As the Mets began the best seven-year stretch of their team history from 1984-90, two of the most significant pieces to their success were baseball's top two starting pitchers at the time, Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling.
Darling was the first of the two to make it to the major leagues with a 1-3 record and 2.80 ERA in five starts in 1983. In 1984, Gooden made his major league debut in a big way.
The 19-year old hurler won the 1984 NL Rookie of the Year Award by going 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA. Darling had an impressive rookie season of his own with a 12-9 record and a 3.81 ERA as he finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
If everyone had thought Gooden was amazing in 1984, he turned it up a few notches in 1985. In a career season, Gooden won pitching's Triple Crown by going 24-4 with a remarkable 1.53 ERA and 268 strikeouts to lead the NL in all three categories.
He also won his only NL Cy Young Award that season and still remains the youngest player to ever win the award. In July, he made his second consecutive All-Star Game appearance.
Darling had another fine season in 1985. Although Gooden got all the attention for his Cy Young Award and record, Darling was not too far behind. He went 16-6 and lowered his ERA to 2.90. He also made his only All-Star team that year, but did not participate.
In 1986, the Mets finally put it all together won their second championship in franchise history. On the pitching end, Gooden led the way and went 17-6 with a 2.84 ERA and 200 strikeouts, as he helped lead the Mets to their World Series win over the Red Sox. He made his third consecutive trip to the All-Star Game as well, becoming the youngest pitcher to ever start in an All-Star Game.
In the 1986 NLCS, Gooden lost a 1-0 pitchers duel to the Houston Astros and 1986 NL Cy Young Award-winner and former Met Mike Scott. Gooden then took a no-decision in Game 5 after pitching 10 innings and giving up just one run.
Like former Mets ace Tom Seaver in the 1969 and 1973 World Series, Gooden did not pitch like an ace in the 1986 World Series. He did not get past the fifth inning in either of his two starts against Boston, but the Mets ended up winning the World Series in seven games.
Darling was 15-6 and had a career-best 2.81 ERA that year. He even received a few Cy Young votes for the only time in his career, finishing fifth.
Darling did not pitch well in Game 3 of the NLCS vs. the Astros, but the Mets came from behind to win. Darling did come up big in the World Series, picking up the slack as Gooden struggled.
Darling pitched well in Game 1, but lost, 1-0, to Bruce Hurst. In Game 4, Darling extended his scoreless streak to 14 innings and pitched well once again as the Mets won, 6-2. Even though he was relieved early in Game 7, the Mets still won the world championship and all was forgotten.
Gooden's 1987 season was marred with a stint in a rehabilitation facility and his season did not begin until June. After he returned, Gooden went 15-7 with a 3.21 ERA.
Darling on the other hand, regressed a bit as he struggled throughout the first half of the season. After the All-Star break, he won six straight starts, but was injured in September while the Mets were trying to fight off the Cardinals for the division crown. He finished the season 12-8 with a 4.29 ERA.
In 1988, the Mets got back to the postseason, but lost in seven games to the eventual World Series champion Dodgers.That year, Gooden went 18-9 with a 3.19 ERA as the Mets made the postseason for the second and final time in Gooden's career with the Mets. He also made his final trip to the All-Star Game that year.
Darling bounced back in a big way and won a career-high 17 games with an ERA of 3.25, although he struggled on the road, as 14 of his wins came at Shea Stadium.
In 1989, Gooden went 9-4 with a 2.89 ERA, but missed two months due to injuries. Darling was inconsistent in 1989 and finished 14-14, despite a 3.52 ERA. On a brighter note, Darling did become the first and only Mets pitcher to win a Gold Glove.
Gooden bounced back in 1990 with a 19-7 record and a 3.83 ERA while Darling struggled and was sent to the bullpen for the first time in his career. He endured his first losing season and was traded to the Expos in July of 1991 with a 5-6 record and a 3.87 ERA.
Gooden remained with the Mets until 1994, when he was suspended 60 days for testing positive for cocaine a second time. During his suspension, he tested positive yet again and had his suspension extended through the entire 1995 season, effectively endinig his time with the Mets.
The Mets, however, most likely would not have achieved the same amount of success from 1984-90 if it was not for the efforts of Gooden and Darling, the second-best starting rotation duo in Mets' history.