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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dwight Gooden

Eligible in 2006.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 29, 2007 at 11:10 PM | 58 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 29, 2007 at 11:12 PM (#2550398)
For one season, he was the greatest pitcher that I ever saw.
   2. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: September 29, 2007 at 11:14 PM (#2550405)
I am expecting a very well-written post from Sam M soon.
   3. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 29, 2007 at 11:22 PM (#2550417)
I am expecting a very well-written post from Sam M soon.


I will be looking forward to it, Russ.
   4. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: September 29, 2007 at 11:23 PM (#2550420)
Everybody, of course, knows about 1985, but 1984 is my favorite Gooden season, because of one stat in particular: 276 strikeouts in 218 innings pitched, for a K/9 of 11.39. That's the 12th best rate of all-time for qualifiers, behind a bunch of RJ seasons, a couple of Pedro seasons, Kerry Wood's (in)famous 1998 and Nolan Ryan's 1987.

In other words, as a 19-year old rookie starting pitcher, Dwight Gooden set the single-season record for K/9.

Not bad, huh? :-)
   5. John DiFool2 Posted: September 30, 2007 at 02:41 AM (#2550715)
For one season, he was the greatest pitcher that I ever saw


Bill James had Doc's 1985 as one of the top fluke seasons ever.

For Doc, in that particular year, that just isn't quite right. A "fluke" season to me is one where performance greatly exceeds established normal ability. Not only had Gooden not "established" his ability as being significantly inferior, over a number of years in professional baseball (he jumped from A= to the majors), one could argue that, at that moment, that that was his normal ability. After that of course his K rate started its long downward spiral, and he never was the same pitcher. But that's different that Norm Cash's or Ken Caminiti's seasons, where a veteran came out with a season way out of whack with what he had done before (or did since).
   6. Howie Menckel Posted: September 30, 2007 at 05:17 AM (#2550837)
Right, no question there was no fluke about it. That's how good he really was at the time.

I saw more than a dozen of Gooden's 1985 home games from a seat behind home plate.
I still have the "K" cards they gave out one day, like the ones the fans used to hang for each K (iirc, Guidry was the first MLB pitcher to get the "clap" from the fans with two strikes, pun intended, while Gooden was the first to get fans to hang something to commemorate each).

The batters couldn't even hit the ball sideways - most of the fouls seemed to be backwards, like they were swinging at a cyclone, and all you could do was change the height of it slightly, but not the direction.
   7. Sam M. Posted: September 30, 2007 at 06:25 AM (#2550867)
I am expecting a very well-written post from Sam M soon.

No pressure or anything . . . .

Doc. How many teenagers are brought up to be The Franchise and immediately fill the role as if there's nothing to it? I recall vividly when, in spring training 2006 -- after that astonishing 2005 year -- Doc was on the cover of Time. I bought it to the law school with me (it was towards the end of my third year, graduation was near). I pulled them it out of the bag and showed it to one of my best friends (the guy with whom I would later attend Game 6, in fact) and said, a devil's grin on my face, "Read Time, and understand," which was Time's ad slogan at the time, some of you may recall. We devoured the article. Here, by the way, is that cover:

http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19860407,00.html

None of us really believed it when McCarver warned that we had probably already seen the best that Doc Gooden would ever have to offer. That the game wasn't that easy, that adjustments would be made by hitters, that finding that perfect rhythm and balance might not come again, especially not for a full season, and that injuries or distractions could take their toll. Ironically, it was as much McCarver's peak as it was Doc's, because Tim was never again so insightful or dead-on as he was with that assessment. Of course, Bob Gibson's 1968 catcher would have known. If we thought he might be right at all, we thought that Doc would perhaps not be quite as good, but he'd still be the best, the most dominant pitcher in the league for years to come.

In those years, I wrote just for myself an essay at the end of each season, to sum up my feelings and capture what the year had been like. After 1985 was over, that splendid season of pennant race tension and and just barely falling short, here is the portion of what I wrote about Gooden's campaign:

Dwight Gooden. For the children of this decade, he is what, for us, Tom Seaver was. Far larger than life, he will be worshipped by them, an idolatry that will grow into the deepest of loves through the years. For us, he is less than that, and more, too. An adult cannot idolize this 20 year old prodigy. Be we have the benefit of perspective, and so we see him more fully, if less grandly. What he does astounds us, makes us laugh out loud and shake our heads, grinning, in amazement. The numbers describe but do not define him. The moment when Dwight knocked down Gullickson, telling him that his aiming at Gary Carter would not be allowed, tells us much, for it signals his maturity and understanding of his central place on his team. But even that instant limits our memory too much. My impression, in the end, is of his constancy. Unfailingly he would establish a rhythm within a game. At Wrigley with the wind blowing out, changing his style, pitching low and getting ground outs. At Shea, striking out 16 Giants with high fastballs. At Chavez Ravine, 9 strikes with the bases loaded in the 8th. Back at Shea, a monstrous curveball to frustrate Montreal. Individual movements in a summer symphony that was his, alone, forever.

His downfall from the heights we thought he would reach -- and which he surely was certain he would -- was different than Darryl's, and in a way less sad. While Doc had some of the same personal failings of will and inability to resist his demons, those ended up costing him (in the baseball sense) only at the margins. He lost the vast bulk of what might have been to the most old-fashioned of baseball tragedies: a pitcher's arm injuries and deterioration from overuse. By the time drugs and booze cut away what was left, and left his life in tatters, it already wasn't the 1984-85 Doc. That pitcher was gone.

I couldn't begin to know whether what we saw in those years, and the glory in 1986, was worth what it cost him. I suppose that given what came afterwards, the off-field problems would have stripped him of the glory soon enough, anyway. The greatness would have gone, one way or the other, so at least we (and he) have the memories of one of the most incredible rookie seasons anyone has ever had (and the turnaround it helped spark in a franchise). We have the memories of the greatest season any player has ever had wearing the uniform of the team we love. And we have the memories of what remains, to this day, the last time that team has celebrated a World Series championship. If all that wasn't quite worth it, it was nevertheless a return to be treasured. No baseball fan, and certainly no Mets' fan, who saw Doc Gooden in those early years, should ever take for granted the great gift we were given.
   8. Gonfalon B. Posted: September 30, 2007 at 06:36 AM (#2550875)
In those heady days, Gooden had one game at Shea where he was so dominant that when he induced a batter to pop up in foul territory to Hernandez, a wave of "Drop it!" shouts rang out. The fans wanted to see him strike out the batter instead.
   9. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: September 30, 2007 at 06:51 AM (#2550879)
How everyone took it for granted that Dwight and Darryl would be Hall of Famers, just like Whitey and Mickey...
   10. vortex of dissipation Posted: September 30, 2007 at 09:25 AM (#2550893)
The sight of Dwight Gooden pitching (horribly) for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2000 was one of the saddest things I've seen in baseball...
   11. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: September 30, 2007 at 12:41 PM (#2550917)
One of the best curve balls I've ever seen on TV. I remember McCarver (I think) frequently mentioning how everyone else had an Uncle Charlie, but Gooden's was Lord Charles.

OK, Dr. K Jeopardy, I give you the answer, you give me the question.

Marvell Wynne.
   12. Howie Menckel Posted: September 30, 2007 at 02:41 PM (#2550994)
Is vortex too young to remember Willie Mays' pitiful 'single' in the 1973 World Series?
;)

I had the Mays 1973 baseball card as a kid, and he had so many lines on his face I thought he was about 60!
   13. John DiFool2 Posted: September 30, 2007 at 03:15 PM (#2551021)
He lost the vast bulk of what might have been to the most old-fashioned of baseball tragedies: a pitcher's arm injuries and deterioration from overuse.


I remember Davey Johnson removing him from a tie game about to go to the 10th, using the excuse of "saving his arm for the future". Kind of like trying to apply some duct tape to the ruptures in the Titanic, secure that you have now "saved" the ship. 16 CG in '05. Of course now we would run him through something like that newfangled machine that the Red Sox have, carefully ensure that his pitch counts don't exceed 100, etc.
   14. Sam M. Posted: September 30, 2007 at 04:47 PM (#2551094)
I remember McCarver (I think) frequently mentioning how everyone else had an Uncle Charlie, but Gooden's was Lord Charles.

McCarver did use that a lot, but I'm almost certain that was coined by the cheesiest announcer in Mets' history, Steve Zabriskie. If a latter-day Zabriskie tried to do something like that with Darling and Hernandez, they'd put an end to it by the next commercial break.

Gooden's curve, though, was just incredible. I've seen stories in recent years that Doc even tipping his pitches (hell, he was only a two-pitch pitcher in those first couple of years, until Mel decided he needed to work on a cut fastball -- cue rolling of eyes), and hitters still had no chance against that curve. It is no exaggeration to say that in 1985, Gooden had the two best pitches in the league, in a rising, explosive fastball that was simply untouchable and a curve that bent impossibly top to bottom. And his command of those two pitches had to be seen to be believed -- virtually every time out, every inning, he could just do everything he wanted, everything Carter asked of him in any count, in any situation.

That "9 strikes with the bases loaded" I referred to above -- Retrosheet fills in the details. That was a game on June 4, 1985, in which he had just walked Pete Guerrero intentionally to load the bases with nobody out, in a 1-1 game. He then proceeded to strike out Greg Brock, get Mike Scioscia to pop out to Carter in foul ground, and strike out Terry Whitfield . . . on nine straight, absolutely overpowering strikes. Suitably inspired, the Mets then proceeded to get three in the 9th to win.

After the Mets were eliminated, having finished three wins short of the Cardinals that year, there were hysterical stories from the clubhouse about how the players went after Gooden unmercifully about how his four losses were the cause of their downfall. If only he had won those games instead, they'd have finished one game up. Players are great. Of course, a check of Retrosheet will tell you how good Doc actually was even in his losses and no-decisions that year.
   15. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 30, 2007 at 05:06 PM (#2551117)
McCarver did use that a lot, but I'm almost certain that was coined by the cheesiest announcer in Mets' history, Steve Zabriskie.


I remember McCarver saying it first, Sam, but it's so many years ago...

I actually thought McCarver and Zabriskie worked well together. Besides, even at his worst, Zabriskie was no Lorn Brown.
   16. The Wilpons Must Go (Tom D) Posted: October 01, 2007 at 02:03 AM (#2552434)
I still have the "K" cards they gave out one day

I was at that game. I think it was mid-April. Doc gave me some of the best times I have spent at the ballpark.

Bill James had Doc's 1985 as one of the top fluke seasons ever.

That's James jumping the shark IMHO. This was two years after Lamar Hoyt won 24 games.
   17. a bebop a rebop Posted: October 01, 2007 at 02:15 AM (#2552438)
Bill James had Doc's 1985 as one of the top fluke seasons ever.

That's James jumping the shark IMHO. This was two years after Lamar Hoyt won 24 games.


Nah, it was a pretty simple formula based off of his Win Shares. The formula didn't know about his true talent level. If I recall, it was one of the few that Bill James brushed off in the article, didn't really go into, probably because it was clear that it wasn't truly "flukish".
   18. Jeff K. Posted: October 01, 2007 at 02:51 AM (#2552460)
I recall vividly when, in spring training 2006 -- after that astonishing 2005 year -- Doc was on the cover of Time.

That defines "Freudian slip" right there.
   19. Boots Day Posted: October 01, 2007 at 03:03 AM (#2552469)
It wasn't just 1985. Gooden finished off 1984 on fire, going 8-1 in his last nine starts with a 1.18 ERA. In that stretch, over 76 innings, Gooden struck out 105 and walked only 13. After 1985, he started off 1986 with a 5-0 record in his first six starts, and a 1.04 ERA. In those six starts, he struck out 39 and walked eight.

When you add in his awesome 1985, you get the following record for Dwight Gooden from August 11, 1984, to May 6, 1986:

37-5, 1.40 ERA, 412 Ks and 90 walks in 404.6 innings, over a stretch of exactly 50 starts.
   20. Rob_Wood Posted: October 01, 2007 at 10:56 PM (#2553632)
I remember going to Candlestick in late 1985 (I think) and seeing the Giants chase Gooden with a walk and a couple of bloop hits (again, I think). I can't remember if Gooden got a loss but I am almost positive he left the game behind. [Gooden in 1985 was the best pitcher I have ever seen.]

Anybody want to fill in the details? Thanks much!
   21. ronw Posted: October 01, 2007 at 11:04 PM (#2553644)
   22. DL from MN Posted: October 02, 2007 at 01:54 PM (#2555960)
I see a lot of parallels between Dick Redding and Dwight Gooden. Both fireballer pitchers who threw a ton of innings then faded into mediocrity. I think Redding sustained his level of greatness longer (3 full seasons at least) and faded less quickly. They were both known as having one of the best fastballs of their era.
   23. Spahn Insane Posted: October 03, 2007 at 12:15 AM (#2556961)
As I recall, Gooden was even tougher on the the Cubs than he was on the league in general during his amazing '85 season, particularly at night. He also had a large day/night split, if memory serves--basically, any night game at Shea with Doc starting (particularly against the Cubs) was over before it began.
   24. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: October 03, 2007 at 12:26 AM (#2556969)
As I recall, Gooden was even tougher on the the Cubs than he was on the league in general during his amazing '85 season, particularly at night.


IIRC, Bill Gallo used to portray him as a vampire in his cartoons in the Daily News, because he was so dominating at night, but hittable in the daylight.

I believe his first shellacking came against the Cubbies in '84, BTW. A day game at Wrigley.
   25. The Wilpons Must Go (Tom D) Posted: October 03, 2007 at 12:29 AM (#2556973)
After 1985, he started off 1986 with a 5-0 record in his first six starts, and a 1.04 ERA. In those six starts, he struck out 39 and walked eight.

I was at an the game of 5-11-86 vs. the Reds. Doc began giving up rope singles and lost the game with Pete Rose being the hitting star. That was the end of the streak of dominance.
   26. The Wilpons Must Go (Tom D) Posted: October 07, 2007 at 03:18 AM (#2564855)
An adult cannot idolize this 20 year old prodigy. Be we have the benefit of perspective, and so we see him more fully, if less grandly.

You lost me here Sam. I was 23 at the time and I certainly idolized The K. Before 1985, I could not afford to attend games with any regularity. In 1985, I had some dough and had the probable Gooden starts marked on a special calendar not to be used for any other purpose. The Summer of Doc is burned onto my memory. Some of the best times I ever spent at the ballpark.
   27. baudib Posted: October 07, 2007 at 03:31 AM (#2564879)
Clemens was better.
   28. baudib Posted: October 07, 2007 at 03:35 AM (#2564890)
I want to add that a great deal of Gooden's decline (at least his early decline) had to do with the incredible deterioration of the Mets' defense.

In 1990, Gooden struck 223 batters in 232.2 innings, walking 70 and giving up just 10 homers...numbers that aren't that far off from his 85-86 seasons....But he gave up almost a hit per inning and had a 3.83 ERA.
   29. Howie Menckel Posted: October 07, 2007 at 04:08 AM (#2564944)
Like Tom D, I was 23 when the 1985 season started.
I've never been an "idolized" kind of guy, fwiw, but as noted I kept showing up game after Gooden home game.
Never did that before or since for any other athlete, as a fan.
   30. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: October 07, 2007 at 07:16 PM (#2565567)
Gooden and Strawberry, Met stars of my generation, were the last players that I "idolized." When they made their famous falls from grace during my early twenties (I'm 3 years younger than Tom and Howie), I guess I lost my baseball innocence. O.J. was the final nail in the coffin in '94 for all sports.

That doesn't mean that I don't enjoy sports the same way. I still get wrapped up in a game the same way I have always done. But I don't look at the players the same way anymore.
   31. Sam M. Posted: October 08, 2007 at 01:29 AM (#2566615)
You lost me here Sam. I was 23 at the time and I certainly idolized The K.

I think there is something very different in the way kids look at the heroic sports figures of their childhood (Seaver, most especially, for me) and those of their adulthood. For one thing, kids of the '80s dreamt of growing up to BE Gooden or Straw; we were already grown. We may have played out the dream of playing the game as far as our limited skills would take us, and so there is a sense in which we more fully appreciate how truly amazing the greatest seasons are. At some level, even if we didn't think about it every day, we know that the guys Gooden dominated in 1985 were -- all of them -- incredibly better than all of us were at the game. And yet, for that one season (and a bit more, as Boots pointed out) Doc was that much better than all of them.

Incredible. So we could appreciate him in what we saw -- and yes, as Howie did, I too kept showing up game after game. And I never missed a telecast of a road game. We were transfixed.

But idolize? I was eight when the Mets won the 1969 World Series, and 25 in 1986. The way I looked at Seaver through those eight-year old eyes was just . . . different than the way I looked at Gooden. Maybe it's semantics, and you would use the word "idol" for both of them. Not me, though.
   32. djrelays Posted: October 10, 2007 at 07:07 PM (#2571036)
Fascinating! Everything written about Gooden's dominance, the awe he inspired among batters and fans, the sheer mastery of his opposition while at his peak, the inability to hit a pitch even though it was tipped, all of it was exactly what people felt about Sandy Koufax.

In my generation, we were all Sandy Koufax in the backyard, except that no one could bow his back like Koufax. But we all could do the leg kick, and flick the glove hand forward with the pitching hand looking like it was coming right from behind the glove. And for whomever was batting it was de rigueur to flail away at the pitch, much as Koufax would do were he batting.

Growing up in Philly, Jim Bunning's falling-off-the-mound delivery had to be copied. I remember we also did Warren Spahn, Don Drysdale and Bob Gibson, all the great National Leaguers. To do Gibson right you had to put on the meanest scowl going, and that was hard to effect without the batter cracking up at how silly you looked. Coming from an NL city, there was only one American Leaguer we learned, Whitey Ford. That's because we saw him on TV every October.

But back to Koufax. Watching him pitch during my teens, there was no one better. But when my father and I would watch him I'd have to hear all about Bob Feller.
   33. Boots Day Posted: October 10, 2007 at 07:15 PM (#2571045)
I am just a couple of years younger than Gooden, so I wouldn't say I idolized him, but I was very much in awe of him. I can remember writing a letter to my brother saying that I felt fortunate to be living at the same time as Dwight Gooden.
   34. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: October 10, 2007 at 07:20 PM (#2571052)
I am just a couple of years younger than Gooden, so I wouldn't say I idolized him, but I was very much in awe of him. I can remember writing a letter to my brother saying that I felt fortunate to be living at the same time as Dwight Gooden.


Yeah, "awe" is the right word, not "idolize." I felt great that someone from my own generation (he's less than a year older than me) had a season as great as anybody else's, but it still wasn't the same feeling that I had as a kid imitating Seaver's mechanics or Schmidt hitting the longball. The latter two were gods to me.
   35. JPWF13 Posted: October 10, 2007 at 07:42 PM (#2571073)
In 1990, Gooden struck 223 batters in 232.2 innings, walking 70 and giving up just 10 homers...numbers that aren't that far off from his 85-86 seasons....But he gave up almost a hit per inning and had a 3.83 ERA.


For his career his BABIP was .291, that year it was .331, his DIPS ERA was 2.87- so his W-L may actually have reflected his ability that year better than his ERA...

The stolen base numbers against Gooden were nuts. In 1990 in 983 PA (310 men on base) he allowed 60 steals (16 CS).
In 1985 it was 22 steals (10 cs) in 1065 PAs (265 men on base),

In 1985 Gary Carter was the catcher, in 1990 it was Mackey Sasser and company.
But in 1990 runners only stole 25 against Viola (15 cs)
23 against Cone (9 cs)
20 against El Sid (6 cs)
24 against Darling (554 PAs- 174 men on base)

That's a lot of steals, but they REALLY ran wild against Gooden.
   36. Sam M. Posted: October 10, 2007 at 07:56 PM (#2571096)
Fascinating! Everything written about Gooden's dominance, the awe he inspired among batters and fans, the sheer mastery of his opposition while at his peak, the inability to hit a pitch even though it was tipped, all of it was exactly what people felt about Sandy Koufax.

There was one big difference: age. Gooden had that signature season that none of us who saw it up close and personal will ever forget when he was 20. We won't talk about Sandy's struggles at that age. In that sense -- maybe only in that sense -- Koufax was just another mortal pitcher trying to harness his stuff at a young age. But not Doc.

It was that combination of awe-inspiring dominance and belief-defying youth that made 1985 so truly incredible. Gooden did things pitchers only rarely do, in those special seasons . . . and he did them at an age when pitchers never do them. We didn't have ERA+ back then, of course, but consider the age at which pitchers in the last half-century have hurled seasons of 200 or better (arranged from youngest to oldest):

Doc Gooden (226) -- 1985, age 20
Dean Chance (200) -- 1964, age 23
Pedro Martinez (221) -- 1997, age 25
Pedro Martinez (245) -- 1999, age 27
Roger Clemens (211) -- 1990, age 27
Ron Guidry (208) -- 1978, age 27
Pedro Martinez (285) -- 2000, age 28
Greg Maddux (273) -- 1994, age 28
Greg Maddux (259) -- 1995, age 29
Pedro Martinez (212) -- 2003, age 31
Bob Gibson (256) -- 1968, age 32
Roger Clemens (226) -- 1997, age 34
Roger Clemens (221) -- 2005, age 42

Most of those guys are veterans, with many hundreds of innings under their belts. That's Pedro and Roger and Maddux at their peaks, not in their second year, not at the age of 20. And the guys who fell just short of the 200 mark -- Seaver 1971 and Maddux and Pedro in their other years -- follow the same pattern. What Gooden did was just unique. Only Dean Chance comes close . . . and 23 just isn't the same as 20, and he wasn't nearly as dominant as Doc was.

It doesn't exaggerate much to say that with Gooden, it was kind of hard to believe what we were seeing. But there it was.
   37. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: October 10, 2007 at 07:58 PM (#2571103)
That's a lot of steals, but they REALLY ran wild against Gooden.


He had a big disadvantage with that high kick of his. God only knows how many bases would have been stolen against him if Piazza had been behind the plate instead!
   38. The Wilpons Must Go (Tom D) Posted: October 10, 2007 at 08:18 PM (#2571134)
I guess I lost my baseball innocence. O.J. was the final nail in the coffin in '94 for all sports.

I was 10 when Peterson and Kekich swapped wives.
   39. Dizzypaco Posted: October 10, 2007 at 08:22 PM (#2571144)
Watching Gooden over that period, his period of greatest dominance (by observation) wasn't even in 2005. It was September, 2004, when he was as dominant as any pitcher, ever. His stretch of starts, a one-hitter against the Cubs followed by two straight 16 strikeout games where I don't think anyone even had a three ball count in either game, was something I will never forget. Every batter that faced him at this time looked utterly overmatched - they didn't look like they had even a chance of hitting the ball hard. And he was 19.

In 1985, he was dominant the whole year, of course, but hitters didn't seem so completely overmatched to me as they did during that special stretch in September of '84. By mid 1986, he was already on the down side of his career.

I personally don't think the drugs had much or even anything to do with his downfall. People's bodies change between the ages of 19 and 25. For hitters, that almost always works to their advantage. But for a pitcher who is already pitching as well as is humanly possible at 19, those changes can only negatively affect him. Add all of the innings he was throwing at an extremely young age, and it should have been expected that he would be a different pitcher at 27 than he was at 19.
   40. Dizzypaco Posted: October 10, 2007 at 08:23 PM (#2571146)
2005. It was September, 2004,

I mean 1985 and 1984. Oops.
   41. JPWF13 Posted: October 10, 2007 at 08:26 PM (#2571148)
God only knows how many bases would have been stolen against him if Piazza had been behind the plate instead!


I don;t know how many of Gooden's games Sasser caught, but Piazza could have been a defensive replacement for Sasser.

Of course Sasser was even worse at throwing back to the pitcher than he was at throwing to 2B on a steal attempt.
   42. depletion Posted: October 10, 2007 at 08:36 PM (#2571158)
One could see a difference in 1986, that something was a bit off with Dwight. In 1984-85 he would get the ball back from the pitcher, check the sign, wind and deliver. In 1986, there was fidgeting with his hat, wiping the hand across the front of his uniforms, and so forth, on every pitch. Every single pitch.
   43. Sam M. Posted: October 10, 2007 at 08:36 PM (#2571159)
His stretch of starts, a one-hitter against the Cubs followed by two straight 16 strikeout games where I don't think anyone even had a three ball count in either game, was something I will never forget.

Ditto. Here are Gooden's cumulative stats for those three starts, plus his next one (which were his last four starts of his rookie season -- the only walk came in that last start):

34 18 3 2 1 52 0.53

Yes, he had a 52:1 K/W ratio in those 34 innings. You just have to laugh.
   44. Dizzypaco Posted: October 10, 2007 at 09:04 PM (#2571190)
Another thing I remember about Gooden (talking about the stolen bases), is that he never seemed to care if they stole or not - they weren't going to score, anyway. If I remember correctly, Davey Johnson didn't like a lot of pitchouts - the attitude was, "focus on the hitter, not the runner". With Gooden, it wasn't like the other team had much of a chance of scoring even if the guy did reach scoring position.
   45. JPWF13 Posted: October 10, 2007 at 09:57 PM (#2571271)
Another thing I remember about Gooden (talking about the stolen bases), is that he never seemed to care if they stole or not - they weren't going to score, anyway.


But they really didn't go nuts running on him until after 84/85, after he became much more hittable.

I think it was a combination of several factors
1: He never really learned to hold runners on because he didn't have to. Not a lot of baserunners, a lot of Ks.
2: His primary catchers after Carter were not all that good at throwing out runners
3: He took forever and a day to wind up and throw the ball, especially after he lost his really good stuff.
   46. AndrewJ Posted: October 10, 2007 at 10:07 PM (#2571279)
It was that combination of awe-inspiring dominance and belief-defying youth that made 1985 so truly incredible. Gooden did things pitchers only rarely do, in those special seasons . . . and he did them at an age when pitchers never do them.



The only other athletes I've seen that dominant that young were Mike Tyson and Tiger Woods. Say what you will about Tiger's personal demeanor or his dad's sanity, you've got to admire how he probably had a thousand chances to stumble or self-destruct in his 20s as Doc and Mike did, but avoided every single one of them.
   47. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: October 10, 2007 at 10:30 PM (#2571296)
I'm always shocked the dirty golf underworld never did him in.
   48. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: October 10, 2007 at 11:18 PM (#2571327)
I was 10 when Peterson and Kekich swapped wives.


I was around, but I was totally oblivious to it. It wasn't going to be part of my family dinner conversation back then, either. :-)

I don;t know how many of Gooden's games Sasser caught, but Piazza could have been a defensive replacement for Sasser.

Of course Sasser was even worse at throwing back to the pitcher than he was at throwing to 2B on a steal attempt.


Yeah, he wasn't any great shakes himself with the running game, now that I think about it. There was certainly less said about it than with Piazza.
   49. AndrewJ Posted: October 10, 2007 at 11:48 PM (#2571339)
I'm always shocked the dirty golf underworld never did [Tiger Woods] in.


They already had their hands full with John Daly.
   50. Howie Menckel Posted: October 11, 2007 at 01:28 AM (#2571393)
I remember writing some rapturous essay on Gooden in the winter of 1985.
Destiny was in his hands. It had to be, no?

I remember looking up the similar quick MLB successes, and not only Bob Feller but somehow Russ Ford got into the picture.

Don't remember my parameters offhand.
   51. rdfc Posted: October 13, 2007 at 06:34 PM (#2574631)
It was August 11, 1984 against the Pirates at Shea that everything really clicked for Gooden. Gooden had been in a mini-swoon before that start, but that day he had perhaps the best command he had had all year. From then on, through the end of 1985, he was the most dominant pitcher I ever saw. I think Pedro Martinez, at his best with the Red Sox in the late 90s, was probably a bit better than Gooden in the mid-80s, because Pedro knew more about pitching, but I've never seen anybody with as good stuff as Gooden had.

It was Gooden's 1984 that taught me about baseball. At midseason, Ron Darling had a better "record" than Gooden, but it was Gooden that everyone was talking about, for good reason. This issue was what started my baseball education. I had always been a baseball fan, and I grew up with Tom Seaver as my idol, and I collected lots of late 1970s card sets, but I really had never taken the time to understand the game as a kid.

The Mets believed that they were being extra protective of Gooden's arm, and they were being more protective than most other teams would have been. Every time Davey Johnson went out to pull Johnson, the crowd would yell tons of obscenities at him for doing so. The press would question him ever time, too. Johnson had to defend himself after pulling Gooden in that August 11 game, telling reporters that "'I knew if we didn't get out of it you'd chastise me every way, shape and form. I'll take that. I'm not going to extend him at the expense of what I think will be a long, great career."

Unfortunately, it wasn't nearly enough. At the beginning of 1986, Doc's strikeout rate went down significantly, and the media began to ask questions as to whether anything was wrong with his arm. In response, Mel Stottlemyre made up a story about having told Gooden to try and get more ground ball outs. There was no truth whatsoever to that story, but Stottlemyre didn't want Gooden to have to deal with the questions.

Obviously, Gooden had problems that went far beyond his arm, but I remain convinced that it was overuse, and not drug use, that did more damage in his career. Despite the fact that his pitching was quickly turning to mediocre in the late 1980s, locals ore or less gave him a free pass for a long time. He was getting an unbelievable amount of run support which kept his won-loss percentage quite good, and his drug use was excused because everybody had so much better an image of him than Strawberry. Now, Doc remains, I believe, the only player in major league history to get caught and suspended for drug use as a result of a clause the player himself insisted on putting in his contract, but i think the labeling of Gooden as good and Strawberry as bad was not always accurate. (Strawberry's major problem was that he had the maturity of an 8 year old)

Is Gooden a Hall of Meriter? Afraid not. His exceptional performance of a season and a third may deserve to be commemorated by the Hall in some kind of exhibit, but the reality is that once you get past 1986, there were only 2 seasons in which he performed as a significantly above average pitcher. Strawberry deserves far more serious consideration than Gooden.
   52. epoc Posted: October 30, 2009 at 03:01 AM (#3371369)
I'd like to revisit the idea that Gooden's defenses in the late 80s and early 90s had a profound effect on his reputation. If you go by ERA+ or something like Rally's WAR (which is based on RA, iirc), it will seem like Gooden had a very good rookie season, an incredible sophomore campaign, a couple of decent seasons after that, and then faded into mediocrity. From the comments here, that seems to be more or less the consensus. However, if you look at FIP you get a very different story - one which suggests that Doc was an elite pitcher for the first ten years of his career. His MLB ranks in FIP for each of those first ten seasons were 1,1,7,3,3,*,2,6,23, and 16, respectively, where (*) represents his injury-shortened '89 (118 IP) when he didn't qualify. After '93 were the drug suspensions and he was nothing special when he came back in '96. But I think it's too dismissive to say that he was nothing special after '85. Using FIP vs. league average ERA to calculate WAR, I get 9.5, 9.6, 5.2, 4.6, 6.1, 1.5, 7.6, 4.2, 3.8, 4.1 for '84-'93. Obviously, FIP isn't the whole story, but those numbers suggest that Gooden was pitching on an elite level for ten years. I'm not sure that makes him HoM, but maybe it means he deserves a closer look.
   53. Something Other Posted: October 30, 2009 at 03:58 AM (#3371487)
I was 10 when Peterson and Kekich swapped wives.
I was about that age, too, but the only thing that really bothered me about it was the swapping of pets. That just wasn't right.

Every time Davey Johnson went out to pull Johnson, the crowd would yell tons of obscenities at him for doing so.
Seems understandable, no?
   54. Willie Mayspedes Posted: October 30, 2009 at 05:46 AM (#3371535)
I was born in 1980 so I didn't appreciate Gooden but I did enjoy the comments here. An old married with children is on with Bo Jackson who I did see (I was at a game he broke a bat over his knee after striking out). One question: What was more impressive Bo Jackson's athleticism or Gooden's arm?
   55. AndrewJ Posted: February 21, 2010 at 07:21 PM (#3464566)
The only other athletes I've seen that dominant that young were Mike Tyson and Tiger Woods. Say what you will about Tiger's personal demeanor or his dad's sanity, you've got to admire how he probably had a thousand chances to stumble or self-destruct in his 20s as Doc and Mike did, but avoided every single one of them.


Um, permission to totally retract that observation????
   56. Paul Wendt Posted: February 21, 2010 at 09:30 PM (#3464616)
denied.
Woods married two months short of 29. This fall when scandal broke, he won some Athlete of the Decade award and turned 34.

Back to baseball, what about Bob Feller? He was a very big deal pitching in the majors at 17. Of course, some say he was on the road to destruction when saved by World War II.
   57. Paul Wendt Posted: February 21, 2010 at 09:47 PM (#3464620)
Bo Jackson?
In more ways than one, no one was more impressive. It's reasonable to say that hubris was his downfall but it was a different kind of hubris than Pete Rose's or Tiger Woods's --or Dwight Gooden's or Mike Tyson's if the term fits. Bo Jackson thought he could have it all within his field. He was bigger, faster, stronger than anyone else until he suffered sudden injury worse than anyone else. I associated him with Deion Sanders who felt the same way. Sanders didn't do as much in baseball but he did it in the nick of time and place to ca$h in.

Back to Dwight Gooden.
I'm surprised that Gooden played for more money than Deion Sanders, $15M for 1992-93-94. His record doesn't show that he was in the nick of time or place. Did the Mets foolishly agree? or foolishly fall into arbitration?
   58. Matt Welch Posted: February 21, 2010 at 10:03 PM (#3464630)
37-5, 1.40 ERA, 412 Ks and 90 walks in 404.6 innings, over a stretch of exactly 50 starts.

That might be the most amazing stat line I will read this year.

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