The Mets took a lot of heat last season for not doing enough to honor the history of their team at Citi Field. The team responded by installing a permanent Hall of Fame and museum before this season, a worthy addition to the ballpark and a must see for any Mets fan. They continue their attempt to make up for their initial error with a ceremony this Saturday to induct Davey Johnson, Frank Cashen, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden into the team's Hall of Fame.
Naturally, this is being met with some disgust as well.
Writing for FanHouse, Greg Couch argues that Gooden is unworthy of the honor. The reasons are well known, up to and including the recent revelation that Gooden allegedly abandoned his wife and children, and Couch thinks that enough is enough.
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.
Couch isn't totally wrong. Gooden is the poster child for what happens when you coddle athletes and let them think that actions have no consequences because you can throw a killer fastball. He's wrong about how much that has to do with the history of the Mets.
That's what a Hall of Fame and museum is all about, after all. You simply can't tell the story of the Mets without including Gooden and what he meant to the team in the middle of the 1980's. The same is true of other unsavory characters like Strawberry, Wally Backman, Lenny Dykstra, Kevin Mitchell (just arrested again) and Keith Hernandez. Tell the story honestly, including the fact that they probably would have won several titles if these guys weren't so concerned with drinking and drugging during their hours away from Shea Stadium.
Arguments like this are always interesting because they concede right up front that the player is unquestionably deserving of the honor based on their careers. If Gooden wasn't such a unique force on the mound, there wouldn't be much reason to lament the way he's flushed his life down the toilet. That doesn't explain why they shouldn't be part of an institution celebrating sporting achievements.
It would be a lot more interesting to see someone argue that such insitutions shouldn't exist at all simply because of the way they fetishize athletic greatness at the expense of personal character. Hard argument for a sportswriter to make, though.
Adults have proven to be smart enough to understand that the professional achievements of men like Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh and others can be admired or celebrated without admiring or celebrating the way the men lived their lives. There's no reason you can't make the same distinction about Gooden.