Doc makes house call to Chatting Cage
Iconic Gooden answers fans' questions live at MLB.com studios
Dwight Gooden received the nickname "Doc" from a friend of his father, a doctor who would attend Gooden's Little League games in Tampa, Fla., and yell from the stands, encouraging the young fireballer to approach the batters like a doctor operates on a patient.
Friday afternoon, Doc diagnosed the healing powers of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler in Queens.
"The time was right to give the Mets' fans some hope," Gooden said during a house call to the MLB.com studios, where he joined the Edward Jones Chatting Cage to field questions from fans. "Seeing Wheeler the other day -- seeing him and Harvey in that doubleheader -- for a Mets fan, that had to be a great thing to see -- your two top prospects doing what they're doing."
Entering play on Friday, Harvey leads the National League with 115 strikeouts and a 0.90 WHIP, and ranks fourth in the league with a 2.16 ERA and 9.95 K/9. Wheeler struck out seven and didn't allow a run in six innings in his Major League debut on Tuesday.
But Harvey and Wheeler are more than just rookies for the struggling Mets -- they're aces-in-the-making, standing atop the mound as beacons of hope, inspiring confidence that their presence can soon return the franchise to glory, as Darryl Strawberry and Gooden did in the 1980s.
Gooden arrived on the big league scene in 1984, and -- as Strawberry did in '83 -- he won the NL Rookie of the Year Award after going 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA. A year later, Gooden won the NL Cy Young Award, leading the league with 24 wins, 268 strikeouts, a sterling 1.53 ERA, a whopping 16 complete games and 276 2/3 innings pitched.
In 1986, just three years after finishing last in the NL East with a 68-94 record, the Mets were crowned World Series champions.
Gooden thinks the Mets should replicate what general manager Frank Cashen did in the '80s to turn this team around.
"We added Bobby Ojeda," said Gooden, who documented the magical '86 season in his new book, "Doc: A Memoir."
"For a young pitching staff, to bring in a veteran guy to show these guys the way, you have to have that. Then, you bring a couple of veterans in offensively that have been around, that have been on winning teams, that have that winning attitude, that have experience in that situation. I think that would definitely help."
Despite his favorite team's struggles this season, Gooden has enjoyed being a Mets fan. In fact, he wholeheartedly embraces the Harvey comparisons that have poured into social media, becoming a big proponent of the 24-year-old. During a few of Harvey's starts, @DocGooden16 has tweeted in celebration of his fellow right-hander via the hashtag #MattHarveyKCount, digitally replicating the "K Corner" to which he gave rise at Shea Stadium upon his emergence 29 years ago.
"Being a former pitcher, a power pitcher that gets strikeouts, it brings a lot of excitement to the city, and Harvey's doing that. I got caught up in all the stuff he is doing," Gooden said. "It's fun. My Twitter fans, they like it. So it's just interacting with them and having a good time [while] watching the game."
Gooden sat behind the backstop when Harvey faced off against the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg and the Yankees' Hiroki Kuroda earlier this season. Gooden was impressed with Harvey's heat, but even more impressed with his attitude.
"[Harvey] doesn't want to settle for just what he is doing now, and the success he is having now; he wants to continue to get better," said Gooden, 48. "His mound presence reminds me a lot of myself. [He's] basically still a rookie, but when he is out there, he is pitching like he is five or six years in, where he is not intimidated by the opposing hitters or anything like that. He is just out there, you know, pitching to his strength."
And though Gooden has seen Wheeler pitch only once, he thinks the 23-year-old phenom's curveball is the most like his among anyone in the game today.
On July 14, Gooden will return to Citi Field alongside Strawberry to play in the 2013 All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game. Gooden, who was the starting pitcher for the NL in 1986 and '88, hopes to see Harvey start the 2013 Midsummer Classic.
"He could easily have 12 wins with any type of run support," Gooden said. "But being that the game is in New York, and at Citi Field, it's like a showcase. Why not have Matt Harvey start? He deserves it. "
Pete Barrett is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.