Dwight Gooden could have gone down as one of the best pitchers in baseball history.
And as a Mets fan—and a baseball fan—in his earlier years, it was hard to imagine he wasn’t going to be an all-time great. Gooden started off his career with 17 wins and nine losses, with a 2.60 ERA and 276 strikeouts, along with the Rookie of the Year award.
In his first 10 years, Gooden had 176 wins and 85 losses, with win totals of 24,19,18, and 17 (twice). In his first 10 years, Gooden had 1,875 strikeouts and on his resume, as well as a Cy Young award and a World Series ring.
Gooden was on his was to a great Hall of Fame career.
But in the mid '80s, he was a young star who made a lot of money and that was the demise of Gooden, who started using drugs. In the '80s, he could fight through the drug use on pure talent, but like any pitcher, when he aged, his talent could no longer support his drug habit, and his numbers declined dramatically.
In his last seven years, his numbers totaled different results. It’s almost night and day.
He only totaled 34 wins in his last seven years, fewer wins than he had amassed in his first two years in the league. He also had 26 losses and ERA numbers up in the high fours and fives. Every once in awhile, you would see flashes of the old Gooden, like his no-hitter with the Yankees.
Gooden was a baseball tragedy. He was a young man who had tremendous talent but turned into a washed-up pitcher with multiple arrest on his record. Gooden, if not on drugs, would have easily eclipsed 3,000 strikeouts. Instead, he finished with 2,293.
He also would have been around the 250 or higher mark in wins. He finished with a 194-112 record.
Baseball fans and analysts would have been talking about Gooden in the same breath as Roger Clemens.
Only Gooden did not need steroids to get where he would have been. Hey, maybe it would have been better that way. Today, Gooden is just a fading memory in the minds of baseball fans.
It’s up to the Mets' fans to keep the second-best pitcher in the Mets' history alive in their minds. If it was not for his fall, he would have been our best.