Dwight Gooden

Mets Pitchers Go to the Mattresses

The Mets have a $140 million payroll. The strength of the team is its young, cost-controlled pitching. The pre-arbitration pitchers make little money by baseball standards. However, their $500,000+ salary should allow them to live comfortably. 

Families make a lot less than that, and they can put a roof over their families heads and put food on the table. One of the crazy things a family is able to afford, even with relatively modest means, is a mattress for everyone. When they go away to places like Florida, they can stay at places that have decent mattresses. So with that said, why can’t the Mets and their players?

Last year, Steven Matz almost missed the postseason because he injured his back sleeping on a Barcalounger. Yesterday, Jacob deGrom missed his Spring Training start because he tweaked his back sleeping on a mattress that was too soft. He was able to throw a bullpen. He then counseled with Matt Harvey who, like Baby Bear, had a mattress recommendation that is just right

I know, I know. We should calm down. Matz was able to pitch in the postseason, and deGrom was able to pitch a pain free bullpen. However, I get nervous because it’s the dumbest things that interfere with a great or potentially great season. 

The 1987 Mets never got traction with their pitchers missing time. Most notably was Dwight Gooden and his cocaine suspension.  Aside from Gooden, I think every Met pitcher had an injury including the guy who threw batting practice. 

In 1988, the Mets returned to form, but there was a strange injury that hurt their chances at another World Series title. On the day the Mets clinched the NL East, Bob Ojeda, who was amazing in 1986, nearly severed the middle finger on his pitching hand while trimming the bushes in his front yard. The Mets, who dominated the Dodgers in the regular season, lost the NLCS in seven games. 

In 2006, Duaner Sanchez suffered a season ending shoulder injury during a late night cab ride to get a late night bite. This caused a number of moves to try to replace his spot in the bullpen. In the seventh inning of Game Two of the NLCS, Guillermo Mota shook off Paul Lo Duca and threw a change up that Scot Spiezio turned into a game tying triple. In Game Seven, Aaron Heilman allowed Yadier Molina to hit the series winning homerun. It’s possible Sanchez would’ve closed the door in either situation. Instead, he was unavailable. 

The overriding point is that it’s not just the Tommy John surgeries that kill your chances. It’s also the yard work and can rides. It’s the unforeseen problems that arise. Maybe the Mets win in 1988 if Ojeda hires a gardener. Maybe the Mets win in 2006 if Sanchez orders room service. I don’t want to say maybe the Mets win in 2016 if their pitchers had better mattresses. 

If in the equipment manager, I’m ordering a mattresses that Harvey recommended for every player. The 2016 season cannot be derailed by a bad mattress. 

Explaining the Chapman Situation to Your Child

Growing up, my favorite player was Darryl Strawberry. My brother’s was Dwight Gooden. Both were addicted to drugs. Both ruined their careers over it. Both forced my father to talk about it with my brother and I as these issues arose. I remembered that yesterday when reading Jared Diamond’s Tweet:

https://twitter.com/jareddiamond/status/707919767391309824

I have to be honest. Thoughts like this can keep me up at times at night. With my son being two, I fortunately will not have to answer questions like this for quite a while. However, there will come a day I will have to answer these questions. 

Where to begin?

Well, first off, I think it’s not just a father-daughter question. I think it’s a father-child question. Additionally, I think it’s an opportunity for a parent. It’s a teachable moment. It’s a time to address not just the acts and ramifications, but also why a player like Aroldis Chapman is still allowed to play baseball. 

In having this discussion, the overriding principle should be honesty. 

I would start with how a man should never ever lay his hand on a woman. A man should never ever physically threaten or denigrate a woman. Those are not the actions of a real man. I never have and never will treat his mother like that. I expect he will never treat a woman that way. 

I would then explain that he was punished for his actions. No, I don’t agree with the suspension. I thought he got off easy. With that said, he was punished for his actions, and it did cost him about $1.7 million. It has also damaged his reputation. Wherever he goes for the rest of his life, he’s going to be associated with these actions. 

As for why he’s still allowed to play?  It’s twofold. First, he served a suspension, and he’s allowed to return. And yes, he should be allowed to return. Chapman deserved his suspension. He served his punishment. Anytime anyone serves their punishment, they have a right to return. They have a right to turn their lives around. Chapman is no different. 

I’d also point out the obvious. Chapman is playing because he can throw 100 MPH. No one would want him if he wasn’t uniquely talented. It’s why he’s getting a second chance. It’s why someone will always be interested in giving him a chance. It will never excuse what he did, but when you are great at something someone will always give you a chance. With that said, in anything you do in life going forward, always be cognizant that one mistake or one action can take everything away no matter how great you are. 

The most difficult question to answer is why would I root for him. You see I don’t root for him. I root for the Mets. I root for the Mets because I always have through thick and thin. I root for the Mets like my Dad does. The Mets are more than just one player. Sure, there will always be a player or two I don’t like. There may be a player that has done something as vile as what Chapman did. No, I don’t like having a player like Chapman on the Mets, but I don’t get a say in who plays for the Mets. 

So yes, it’s alright to root for the Mets. It’s alright to cheer when someone like Chapman helps your team. I just wouldn’t buy his jersey or cheer him when he’s announced.  

At least this is what I hope I will do. 

Thor Trying to Avoid Tommy John Surgery

Going into the 2016 season, there is one fear each and every Mets fan has. We dare not speak its name, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still present. That fear is that a pitcher will get seriously injured. 

Looking at this year’s list of pitchers who could befall the dreaded “Verducci Effect,” Noah Syndergaard headlines that list. If Syndergaard was to suffer a season ending injury requiring Tommy John surgery? it would greatly hinder the Mets chances of winning not only the World Series, but also making it to the postseason. It’s something that not just Mets fans fear, but as Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reports, Syndergaard fears it also:

I’ve thought about it quite a bit. But I trust myself to put my body in the right situations to be able to perform at a healthy level. 

The fear is justified. Syndergaard threw 65.2 innings more last year. He throws over 95 MPH more than anyone in the game. He’s working to add the fabled Warthen Slider to his already dominant repertoire. Name a risk factor for UCL years requiring Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard meets most if not all of them. 

One risk factor not readily discussed is the team he plays for. Look at the projected Mets rotation when healthy: Matt HarveyJacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Put aside Syndergaard for a moment. What do the other four have in common?  They are all hard throwing pitchers under the age of 30 who have already had Tommy John surgery. 

Go outside this group. Since Warthen took over as the Mets pitching coach, the following homegrown Mets have sustained arm injuries: Jon Niese (shoulder), Dillon Gee (shoulder), Jeremy Hefner (two Tommy John surgeries), Rafael Montero (shoulder), Bobby Parnell (Tommy John), Josh Edgin (Tommy John), Jack Leathersich (Tommy John). There are more, but you get the point. 

Now, is this an organizational problem since Warthen took over, or is it just bad luck?  Could this all have been avoided?  Back in the 60’s and 70’s the Mets developed pitchers like Tom SeaverJerry KoosmanNolan Ryan, and Jon Matlack. These pitchers threw more innings than the pitchers today, and yet, Matlack was the only one of this group that suffered an arm injury. 

In the 80’s, the Mets had Dwight GoodenRon DarlingSid Fernandez, Rick AguileraRandy Myers and David Cone. Of this group, only Doc and Cone had arm issues. It should be noted that Doc had many other issues as well, and Cone’s problem was an aneurysm later in his career. 

In the 90’s, Generation K was a bust, and the Mets haven’t developed the caliber of starting pitchers like they have in the past until now. However, this generation seems to befall injuries far more often than their predecessors. Is it organizational?  Is it bad luck?  Is it preparation?  For his part, Harvey wonders what if:

I think now, there are things I could have done better in high school or in college to maybe prevent it. But I don’t know. I’m not saying [Syndergaard] works that much harder than everybody else, because we all work hard. I think as time progresses, guys pay more attention to stretching the shoulder, strengthening the shoulder. If I could go back — I don’t know if this would’ve prevented me from having [surgery], but if I could go back and really do 20 extra minutes of stretching and arm care, you never know what could happen. 

That’s the thing. We really don’t know why one guy suffers elbow and shoulder injuries while others don’t. Is it preparation?  Is it good genes?  Is it just good luck?  Much time, energy, and money has been spent on this issue, and yet pitchers still get injured. Pitchers get injured despite teams doing everything in their power to try to prevent it. 

It will help Syndergaard being in a clubhouse with players who have had Tommy John surgery. They each will have advice for him on why they suffered the injury and what they could’ve done differently. More importantly, Syndergaard appears to be a hard worker who takes the health of his arm very seriously.  There is no doubt he is doing everything he can do to avoid the dreaded Tommy John surgery. 

Based on what we’ve seen, if anyone can avoid it, it’s him. 

Editor’s Note: this article was first published on metsmerizedonline.com

Return of the Racing Stripe Jerseys

Yesterday, the Mets announced that the Mets will wear the iconic 1986 racing stripe jerseys every Sunday home game this season. I love these jerseys, but it does seem odd that the team is wearing these jerseys each and every Sunday. 

The Mets everyday left fielder, Michael Conforto, was born on March 1, 1993. At that time, the only members of the 86 Mets still around were Dwight Gooden and Howard Johnson. Gooden’s Mets career was effectively over at that point. He was a shell of his former self due to drug abuse and injuries. HoJo was only a utility player on the 86 team. The main contribution he made that year was being the on deck batter when Ray Knight scored off of Mookie Wilson‘s little dribbled up the first base line. 

It seems odd to me to see Conforto wearing a 25th anniversary patch that was created for a team seven years before he was born. 

Again, if the Mets want to do this, they should do it right. Update the patch to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1986 World Series championship. This way it truly becomes an homage to the 1986 team that it was intended to be. Furthermore, the jerseys will look more appropriate when you purchase them.  

Speaking of purchasing one, which I intend to do, there are two problems with the jerseys. The first is the diaper effect of the jerseys:

  

The next is if you don’t want the diaper, you don’t get the patch, nor do you get the option to personalize it:

  
One last note, am I the only one that thinks it’s going to look absurd to see Tim Teufel effectively wearing Darryl Strawberry‘s jersey?  

Overall, I love that these jerseys are back. I think the Mets were smart making them the Sunday jerseys. I hope they return in 2017. I just wish they were updated to be the tribute the Mets wanted them to be. 

Add Darling to the Mix

With the Mets announcing they are finally retiring Mike Piazza’s number, there have been renewed discussions regarding if there should be any other Mets who should have their number retired.  You know the names: Gary CarterDwight GoodenDarryl Strawberry, and, of course, Keith Hermandez

Instead of arguing the merits of each of these players, I thought I would offer up a new name. Ron Darling

Looking over Darling’s resume, he was a good, but not a great Met. He was 99-70 with a 3.50 ERA in nine years with the Mets. He won a Gold Glove, and he went to an All Star Game. He had a nice career, and he certainly justified the Mets trading away fan favorite Lee Mazzilli for him. Justifying a trade and having your number retired are two separate distinctions. Admittedly, Darling’s career falls well short of justifying his number retired. 

The argument for his number being retired emirates from his current role with the Mets. He’s part of the already iconic Gary, Keith, and Ron. He calls Mets games from the Ralph Kiner TV Booth. That honor was bestowed upon Kiner, an original Met, and Mets broadcasting legend. Kiner was part of the original amazing Mets trio of Kiner, Lindsay Nelson, and Bob Murphy. The radio booth was named after the Hall of Famer Bob Murphy. 

Darling is a terrific broadcaster in his own right. He’s so great he was picked up by TBS to do color commentary. As a member of the 1986 Mets and as a broadcaster, Darling has been an important part of Mets history. Since the TV booth already carries the name of Ralph Kiner, and deservedly so, we need to find another way to honor Ron Darling’s rich Mets career.  The Mets should retire his number 12. 

However, they shouldn’t do it before retiring Keith’s number 17. 

Reyes Might Be a Lowlife Woman Beater

I remember the Francisco Rodriguez assault of a family member in 2010. The reports were Jose Reyes was deeply troubled by it, especially because his wife and kids saw it. Now I saw this:

Apparently, Reyes assaulted his wife in a hotel room in Wailea. My first reaction really was, no, it couldn’t be him. Not Reyes. Then I went to his Twitter page:

Yup, he’s vacationing in Hawaii. It at least adds credibility to a story I find incredulous. Frankly, I’m stunned, and this is coming from a guy who grew up rooting for Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. If it’s true, Reyes will be the first player suspended under Major League Baseball’s new Domestic Violence Policy. It’s a test for Rob Manfred as Major League Baseball is dealing with this seemingly for the first time. 

If it’s true, I’ll immediately purge every Reyes thing I’ve ever owned. I’ll make sure to go to Mets-Rockies games and boo him mercilessly. Mostly, I’ll be sad and disappointed. Not just for losing a favorite player, but also because another man abused another woman. It’s got to stop. 

Hopefully, everything about the report is false. If it is, I’ll immediately take this post down. I really hope I have to take this post down. 

Be Ready for Anything

You never know what is going to happen before or during a postseason series. How a team responds to it may determine if a team wins or loses a series. 

I was reminded of that with another playoff series against the Dodgers. Both times the Mets played the Dodgers, one of their starting pitchers was injured. 

In 1988, Bobby Ojeda suffered a potentially career ending injury on the same day the Mets clinched at least a tie atop the NL East. It threw the Mets postseason rotation off kilter. Dwight Gooden started Games 1 and 4 (on three day’s rest). He wouldn’t make another start in the series. 

I still don’t know what Davey Johnson was thinking. The Mets had a 2-1 series lead. They already won a game in which Orel Hershiser started. Johnson unnecessarily went to Gooden on three days rest, and then he left him in too long. Even more baffling is the fact that Johnson went to Sid Fernandez in Game 5 with the series tied 2-2. 

Honestly, I don’t think Johnson doesn’t make a ponderous decision like this if Ojeda was able to pitch. Ojeda was 2-0 in the 1986 postseason. He stabilized things in Game 3, and he gave the Mets a chance in Game 6. Johnson doesn’t skip his start in 1988, and the Mets probably don’t blow that series. 

Eighteen years later, the Mets again found themselves facing the Dodgers in the playoffs. Again, a key starting pitcher went down. Two days before the NLDS, El Duque, the scheduled Game 1 starter, went down with a torn calf muscle. Keep in mind, he was the second choice after Pedro Martinez suffered a rotator cuff injury

Willie Randolph gave the ball to John Maine. Maine lasted 4.1 innings before hitting trouble. Randolph quickly turned to his incredible bullpen who brought it home. The Mets responded better to the problem in 2006, and they won the series. 

It’s possible the Mets have already been presented with their Ojeda-El Duque dilemma with Steven Matz. Matz slept on a sofa, and he injured his back. The Mets now have a critical decision to make, especially with Matz having a successful simulated game. If he responds well, he may be on the roster. If not, it will be Sean Gilmartin

Whomever the Mets choose, history shows it’s not who you pick that’s important. It’s how you respond to the crisis that’s important. Fortunately, this is one of Terry Collins’ strengths. Hopefully, there won’t be any more surprises. 

Lets Go Mets!

Dwight Gooden Career Advice

The 1980’s tremendous run was partly fueled by Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. They had their share of drug problems. They were self destructive. They were labeled the “Dead End Kids.”  

It seems after years, most likely decades, of problems, they’re finally clean. They have seemingly turned their lives around. They now have important things to say and have important things to do. It’s a remarkable turn-around. I want to hear them talk as much as possible about the dangers of drug use. It’s an important message. Hopefully, they’ll prevent someone from repeating their mistakes. Maybe they’ll help a troubled person through a tough time. 

What I don’t want to hear is them lecture other players on how they should be more like they were. Sure enough, Gooden weighed in on the whole Matt Harvey controversy:

This hypocrisy demands a look into Doc’s career, a look I would rather not make. However, when he tells everyone to look at what he did when he was playing, we should. 

Let’s start with the innings. Doc was abused by Davey Johnson and Mel Stottlemeyer. Doc was amazing. He was doing things not even Tom Seaver did. In his age 19, 20, and 21 seasons, he threw 218.0, 276.2, and 250.0 innings. His last All Star Game was in 1988, when he was 23 years old. On September 8, 1991, when he was 26 years old,  he received season ending rotator cuff surgery. For a man who set strikeout records, he would never again reach 150 strikeouts. In the last eight years of his career, his average season was 7-7 with a 4.45 ERA and 94 strikeouts. 

Effectively speaking, he was done when he was 26 years old. If anyone should be preaching caution against overuse, it’s Gooden. His Hall of Fame talent and possible career went the wayside due to abuse and overuse, at least partial so. 

That wasn’t the only abuse that ruined Gooden’s career. Gooden was a drug addict. Gooden became hooked on cocaine during the 1986 season. He missed the championship parade because he was high in the projects. In 1987, he was suspended for one month due to failed drug tests. He was forced into rehab by then Commissioner Peter Ueberroth. Gooden missed the Opening Day after a World Series title. He would return on June 5, 1987. It was 31 games into the season, the equivalent of six starts. The Mets missed the playoffs by three games that year. Gooden would be suspended for the 1995 season for failing a “bunch of [drug] tests.”  

So no, I don’t want Gooden to point to his career as an example of what to do. When he talks about Harvey being shut down for health reasons, he neglects how injuries damaged his career. When he talks about how Harvey should demand that he go out there for his teammates, he neglects to mention all the times he wasn’t. 

I don’t like bashing Gooden. However, I also don’t like the Harvey bashing. Harvey has a hard decision and a career to contemplate. It’s easy for everyone to tell Harvey what to do. It’s not their career or future. It was easy for Gooden to do the same. He just forgot how injuries ruined his career as well as the times he wasn’t there for his teammates. 

Harvey has a big start tomorrow, and he will pitch in the playoffs. I wish the best for him. More importantly, I wish the best for Gooden. They both need our support this year and beyond. 

Can the Mets Take Back New York?

After two consecutive sweeps, the Mets are rolling. With the Nationals loss last night, the Mets increased their lead in the NL East. Not only do the players seem confident, the Mets fans also feel confident. So confident they have resumed the taking over New York talk. 

When I grew up, the Mets owned New York . . . it was the first and only time. The reason the Mets owned New York was not only because they were the winning team, but also the sheer caliber of their star power with Strawberry, Gooden, Carter, and Hernandez. It was a fun team and it was a fun time to be a Mets fan. 

It all came crashing down with the Worst Team Money Can Buy. The Mets were no longer likeable and they no longer winning. The Yankees then had a dynasty featuring the Core Four and the disturbingly forgotten Bernie Williams. Seriously, Yankee fans who refer to the Core Four do not deserve those championships. 

Seemingly, the Mets are primed yet again to take back New York. They have star power with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. When David Wight comes back, we can include him. It also helps that Matt Harvey and Steven Matz are local kids. 

The last time we had this conversation was 2006. The Mets were the best team in the regular season that year. They had star power with Wright & Reyes, the two Carloses, and Pedro. That was an immensely likeable team. Their attempt to take over New York ended with that Adam Wainwright curveball. 

After the 2007 & 2008 collapses and the Yankees’ 2009 World Series title, the possibility of taking over New York was dead. You see it’s not enough the Mets be really good; it’s also important they’re clearly better than the Yankees. Right now, the Yankees are also in first place. 

We Mets’ fans quickly forget most people now were raised Yankee fans, who worshipped the temple who was Derek Jeter. I’ve heard people like Mike Lupica say New York is a National League town. He’s obviously referring to the ghosts of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. 

My grandfather was a New York Giants fan. He passed away almost thirty years ago. Initially, my father was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. The Dodgers moved to LA when he was eight years old. When the Mets came into existence, the Yankees were the only team in town for five years. Effectively, it was for another seven as the Mets were mostly awful and always sub .500 prior to 1969. The New York is a National League town was either a myth or an outdated fairy tale. Long story, short, most people now have no concept of New York as a National League town. 

With that said and looking at everything, the Mets can potentially START taking over New York. Much of that will depend on the young pitching this year and in the ensuing seasons. Even if the Mets were to win the World Series this year, I’m not convinced the Mets take over New York. It will, however, accelerate the process. It’s not important to me that the Mets take over New York. However, I would still like to see it. 

I want to see it because it means we’ll see a stretch of baseball like we did from 1984 – 1992. It also means the Yankees fell on hard times, which is always good for the soul. Most importantly, it’s easier to raise my son a Mets’ fan when the team is actually good. I’d love for him to see Mets’ teams like the ones I had growing up.