In the first real big sign of trouble in Gooden's young life was when he missed the team victory parade. It wasn't until years later he revealed he was getting high the night before on a cocaine binge & was unable to recuperate for the morning parade. The Mets announced that their star pitcher had overslept, but no one believed it.
Gooden was soon arrested on December 13th, 1986 in Tampa, Florida after fighting with police. Rumors of drug use started to arise, and then it was proven when he tested positive for cocaine during spring training in 1987. He shattered images of his greatness for so many fans by coming up dirty. He entered a rehabilitation center on April 1, 1987 to avoid being suspended and did not make his first start of the season until June 5th two months into the season.
In his first start after rehab, he took the hill at Shea Stadium in front of 51,400 fans against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He went six innings allowing four hits, on one run while striking out five, getting the win getting a huge ovation from the Shea crowd. In his next start he struck out ten batters with an eighth inning performance at Wrigley Field. He found himself at 5-1 by July & was 6-2 at the break. On July 16th he threw a seven hit shutout against the Reds at Shea.
By the end of August he was 12-4 after throwing a four hit shutout in San Francisco. Despite missing a third of the season, Gooden went 15-7 (fifth most wins in the NL) with a 3.21 ERA, (5th best in the NL). He struck out 148 batters (9th in the NL) with three shut outs & seven complete games (6th in the NL) in 179 innings pitched in 25 starts. The Mets finished second to the Cardinals disappointing their fans who expected a repeat of the Championship.
In 1988, Gooden earned the win on Opening Day in Montreal although he lasted just five innings, allowing four runs on eleven hits. He had a great start to the season going 5-0 in April with two complete games, including a four hit win with eleven strike outs against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 20th. On May 1st he tossed a four hit shutout in Cincinnati to beat the Reds.
On May 21st he brought his record to a league best, 8-0 with a 2.77 ERA. That night for his eighth win he threw one of his best games of the year, a four hit shutout in Los Angeles striking out six Dodgers.
In June he pitched well but went 2-3 earning losses in games where he never allowed more than three runs. To begin July he threw a five hit victory against the Houston Astros at Shea Stadium. In the game he allowed two runs, but both were un earned.
At the All Star break he had thrown three shut outs & although the strike outs had diminished, he was 11-5 with a 3.04 ERA making the All Star team.
Gooden got to start his second All Star game and although he only allowed one run, a HR to Oakland's Terry Steinbach; he was the losing pitcher in the 2-1 AL victory.
At the end of July he was 10-2 with a 2.88 ERA. Gooden went 7-4 in the second half & became the second best pitcher on the staff as David Cone won twenty games becoming the new ace.
The Mets won 100 games (100-60) as Davey Johnson won his second NL Eastern title getting to the post season. Gooden would finish 18-9 (5th most wins in the NL) with a 3.19 ERA, 175 strike outs (8th in the NL) in 248 innings pitched (6th in the NL) in 34 starts (4th most in the NL). He allowed just eight HRs all year, 0.29 per nine innings (third best in the NL) with three shut outs & ten complete games (5th in the NL).
Post Season: In Game #1 of the 1988 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Gooden went up against Cy Young winner Orel Hershiser. Gooden pitched well, allowing just four hits with ten strikeouts, leaving after seven innings pitched trailing 2-0.
The Mets went on to win the game when Daryl Strawberry & Gary Carter hit RBI doubles to score three runs in the 9th inning.
In Game #4, Gooden entered the ninth inning with a 4-2 lead and the chance to give his Mets a commanding 3-1 advantage in the series. But instead of going to the bullpen, Davey Johnson made one of his worst decisions as a Mets manger leaving Gooden in to pitch a bit too long. Doc ended up allowing a now infamous game-tying HR to Dodger catcher Mike Scioscia, and the Dodgers eventually went on to win the game in 12 innings.
The rest is history as the Dodgers & Hershiser rebounded to win the series & the World Series. Interestingly it must be noted, Gooden never won a postseason game, going 0-4 in eight series, 0-3 in two post seasons with the Mets.
Gooden began the 1989 season on a positive note. He got the win on Opening Day, although he did allow four runs to the St. Louis Cardinals. Gooden began the year going 5-0 into the start of May. From that point on things weren't right as he went 4-4 to the start of July. On July 1st he pitched just two innings, allowing three runs to the Cincinnati Reds taking the loss. From there he would miss the next two and a half months with a shoulder injury. He would make just two more relief appearances in late September.
On the season he posted a 9-4 record in just 17 starts with 101 strike outs & 47 walks in 118 innings. The Mets finished 87-75 in second place that year.
He started out 1990 by losing to the new rival NL Eastern team, the Pittsburgh Pirates on Opening Day. Although he had two double digit strike out games, including a 15 K performance against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he found himself at 3-5 early on.
But in June he turned it all around going 16-2 the rest of the season, including a stretch of seven straight wins in seven straight starts that summer. It was like the Doc of old that summer, especially on June 23rd; when he tossed a two hit shutout against the Philadelphia Phillies striking out seven. On July 17th he had another double digit strike out game, blowing away ten Astros in Houston in a 6-2 win. After a loss to the Cardinals on August 4th, he went on an eight game win streak.
Down the stretch he won eight of his last nine games losing in his final start the last game of the season. It was his last great season, as he won 19 games (19-7) fourth in the NL in wins, striking out 223 batters, second only to team mate David Cone (233).
He was fourth in the league in starts (34) winning % (.731%) & innings pitched (236). He posted a 3.83 ERA and pitched one shut out with two complete games. Gooden was back on top again & the fans were excited.
Then in 1991 he suffered another injury and his career began to decline. The year began well as he pitched at eight innings on Opening Day allowing just one run to beat the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 in front of the home crowd. He was 3-1 in April although he lost his next two starts and soon found himself at 5-5. But from there until he got injured he won seven of eight games, going 4-0 in the month of July. He was 13-7 on August 22nd when an arm injury ended his season. He finished up with a 3.60 ERA striking out 150 batters in 190 innings in 27 starts.
In 1992 he posted his first losing season, going 10-13 third most wins on the staff, with a 3.67 ERA striking out 145 batters in 206 innings (second on the staff to Sid Fernandez) as the Mets finished in fifth place going 72-90. e ever struck out more than seven batters in a game all year, and his best performance was a four hit, one run complete game victory on the next to last game of the season.
In 1993 the Mets went through Jeff Torborg & Dallas Green as managers finishing in seventh place with a horrible 59- 103 record. Gooden was the leader in victories (12) starts (29) winning percentage (.444%)& strike outs (149) on staff of veterans Sid Fernandez, Frank Tanana, Bret Saberhagen & Eric Hillman. He was 12-15 with a 3.45 ERA, seven complete games & two shut outs.
In 1994 Gooden pitched his final Mets Opening Day, although he allowed seven runs on eleven hits in 5.2 innings of work he earned the win in a wild 12-8 Mets win at Wrigley Field. He started out the year at 2-0, throwing six shutout innings at Shea on April 16th against the Astros.
He fell to 2-3 & then won his last Mets game in his home state of Florida on June 19th beating the Marlins 6-1. In that game he pitched eight innings allowed just three hits & struck out six. On June 24th he pitched his last Mets game as injuries ended his season, that day he lost at Shea Stadium to the Pirates allowing nine runs in 5.1 innings of work. On the dismal 1993 season he only pitched in seven games going 3-4 with a 6.31 ERA in only 41 innings.
Gooden Mets career ended in 1994, at age 29 and he finished atop most Mets pitching records next to Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. He is second on the Mets all time list in wins (157) going 157-85. He is second in strike outs (1875). He is third behind Seaver & Koosman in innings (2169) & complete games (67). He is fourth in shut outs (23) eighth in games pitched (305) & thirteenth in ERA (3.10).
Though drug abuse and criminal activity is commonly blamed for Gooden's pitching troubles, a lot must be said for the work load put on his pitching arm. It is estimated that Gooden threw over 10,800 pitches from 1983-85 by the time he was 20 years old.
By the time he reached his 21st birthday, Gooden had 928 strikeouts between both the minor and major leagues.
Gooden did not pitch in 1995 then signed with the AL New York team in 1996. He went 11-7 with a 5.01 ERA tossing a no hitter on May 14th against the Seattle Mariners. He only struck out five & walked six batters but made history. The next season he was 9-5 with a 4.91 ERA
In 1998 he went to the Cleveland Indians as a free agent where he had a good year going 8-6 with a 3.76 ERA. He made the post season & pitched one inning of relief against the Boston Red Sox allowing two runs on two walks & a hit. The next year he was 3-4 as his ERA went above six. He got to another post season, taking the loss in Game #4 of the ALCS.
In 2000 he played his final season with Houston, Tampa & the AL New York team again going 6-5 overall, before retiring. He pitched in both the ALDS against the Oakland A's & the ALCS against the Seattle Mariners earning no decisions.
In a 16 year career Doc Gooden finished with a 194-112 record (124th most wins all time). He struck out 2293 batters (46th all time) with 24 shut outs (187 all time) & 2800 innings pitched (168th all time). He made 410 career starts (109th all time) with a 3.51 ERA, 68 complete games & 954 walks (127th all time) . He made 224 put outs on the mound (68th all time) posting a .950 fielding %.
Retirement: He made a triumphant surprise return to Shea Stadium in 2008 for the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium. He received a huge ovation from the Shea crowd & his appearance was one of the day's biggest highlights. He had missed the 20th anniversary celebration of the 1986 Mets because he was in serving time in prison.
On April 13th he was on hand for the Opening of the Mets new Ballpark Citi Field. Also In 2009 he was an honored guest at the 1969 Amazing Mets 20th anniversary autograph shows at the Huntington Hilton.
On August 1, 2010, he was officially inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame along with Darryl Strawberry, Frank Cashen, and Davey Johnson. That day he also threw out the ceremonial first pitch to his former battery mate Gary Carter.
Drama: In his life Gooden has battled many demons. He had his troubles with domestic violence, traffic violations & drug abuse. In 2010 he had another setback getting arrested in New Jersey for leaving the scene of an accident, as well as driving while under the influence & endangering a child.