Gooden’s semi-charmed life in baseball began when the New York Mets drafted him with the fifth pick of the 1982 draft, the one which saw the Cubs take Shawon Dunston with the first overall pick. The only significant difference between Gooden and Dunston was that Dunston threw harder.
It didn’t take long for Gooden to break on through to the Mets’ starting rotation. By the start of the 1984 season, the 19-year-old Gooden had pitched himself onto a pretty good Mets staff. Gooden made his Major League debut on April 7, 1984, against the Astros in Houston. Ron Gardenhire led off and played second base for the Mets while future Mets folk hero Ray Knight played first base for the Astros. Gooden allowed only one earned run in five innings pitched, striking out five Astros and getting the Mets a 3-2 win.
Gooden’s second MLB start came was his first against the Cubs. On April 13, 1984, Gooden took the mound at Wrigley Field against Steve Trout. Maybe the 19-year-old wasn’t used to day tripping baseball or Chicago nightlife, or whatever the hell excuse the Cubs are always using for being awful. But Gooden lasted only 3 1/3 innings, giving up seven hits and six earned runs in an 11-2 Cubs blowout. Even Trout had a pair of hits as he pitched a complete game. It would be the worst start of Gooden’s career against the Cubs, and it would be one of only FOUR career losses to the Northsiders.
Gooden finished the 1984 season with a 17-9 record, a 2.60 ERA, a 1.073 WHIP, and a Rookie of the Year award. Everyone began calling him the next Tom Seaver except, you know, if Seaver ever took a walk on the wild side.
Gooden pitched against the Cubs 38 times in his 11 years with the Mets. I shit you not, at one point starting at the end of the 1984 season and lasting for TWO full years, Gooden pitched NINE straight complete games versus the Cubs. The stretch included three shutouts and was only broken when Gooden threw a ho-hum eight innings, allowing only two runs and striking out ten Cubs in a 13-2 Mets win.
After 11 seasons and a World Series ring in Flushing, Gooden was granted his free agency after the 1994 season. After a season “off,” Gooden was back on the horse with no name when he signed with the New York Yankees prior to the 1996 season. The Cubs missed Gooden in his first two years in the American League. Though, considering his poor numbers with the Yankees, maybe they could have finally solved the riddle of the right-hander.
The Yankees let Gooden walk after the 1997 season, and he caught on with the Cleveland Indians for two seasons. In each of his two years in Cleveland, Gooden had a start against the Cubs. Gooden proved that though his years of flyin’ high were behind him, he was still no beetlebum against the Cubs. On June 22, 1998, Gooden threw six innings and gave up only one earned run in a 3-1 victory over the eventual NL wild card winners. A year later, Gooden took the hill for the Indians in Cleveland. Though Gooden was terrible, giving up five earned runs in six innings, the Cleveland offense carried him to an 8-7 victory.
Gooden bounced around as a free agent with the Houston Astros, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and back to the Yankees before retiring in Spring Training of 2001 after the Yankees cut him. Finally, the Cubs got to get him out of their lives. Throughout the course of his career, Gooden compiled a 194-112 record with 2,293 strikeouts in 2800 2/3 innings pitched. He had a 3.51 ERA and a 1.256 WHIP while pitching himself to four All-Star Games, a Cy Young award, and even a Silver Slugger.
Against the Cubs, Gooden was on cloud nine. In his 40 career starts against the Cubs, Gooden went an astonishing 28-4 with a 3.32 ERA. He struck out 235 Cubs in 284 1/3 innings pitched, threw three shutouts and 11 complete games, and even had a save in 1989.
Gooden could also swing it against the Cubs. In 119 plate appearances, Gooden had a .218/.245/.277 line with a home run, eight RBIs, three walks, and 13 sacrifice hits.
We don’t know how it feels to be hiiiiiiiiiiim.
Why You Should Hate Him: June 19, 1985. Jim Frey’s Cubs were in Shea Stadium to face Davey Johnson and the Mets. Frey sent Scott Sanderson to the mound against Gooden. Sanderson was excellent, surrendering only one run in seven innings. Unfortunately for him, Gooden gave up none in a complete-game shutout. Gooden gave up six hits, walked only two batters, and struck out nine as the Mets won 1-0. Just a week later, Gooden was in Chicago. Broadcasters like to point out that when a team has seen a pitcher twice in a short period of time, the hitters are at a distinct advantage. No one told Gooden, and clearly no one told the Cubs, who played like they were in a purple haze. Gooden pitched another complete game, giving up only two earned runs and striking out six Cubs in a 3-2 Mets win.
Did You Know? The only reason to watch Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew last year was because of Gooden’s appearance on it. While it was touching to see Gooden reunite with his son, who had spent thirty days in the hole for his own drug-related offenses, the real reason I wanted to watch was because of the offscreen shenanigans. Allegedly, Lenny Dykstra and two of his goons tried to break Gooden out of the rehab facility for fear that he was being hypnotized by Dr. “Feelgood” Drew. The fact that they decided not to televise the alleged breakout is but one of the many reasons that VH1 can just go fuck itself and its stupid programming.