In case Jeff Wilpon hasn’t heard, Dwight Gooden has a serious health issue. For all he did for the Mets franchise, isn’t it payback time, Jeff?
Sadly, this is only one in a series of incidents that have plagued both the career and life of the man we know informally as “Doc”.
From his home in New Jersey, it’s just a twenty-minute ride across the George Washington Bridge to Shea Stadium where it all began in the early 1980’s. Cocaine was a regular feature in the Mets clubhouse back then.
Testifying at the trial of a suspected drug dealer, Keith Hernandez admitted to using “massive amounts” of cocaine during the 1980 season. Hernandez was never alone though. Emerging from the streets of Compton in Los Angeles, Darryl Strawberry came quickly to the party. As did Len Dykstra and, of course, Dwight Gooden.
But it was Gooden who rose to magical heights not achieved by the others. He went 194-112 with a 3.51 ERA across his 16 seasons with Major League Baseball. Virtually unhittable at times, Gooden overpowered batters and, more significantly, Mets fans.
It was an event back then whenever the newspapers showed Gooden as the starting pitcher. Shea Stadium was guaranteed to rock and the Mets organization rocked along with everyone by virtue of another sellout crowd.
Over the course of Gooden’s eleven seasons with the Mets, he was paid a total of about $27 million. A healthy sum, but one that doesn’t come close to approaching what Zack Greinke ($31 million for 2019 alone) brings in.
Or, Max Scherzer, who reaped a signing bonus (alone) of $50 million when he re-upped with the Nationals. Even with inflation tacked on, Gooden’s $27 million is worth just $61 million in 2019. (Salaries Source: Baseball Reference)
Knock, Knock, Jeff. Are you there?
Okay, here’s my problem. When weighed against everything Dwight Gooden accomplished on a baseball field for the New York Mets, isn’t it justified to ask where the Mets organization, and specifically the Wilpons, is in terms of extending a helping hand to one of their own? And to do it before we read in the papers about the only way this can end for Gooden?
Say whatever you want about George Steinbrenner, but never say he didn’t have a heart of gold. What business did Steinbrenner have when he signed both Gooden and Strawberry to major league contracts? None.
He did it anyway and he was rewarded for doing so when Doc Gooden hurled his only no-hitter as a New York Yankee. And Strawberry became a major contributor to the Yankees three World Series titles in 1996, 1998, and 1999.
Clearly, “Doc” is in need of assistance again. Some will say, screw him, he should be able to help himself. But these are ignorant thoughts from those who have never encountered addiction, or been close to someone who has an addiction.
I don’t care if the Mets get involved merely as a public relations gimmick to resurrect a flailing organization. Let the Wilpons bask in the limelight for being the “good guys”, even if they have not an ounce of “Steinbrenner” in them. Just do something.
A Plan For The Mets To Follow
What can they do? Well, the first thing they can do for Gooden is to get him home. Hire a lawyer for him and all that – but the most important thing is to be seen as a friend by Gooden himself. Hire him immediately as a consultant with an obligation to work five days a week with teams in the Mets system.
Understanding Gooden’s apparent inability to handle money, the Mets can pay him a negligible sum ($50,000 per year?) with an equal sum going into a trust fun divided between Gooden’s five children, and specifically earmarked as a college fund.
The cycle must be broken, and apparently, Dwight Gooden cannot make the difference.
Among those with addictions, relapses are common. And unfortunately, no one has come up with a way of rewiring an addict’s brain. It’s an illness, not a character default.
I’m sorry, but there’s no way I can understand inaction on the part of the Mets ownership. Or, for that matter, neither can I comprehend former teammates like Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling staying silent in the TV booth tonight…
Update 7/7/2019 7:15 p.m. EST
Reply to Readers Queries
Several readers correctly pointed out that I assumed the Mets have done nothing previously to assist Gooden. Using Google’s search, I can find nothing over eleven pages indicating the Mets direct involvement in anything pertaining to Dwight Gooden.
Darryl Strawberry had a widely publicized “intervention” that quickly went sour when he went overboard claiming that Gooden was on the verge of suicide. What Darryl actually said was, I have to try something before he’s dead”, but the inference is there and Gooden didn’t take kindly to it.
An article published in December 2018 indicated that Gooden had accepted an invitation to pitch to a group of Mets Fantasy Camp players during Spring Training. I could find no follow-up as to how that went.
To all of you, I appreciate the read, the likes, and most of all, your comments.
I chose the featured image (top) carefully because I believe all too often, we forget the ballplayers who entertain us are not robots. They have strengths and weaknesses just like we do. They are, for lack of a better word – human.