Just two years after selecting Strawberry with the No. 1 pick, the Mets had the fortune of selecting Doc Gooden with the fifth overall pick of the 1982 draft.
The scrawny kid out of Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Fla., immediately made a name for himself in the minor leagues. Pitching for the Single-A Lynchburg Mets in the Carolina League, Gooden went 19-4 with a 2.50 ERA, and 300 strikeouts in 191 innings. Yes, three hundred!
He didn’t bother playing Double-A or Triple-A ball. He jumped effectively from the fourth grade to college.
The first three years of his life in the Major Leagues was something special, indeed. He won Rookie of the Year honors in 1984 with a 17-9 record, a 2.60 ERA and 276 strikeouts. He had arguably the most dominant season of any pitcher in the modern era in 1985 when he won baseball’s triple crown. He won 24 games (24-4), posted a 1.53 ERA, and struck out 268 batters. Sixteen of his 35 starts were complete games, and eight of them went for shutouts. He had a WHIP of less than 1.00 (0.97) and he could have had even more wins, but he pitched back-to-back nine-inning shutouts and received no decisions both times.
He then went 17-6 in 1986, helping the Mets to their second World Championship.
Gooden went on to have a 157-85 record in New York with a 3.10 ERA and 67 complete games. He featured in four All-Star games, although none after 1988.
He was granted free agency at the end of the '94 season after a 60-day suspension for testing positive for cocaine and he had brief stints with the Yankees, Indians, Astros and Devil Rays before calling it a day in 2000 at age 35.
While Gooden was the brightest star the Mets have ever drafted, he was also the one who went the furthest off the rails. He reportedly missed the World Series parade because of a drug binge the night before, and his fights with police officers in Florida were widely documented. He tested positive for cocaine while serving a drug-related suspension, and that in turn led to Gooden contemplating suicide when his 60-day ban turned into a one-year suspension.
Gooden was one of the best the Mets have ever seen. But he was also one of the biggest unfulfilled promises in the franchise's history. As great as he was at the start of his career, Gooden could have been the best pitcher in his era.