Honoring Doc Gooden Is a Dishonor
Well, nothing specific. This isn't a record book, but a feeling, really. An argument.
I'm not talking about Andre Dawson or Whitey Herzog getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday. Both belong, though my strongest memory of Dawson is of him leaving what must have been a world-record number of runners on base with the Cubs in the playoffs.
But their induction, mixed with the defining problems of this baseball era, make this the right time to think about the meaning of these things. Consider this:
Dwight Gooden has been in the news twice recently. He was charged for being under the influence of drugs while driving with his kid in the backseat, and then leaving the scene of an accident. And now the New York Post reports that Gooden's wife said he has abandoned her and their kids, leaving them on food stamps. It has been two decades of stories like this from Gooden.
And Saturday, he'll be in the news again. That's when the New York Mets will induct him into their Hall of Fame.
Come on, Mets. Don't do it. Don't honor Gooden. The only good I can see coming from this is that Gooden's wife and kids will know where to find him for a day.
Look, I know that Gooden was a great pitcher. And I've heard all the arguments that the Morals Police can't decide what kind of an athlete anyone is.
Truth is, I have always separated these things out myself. Steroid cheats and gamblers need to stay out of any Hall of Fame because they were cheating the fabric of the game itself, cheating the game. Recreational drug users were hurting themselves. And you can't go back into the Baseball Hall of Fame and remove all the lowlifes and scumbags.
But Gooden is changing my mind about this for one reason alone:
I simply don't think this guy should be honored.
Why keep applauding him? He has been applauded, honored, cherished too much in his life. That's part of the problem for a lot of these athletes who keep getting into trouble, cheating, doing things that society does not allow.
You have things handed to you, are given too much money, have people solving your problems for you and covering your mistakes, and then it comes time for you to solve a problem for yourself, show some toughness.
And you don't know how. In some ways, it's almost cruel to keep honoring Gooden, who doesn't need another pass while the Mets use him to sell tickets for a day.
Should a Hall of Fame be about the personal side? I guess I don't know, honestly. Maybe it shouldn't be.
So I can't even come up with a hard-and-fast rule here for reaching a Hall of Fame. If you want to have a Hall of Fame with acceptance by numbers, then fine. Set the standards and say if X number of strikeouts are thrown, or Y number of homers hit, then a player is in.
But they use a vote for a reason. It's subjective. And at some point, a guy like Gooden does not deserve to be applauded anymore.
This isn't about forgiveness. The people who have to answer to that are the ones he has hurt. He has not hurt me one bit. In fact, all he has given me is great baseball memories.
In Chicago, journeyman Tuffy Rhodes is a legend for hitting three homers off Gooden on Opening Day in 1994. Off anyone else, it wouldn't be nearly as big.
I'm all for forgiveness. No one is perfect. And here's to hoping that at some point, for his own sake and his family's, he will straighten himself out someday. If the Mets are looking to help him, there are surely ways.
But there is a gaping difference between forgiving someone and honoring him.
In 1985, Gooden, 24-4, won the NL Cy Young, led the league in wins, strikeouts, complete games and ERA. He won 194 games in his career. He had six or seven top years, and then threw it all away.
In 1986, the Mets won the World Series, and he didn't show up at the team celebration, allegedly on a cocaine binge.
In 1994, he was suspended from baseball for failing a drug test, and then, during the suspension, failed another one. So he was out for the entire 1995 season.
There isn't room here to go through all the details, but think about suspensions, and rehab and more failed tests. In 2005, he was arrested for allegedly hitting his fiancée. Once, he was accused of fleeing after being pulled over, with the officer saying he reeked of alcohol. In 2006, he apparently showed up on cocaine for a meeting with his probation officer, then went to jail.
He has been given chances and more chances, mostly by people who had something to gain from him. He is 45-years-old and has made more than $36 million.
We have cheered him enough. And from here, every last memory of his great play comes along with a reminder of the scummy things he has done.
Now the Mets will honor him again. Frankly, it doesn't look like they are being warm-hearted to a guy in trouble, but rather milking him one last time.
What are the chances he'll even show up?
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