Tag Archives: Dwight Gooden

Thoughts on the Mets 2014 Season

The New York Mets finished their season today with an 8-3 win over the Houston Astros. It was a good team win, with solid pitching and timely hitting, something that the Mets had a difficult time with throughout the year.

The team finished 79-83, and while finishing under .500 again was a disappointment, there are numerous positives that may be taken from this season as the team looks toward 2015. The Mets finished over .500 after the All-Star break, and had a positive run differential. They finished in second place in the National League East, tying with Atlanta and winning the head-to-head series. While this finish is in a sense meaningless because it was not enough to earn a playoff berth, it is significant that the Mets were able to keep pace with most of their division as they think about their path to the playoffs next year.

There were also a number of individual bright spots for the Mets this year. Jacob deGrom had a fantastic rookie season and should become the first Met since Dwight Gooden to win Rookie of the Year. Lucas Duda had an excellent breakout season once the club gave him the first base job on a full-time basis, hitting 30 home runs and driving in 92. Zack Wheeler built on his solid rookie campaign to become a dependable number two starter with ace potential. Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia had excellent seasons in the bullpen, and the bullpen as a whole was quite good after the first month or so of the season. Travis d’Arnaud had an excellent second half, and proved that he can be an everyday catcher in the majors. Likewise, Juan Lagares, who should win a Gold Glove, showed that he can also hit enough to be a valuable part of the offense.

Obviously there were also some negatives that will need to be remedied next year. David Wright had one of the worst seasons of his career. He is at a stage where he needs to make the mental adjustment away from being a power hitter to strictly being a high on-base percentage guy. If he can do this, he will be fine. Curtis Granderson was similarly a bust for much of the season, though he finished strong, which offers hope for 2015.

The biggest negative of the year was Terry Collins’s managing. Collins has done a good job shepherding all of the Mets’ young players into the big leagues, but he is a terrible on-field manager. He constantly makes questionable decisions with the lineup and with pitching changes, and if the Mets want to contend next season they will not have the margin of error to cover for the games he costs them with these decisions. The team has said Collins will be the manager next year, but I hope that they have him on a short leash.

However, overall I am left with a positive outlook on the Mets as I turn toward the offseason. I am excited to see what moves the front office makes to improve the team before spring training, and look forward to watching all of the Mets’ young studs continue to blossom.

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Books Acquired Recently

Bechdel, Alison. Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama. 2012. Boston: Mariner, 2013.

I will be teaching Bechdel’s book about her father, Fun Home, in one of my classes this fall, and as preparation for this I acquired Are You My Mother?, which is her book about her mother. If it is even half as good as Fun Home I will be pleased.

Gooden, Dwight, and Ellis Henican. Doc: A Memoir. Boston: New Harvest, 2013.

Somehow I missed this book when it was released last year. I recently found out about it, and, in light of my obsession with the ’86 Mets, ordered it immediately.

Schrag, Ariel. Adam. Boston: Mariner, 2014.

I read a review of this novel in BookForum that intrigued me, as it centers around LGBT issues. It has blurbs from Bechdel and Aimee Mann (!), thus I am very eager to read it.

All three books were acquired from amazon.com’s network of independent sellers.

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Thoughts on Narrative in Everyday Life

I was especially excited to watch the Mets game last night because Zack Wheeler was pitching, and I was thinking about the high hopes that I have for both he and Matt Harvey. Specifically, I was thinking, “Well, Harvey is clearly Tom Seaver, and maybe Wheeler can be Jerry Koosman.”

I know that I am not the only Mets fan making these comparisons, but the act of doing so struck me. I think it is an example of how we as humans naturally turn to past narratives to help us make sense of the present. While I am by no means the first person to note this function of narrative (my favorite articulation of it is in the work of Stanley Hauerwas), it is worth repeating. The world is inherently chaotic, and stories help us see how bits and pieces of it make sense.

In this particular instance, I am choosing a narrative that I want to see repeated, a sort of messianic second coming, because Seaver was the best Met ever, and Koosman was either the second or third best Mets pitcher ever depending on how you feel about Dwight Gooden. Of course it is not fair to Harvey or Wheeler to make these comparisons because it is important that they be given the space to write their own narratives. However, connecting them to the past as a fan is one way to fit them into the larger New York Mets narrative. The Mets have been the most successful when they have had stellar home-grown pitchers, and it is enticing to think that with Harvey and Wheeler they are returning to this formula.

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Thinking About Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry

I am hoping to visit New York City sometime this summer, and go to a Mets game. Last night I dreamt that I bought tickets to this game, and that Dwight Gooden would be pitching. I thought to myself, “How impressive that Gooden pitched the first game I ever attended, and he’ll be pitching this one, too. That’s a pretty good career.”

Gooden is long retired, but two of the three parts of that dream statement are true. Gooden pitched the first Mets game I ever attended, a win against Atlanta in 1985 (an account of this game can be found in Davey Johnson and Peter Golenbock’s book Bats [New York: Putnam, 1986] on page 210). Although I was unaware at the time of the amazing season Gooden was having (I was only five, so didn’t really understand the concept of statistics; Gooden went 24-4 that year with a 1.53 ERA and won the Cy Young Award), I already knew his name, and I love being able to say that I saw him in person during one of the best seasons any pitcher has ever had. The first Atlanta batter singled, but that was about it. The Mets won 16-4, and Darryl Strawberry (whose name I also knew) hit a grand slam. Also, the lady sitting next to me in the stands gave me some cookies (the weird thin wafer sandwich kind with vanilla creme layers, which were my favorite at the time), and my father bought me a pennant and a set of Mets wristbands, one of which I had to give to my sister when we got home.

People, myself included, tend to forget that Gooden had a good career because after the successes of his first few seasons he was supposed to have a great career. This potential was destroyed by drug abuse and its consequent legal problems. But he went 194-112 with a 3.51 ERA over sixteen seasons–with a winning record in all but four of them–and was an All-Star four times. That is nothing to sneeze at. The same (all of it, alas) can be said for Strawberry’s career, in which he hit 335 homeruns over seventeen seasons with eight straight All-Star selections from 1984-1991.

I admit that when I think of both of these men I think about their disappointments first. Together, they were the Mets version of Anakin Skywalker: the chosen ones who failed to fulfill that role, falling victim to the Dark Side instead. But this attitude isn’t quite fair to them. Aside from their individual accomplishments, they played central roles on the 1986 championship team and 1988 division winners, when Strawberry should have been voted Most Valuable Player (though again, my first 1988-related thought of Gooden is about his failure to close game four of the NLCS, even though that was just as much Johnson’s fault for not taking him out as Gooden’s). They both seem to have found some peace in their turbulent personal lives, and it is time for us as fans to come to peace with their impressive careers as well.

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Left Field Cards and Some Thoughts on Obsession

I just read an article by Paul Lukas (http://espn.go.com/blog/playbook/fandom/post/_/id/6053/the-coolest-baseball-cards-of-the-year) about Left Field Cards (http://www.leftfieldcards.com/index.html), an art project by Amelie Mancini that consists of quirky sets of baseball card-esque postcards. I love paper culture, and I love baseball, and I love the nostalgia evoked by baseball cards (I collected them avidly as a boy), so I absolutely love these cards! Their retro style is aesthetically pleasing, and I appreciate their hand-made quality. I also like that Mancini has depicted four Mets (Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, Nolan Ryan, and Kevin Mitchell) in only thirty cards.

But what I especially love about Left Field Cards is the inspiration for the project. Mancini’s biographical statement reads in part that

“She moved to New York in 2006 and didn’t know what a curveball was until a couple of friends took her to Shea Stadium one evening of [sic–Mancini’s slight misuses of English make her story even more lovable] 2007. The Mets lost that night to the Phillies, but Amelie fell hard for America’s national pastime, becoming increasingly obsessed with the game and eventually making it one of the center themes of her work. Fascinated by baseball cards, she decided to print her own and started Left Field Cards in 2011.”

I am always drawn to stories of people’s obsessions, and I think that the tale of Mancini’s discovery of baseball is beautiful (Lukas’s article gives further details). For many years as a teenager and younger adult I was jealous of stories like hers, of people who just had a passion grip them completely and let it become Their Thing. I wanted the same kind of experience; I was obsessed with finding an obsession (Sorry! I couldn’t help myself.). It took me way too long to realize that I already had an obsession–books, both reading and collecting them. So now I worry about cultivating my obsession instead of acquiring one, but I still find stories of other people’s obsessions powerful. It feels like we are part of a club, that even if I know nothing about the subject of someone else’s obsession, I know a little something about them and how they feel. There is a sense of community that forms via these stories, and making connections to one another is one of the essential aspects of living a satisfying life.

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Johan Santana, Mets Legend

Tonight Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in New York Mets history (boxscore: http://scores.espn.go.com/mlb/boxscore?gameId=320601121).

As a life-long Mets fan, it is difficult to describe how amazing I feel. The Mets have existed since 1962 and were one of only two Major League teams (out of 30) to have never thrown a no-hitter (the San Diego Padres are the other), and this is knowledge that each Mets fan carries with us constantly. Every game, you wonder, is this the night? until that first hit drops. Tonight, it finally was. Watching the ninth inning, I could barely move, I was numb, the first two batters made fly ball outs that initially looked like they might drop in for bloop hits, then Johan fell behind the  final batter, David Freese, 3-0, but he battled back and struck him out swinging, which was the perfect end to the game. Kudos to catcher Josh Thole, who was playing his first game since coming off of the disabled list with a concussion, for calling a fantastic game all the way through, and to manager Terry Collins for leaving Santana in the game despite his high pitch count. Mets fans would never have forgiven him if he had pulled Santana before he allowed a hit.

Watching the replay of the final pitch and the ensuing pile-up on the mound, one thing that stands out is that there is a fan wearing a Gary Carter jersey who runs out onto the field and joins the celebration. This is both wonderful and poignant considering Carter’s death earlier this year and the fact that the Mets are wearing a memorial patch for him all season long. The lack of a no-hitter has weighed heavily on fans, so I am glad that one got to join in on the field as a representative of us all.

As is well-known, the Mets have had numerous pitchers throw no-hitters once they were no longer with the Mets, the three most famous being Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan (who threw seven!), and Doc Gooden (he and David Cone’s both came when they were with the evil Yankees). Before tonight, Seaver had come the closest to throwing one as a Met, reaching the ninth inning without allowing a hit three times. It feels so, so good that these statistics are now irrelevant, kind of like when the Rangers ended their 54-year Stanley Cup drought in 1994. This year’s Mets team is showing that they have a lot of heart and that they are not going away quietly. Nights like tonight make you think that something special is happening.

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