Best Mets Of All Time: No. 16 Dwight Gooden
There was a time when we thought Dwight Gooden was not only going to be the best Mets player of all-time, but he may be one of the best ever. That was how great Gooden was to start his career, and arguably, even with Tom Seaver and Jacob deGrom, Gooden put together the best two year stretch a Mets pitcher ever had.
To say Gooden was a phenom in 1984 was a complete and utter understatement. Gooden burst onto the scene leading the league in strikeouts, FIP, H/9, HR/9, and K.9. To date, his 11.4 K/9 that season still remains a Mets single-season record. His 276 strikeouts that season ranks “only” third in Mets history, but it was the Major League rookie record for strikeouts:
Not only was Gooden the youngest pitcher to ever pitch in an All-Star Game, but he would also strike out the side. Notably, in that game, he and Fernando Valenzuela combined to strike out six straight batters. That remains an All-Star Game record.
As great as he was in 1984, he would be even better in 1985. That 1985 season still ranks as the best season a Mets pitcher has ever had. Gooden’s 12.2 WAR mark that year still rates as the highest WAR any Met has had in any season. That year also marked the Mets single-season record for shutouts and WPA.
Perhaps, the best way to describe just how dominant Gooden was in the 1985 season is to point out how batters had absolutely no chance against him. In fact, as pointed out by Sports Illustrated, Larry Bowa told Gooden he had been tipping his pitches that entire season. Even with batters knowing what was coming, they still couldn’t hit him. One of the reasons why is he had a curveball so good Tim McCarver once dubbed it Lord Charles.
During the year, Gooden won the unanimous Cy Young, and he won the pitcher’s Triple Crown. His numbers that year look like video game numbers: 24-4, 1.53 ERA, 276.2 IP, 0.965 WHIP, and 268 strikeouts. He was simply untouchable.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons including drug and arm issues, Gooden never got back to this level. Still, he was a bona fide ace. In 1986, he would become the youngest pitcher to ever start an All Star Game. While he would amazingly never earn a postseason win in his career, he would still have some great starts. For example, in Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS, Gooden would allow just one run over 10.0 innings. While Gooden struggled in that World Series, he was still a World Series champion.
That’s when things really went downhill. Gooden missed the championship parade, and he would serve the first of his suspensions related to his cocaine use. The last one cost him the entirety of the 1995 season, and it would be the end of his Mets career.
After that 1986 season, he would still have highlights. Despite the suspension to start the year, he’d be lovingly greeted by Mets fans in his 1987 debut. He’d also finish in the top five of Cy Young voting. In 1988, he’d again pitch atop the Mets rotation who would win the NL East for the second time in three years.
While much of the focus was on Mike Scioscia in that series, his performance was overlooked. In his Game 1 no decision, he struck out 10 and out-pitched Orel Hershiser. Even though he got the no decision, he helped the Mets jump out to an early 1-0 lead in that series:
One thing which was understandably lost was his coming out of the bullpen on two days rest in Game 7 to pitch three shutout innings.
Gooden’s last good year came in 1990. Looking past his 3.83 ERA, which was startling a career high, he led the league in FIP and HR/9. It was also his fifth season pitching 200 innings, an it was the fourth time he would strike out 200 batters. For that season, he would finish fourth in the Cy Young voting.
Even with the troubles and much of the promise unfulfilled, Gooden remains a great all-time Met and Mets Hall of Famer. He is arguably the second best pitcher in Mets history. To date, he still holds team records in win percentage and HR/9. He also ranks second in WAR among pitchers, wins, strikeouts, and FIP.
Gooden is all over the top 10 in Mets pitcher career and single-season records. By WAR, he is the third best player to ever wear the Mets uniform. While we may fret over what might’ve been, what we got was a World Series, and the best player to ever wear the number 16.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Gooden was the 16th best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 16.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran