11 de abr.
Respondendo a

Doctor No!

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