MLB History: The Dynamic Duo of Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry

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In MLB history, there aren’t many duos as recognizable as Dwight “Doc” Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. While Gooden was dominating on the mound, Strawberry was terrorizing opponents with his insane raw power. While they had some problems away from the field, the two put forth a very exciting product on the field and turned a struggling Mets franchise into perennial contenders.

MLB History: Doc and Darryl

Darryl Strawberry

Darryl Strawberry was widely regarded as the best prospect entering the 1980 MLB draft. As a result, the New York Mets selected him with the first overall pick that year out of Crenshaw High School in Lon Angeles. Strawberry tore up the minors, hitting as many as 34 homers in Double-A in 1982. After starting 1983 strong in Triple-A, the Mets called up Strawberry in May.

Strawberry’s big league career started with a bang, as he won 1983 NL Rookie of the Year. That year, he hit .257/.336/.512 (134 OPS+) with 26 homers, 19 steals, and 74 RBIs.

In 1984, Strawberry began a stretch where he would make eight consecutive All-Star Games. During this timeframe, Strawberry hit at least 25 homers in every season and he stole at least 25 bases five times. In 1987, Strawberry was a 30-30 player, smacking 39 homers and stealing 36 bases. In 1988, Strawberry led the NL in homers with 39 and led the league in slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+. He also finished second in MVP voting behind Kirk Gibson of the Dodgers, despite Strawberry’s clearly superior stats.

Strawberry left the Mets in free agency after the 1990 season, signing a five-year contract with his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers. He finished his Mets career with a .263/.359/.520 slash line with 252 homers, 191 steals, and 733 RBIs. He is the franchise leader in home runs and is fifth in steals and second in RBIs.

Doc Gooden

The Mets selected Dwight Gooden with the fifth overall pick in the 1982 MLB Draft out of Hillsborough High School in Tampa, FL. As a teenager, Gooden dominated the minors, striking out a whopping 300 batters in just 191 innings in 1983.

The Mets called up the 19-year-old Gooden in 1984, and he continued to dominate hitters. He followed up Strawberry by also winning Rookie of the Year, going 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA/1.69 FIP (137 ERA+), a 1.073 WHIP, and 276 strikeouts in 218 innings, including seven complete games. Gooden led the majors in strikeouts, FIP, WHIP, and strikeouts per nine while registering the lowest home runs per nine and hits per nine in the majors. He was an All-Star and finished second in the Cy Young voting.

Gooden’s 1985 season is widely regarded as one of the greatest pitching seasons in MLB history. He went an insane 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA/2.13 FIP (229 ERA+), a 0.965 WHIP, and 268 strikeouts in 276.2 innings pitched (8.7 K/9). Gooden also threw an NL-best 16 complete games that year. He also led his league in ERA, ERA+, FIP, strikeouts, innings pitched, and wins. He’s part of a select group in MLB history to have won the pitching Triple Crown, and he won the NL Cy Young Award unanimously. Gooden also finished fourth in MVP voting that season.

Gooden remained with the Mets through the 1994 season. He was an All-Star in 1986 and 1988 and was still one of the best pitchers in MLB for most of his Mets tenure. Overall, Gooden went 157-85 with a 3.10 ERA/2.77 FIP (116 ERA+) and a 1.175 WHIP, and 1,875 strikeouts in 2,169.2 innings (7.8 K/9) with the Mets. In franchise history, Gooden ranks second in wins and strikeouts, third in complete games, and fourth in shutouts.

Impact on the Mets

The Mets aren’t the luckiest franchise in MLB history, but they were very lucky to have Gooden and Strawberry at the same time. Thanks in part to the duo, the Mets won the 1986 World Series over the Boston Red Sox. That season, the team also set the franchise record in wins with 108. The Mets won 100 games and made it back to the playoffs in 1988, though they would fall to the eventual world champion Dodgers in the NLCS.

Both players had issues off the field though and it eventually did catch up to them. In 1986, Gooden missed the team’s World Series parade because he got stuck in his drug dealer’s apartment. In 1987, Gooden tested positive for cocaine during Spring Training and didn’t return to the team until June. The Mets would narrowly miss the playoffs that season, surrendering the NL East crown to the Cardinals.

Strawberry’s issues weren’t as severe as Gooden’s, but there were incidents involving teammates that didn’t go unnoticed. Most notably, Strawberry got into a fight with Keith Hernandez on team picture day in 1986, which also involved some strong words from second baseman Wally Backman. Strawberry was also very vocal about his disagreement with manager Davey Johnson over Johnson’s decision to pull Strawberry in game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Strawberry took a long time rounding the bases after hitting a key home run in game 7 of the series as a way to show up Johnson. The Red Sox did not take kindly to Strawberry’s actions, which led to a brawl in Spring Training of the following season.

Post-Mets Careers

Strawberry and Gooden remained decently effective players after leaving Flushing, but neither were able to replicate the success they had in orange and blue. Strawberry was an All-Star for the Dodgers in 1991, but his production rapidly decreased afterward. In fact, the Dodgers released him before he could finish his contract. After a brief stint with the Giants, Strawberry would spend the beginning of 1995 with the St. Paul Saints. He was also suspended after testing positive for cocaine. In the middle of the 1995 season, Strawberry signed with the Yankees, where he and Gooden would reunite in 1996. The duo would win a World Series with the Yankees that season. Gooden would also throw his first career no-hitter that season.

Gooden and Strawberry would go their separate ways again following the 1997 season when Gooden signed with the Cleveland Indians. Strawberry would stay with the Yankees until 1999. While he was left off the postseason roster in 1998, Strawberry went 5-for-15 with two homers in the 1999 postseason as the Yankees picked up their third title in four years. Gooden meanwhile would spend time with the Indians, Astros, and Devil Rays before returning to the Yankees to wrap up his career in 2000.

MLB History: Doc and Darryl’s Legacy

Both Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry were immensely talented and had strong careers. Neither player came close to Cooperstown, as both fell off the ballot after just one year. Overall though, Strawberry and Gooden will forever be remembered as one the best pitcher-hitter duos in MLB history, and one that brought success to a reeling franchise.

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Mathias is a graduate student at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. He is currently studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism on the Sports Media and Communications track. He graduated from The College of New Jersey in 2021, where he studied journalism and served as the Sports Editor and Opinions Editor for the school's newspaper, The Signal. He joined Overtime Heroics as a writer in June of 2019 and became an editor in December of 2020 before taking over the MLB department in June of 2021. Mathias is also a former varsity swimmer and is the youngest of five kids.