Mar 04

Will Dwight Gooden Ever Turn His Life Around?

It usually is not a good sign when a name not recently in the news shows up on the “What’s Trending Now,’’ list when one logs onto the Internet.

Dwight Gooden was there this morning and we can expect to see future postings as his latest issue with the law unravels.

GOODEN: Once upon a time. (AP)

Gooden, long out of baseball but not forgotten by Mets fans, allegedly threatened his estranged wife, Monique, on Friday, when he should have been on a back field in Port St. Lucie tutoring what he once was – a hot, young prospect.

It would have been nice if Gooden had a second career in the sun, literally and figuratively. It’s not like he hasn’t had chances. The Yankees gave him several when George Steinbrenner was alive and he would have been welcomed by the Mets had he not struggled with drug, alcohol and law issues.

Monique Gooden called police and filed a restraining order. He was forced to move out of the house he and his wife are living in until their divorce becomes final.

Reportedly, Gooden threatened his wife, saying: “All bets are off and I will hurt you and your family. You’ll see, just wait.’’

A DUI, well, a team can live with that on a player’s record. Not pleasant, but doable. It is especially possible if the player had a remarkable career and once was a face of that franchise, as Gooden was with the Mets.

However, such a threat, especially if carried out, is not the image a team wants to project. There has to be considerable damage control if Gooden is to ever again represent the Mets.

Or, any other major league team for that matter.

That is, of course, unless something bad happens to him, such as jail, or worse.

Gooden will no longer have visitation rights with his two children until a hearing, March 11. In the interim, Gooden can contemplate where it all went wrong.

The drug problems began shortly after the 1985 and 1986 seasons, which were his early days with the Mets, and unfortunately, the highlight of his career. There once was a night a decade later, when nearing the end with the Yankees, he threw the no-hitter one expected of him whenever he took the mound at Shea Stadium.

Throwing what Kevin Costner said in “Bull Durham’’ was “ungodly stuff in the show,’’ Gooden was the inspiration of the “Ks’’ banners fans hung over the stadium railings. Gooden was electric in those days when he owned the summer nights at Shea.

We knew it wouldn’t last forever as it never does, but were shocked and angered and saddened knowing Gooden was throwing away his career with drugs and booze. We once were enthralled with the hard- partying Mets of 1986 and even glorified them, but also knew at the same time knew life on the ledge couldn’t end happily.

For different reasons, but ultimately the same one – a lack of self-control – it didn’t well for Gooden. For Darryl Strawberry. For Lenny Dykstra. Wally Backman is still paying the price.

Nearing the end of his life, Mickey Mantle talked of role models and said, “don’t be like me.’’ At one time, there wasn’t a kid around who didn’t want to be like Gooden, standing alone on the mound awash in the cheers and adulation that comes with greatest.

Gooden is again alone as he faces another life crisis, but there’s nobody who wants to be like him.

And, that’s just sad.

Aug 29

A Lot To Like About Matt Harvey, Who Doesn’t Remind Us Of Mike Pelfrey

It is premature to say Matt Harvey will surpass Dwight Gooden and become one of the Mets’ career aces. Even so, there’s a lot to like about him, which we can enjoy watching tonight in his start at Philadelphia.

HARVEY: A lot to like. (AP)

Harvey is already in the Mets’ history books with 43 strikeouts through his first six starts. That’s an average of seven a game – and only once did he work past the seventh – is indicative of potential dominance. If he gets nine strikeouts tonight, he’ll pass Gooden’s mark of 51 strikeouts in his first seven games, set in 1984.

Harvey’s money-pitch is a high fastball that has hitters wailing in the air. Harvey has shown an ability to “climb the latter,” and the higher he gets in the strike zone the harder it is for hitters to resist. It is if the ball is teasing the hitters, saying “swing at me.”

Doing so subsequently enables him to so far be effective with his secondary pitches. That’s something Mike Pelfrey has been unable to consistently master. It has been a small sample, but Harvey is ahead of Pelfrey at a similar stage of their careers. Who knows? He might already be ahead of Pelfrey.

There are all kinds of numbers to measure a pitcher’s dominance, and ESPN posted hitters are batting .085 (6-for-71, 43 strikeouts, 10 walks) when Harvey gets two strikes. That’s slamming the door.

The inability to put a hitter away when the count is in the pitcher’s favor has been something Pelfrey, John Maine – he burned out quickly – Bobby Parnell and a few others haven’t been able to master.

Harvey’s emergence makes it more and more unlikely the Mets will re-sign Pelfrey, who is making $5.68 million this season while on the disabled list. Knowing that number would be the bottom of what the tight-fisted Mets would pay, and with Harvey and a few others knocking at the door, strongly suggest the Mets will walk away.

 

Jan 19

On honoring Gary.

It is very sad to hear the discouraging medical reports about Gary Carter. After reading doctors are evaluating their next course of treatment I know from my father this isn’t good news. All you can do now is pray and hope he’s not in too much discomfort.

CARTER: In a happier time.

Not surprisingly, Carter’s illness raised the question of whether his No. 8 should be retired.

There is little question Carter was an integral part of the Mets’ 1986 World Series winning team, but in truth he played only four full seasons with the team, and 50 games into a fifth. Retiring a player’s uniform number should be based on long term contributions to the team and not as a sympathy gesture because of his illness.

If the Mets were to do it, they should have done it years ago. Doing it now would be cheesy and an almost empty gesture. If the Mets do it now, entering the 50th anniversary of their existence, it wouldn’t mean anything unless he went in with company, meaning Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, the only others from that team worthy of that honor. In looking at Mets history, also worthy – and overlooked – is Jerry Koosman.

I was glad to see Carter inducted into the Hall of Fame, an honor he truly deserved. At the time Carter said he was torn between going in as a Met or Montreal Expo. The Hall of Fame rules state a player would go in wearing the cap of the team where he carved his niche, and with Carter, that was Montreal, regardless of the ring he earned with the Mets.

And, that ring, as good as it was, isn’t enough to putting No. 8 on the outfield wall.

 

 

Nov 11

Why you’ll never get the complete truth from the Mets.

For many, our first impression was one of openness and honesty. When Sandy Alderson was introduced as general manager he spoke of wanting to win, yet said there would be difficult times. He gave hope things would be different in the new regime.

There seemed to be an honesty about him absent from previous Mets management and the current ownership. You wanted to trust him.

While Alderson is on point, it is still not his team, and despite their stated intentions of giving him the resources, the Wilpons continue to play it close to the vest financially. This is a tentative time for the Mets because they still need to sell tickets and don’t want to risk alienating the on-the-fence fans by telling them the real team will appear in 2015, if not later.

Watching the Mets now is akin to going to the movies and getting two hours worth of previews before the feature. And, maybe not even getting the feature.

There are two types of fans. There is blind loyalty that will remain passionate for their team and support it regardless. Since 1962, there’s been more losing than winning, but the Mets continue to hold those fans as they are forever.

Their interest might turn to discouragement and frustration, but if they have the money they will find their way to Citi Field as they did Shea Stadium. They will listen on the radio and watch on TV. They will absorb every written word from the major media vehicles to the blogs. They will talk Mets to anybody who will listen, because, after all, they are Mets fans and that’s what they do.

The Mets know they have a core following. If they came out and said this will take time, more than we expected, that base will remain steadfast.

Then there is the fair weather variety, which come in various forms. They come out when it is convenient, or the weather is nice, or the team is winning, or they get free tickets, or that night’s Law and Order is a repeat, or the other team is the Yankees.

They know who Jose Reyes is and believe he is the Mets and the franchise can’t  exist without him. They think the same of David Wright. They thought it of Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Tom Seaver. Players come and go, but the team remains. Their fancy is caught by the shiny star, much like a child with a new toy.

The flexible fans weigh the cost of a Citi Field experience to that of a Broadway play, a trip to the beach, a night out in Manhattan, the movies, or any thing else that might attract their fickle dollar.

They are flexible because they bend to the prevailing wind. As the great movie line goes, they “can’t handle the truth.” If they knew the Mets were three or four years from serious contention, they would tell you to leave them a wake-up call. These fans aren’t interested in rebuilding and don’t care about Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey being three years from Flushing. They don’t care about building because Reyes is the here and now.

The Mets care most about these fans, as do all sports teams, because they don’t yet have their money. The Mets know the loyal will pay; they are givens to be taken for granted. It’s the others, who haven’t yet laid out the cash, they are chasing.

Alderson can’t be honest with them because to do so is to tell them there’s no compelling reason to come to the park other than to buy into the dream of the future, which they won’t as they haven’t made an emotional investment. To do so would be to chase them away.

To these fans, the truth is poison.

Sep 27

Reyes: A parting gift?

What we’ve never seen from the Mets has been a batting title winner, and Jose Reyes is leading by micro-percentage points. Undoubtedly, a feel good story for the Mets would be for him to win the tile and announce he’s staying.

It would give us a fresh feel and sense of optimism heading into winter, which for the Mets is two days away.

But, I can’t help but think Reyes winning the title will be a paring gift before he hits free agency. For an organization whose history has been tumultuous – some would even say cursed at times – it seems fitting.

In a roundabout way it would be like Tom Seaver, David Cone, Nolan Ryan and Dwight Gooden throwing their no-hitters as ex-Mets.

Part of me doesn’t want to see Reyes win the title and flaunt it in another uniform, but another part of me knows Mets history well enough to think that will be the case.