Should Strawberry, Gooden Have Their Numbers Retired?

They are Mets icons, but should they join Seaver?

No one with any familiarity of the two New York baseball teams will be surprised to learn that they have different views of history. The Yankees bang you over the head with theirs while the Mets seem to take great pains to hide theirs in a closet. Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry have something to do with that.

The two 80s icons are linked as the men who turned the Mets from also-rans to World Champions, but also, of course, as players whose Hall of Fame talent was ruined in a blizzard of cocaine and rivers of alcohol. The failure of the Mets of the mid-80s to win more than one championship was a shame because they were a deeply talented team that seemed to revel in shooting themselves in the foot.

But they did win that title and, however briefly, took command as the top team in a Yankee town. That accounts for something, something that Jim Baumbach of Newsday thinks should be rewarded with retired jerseys at Citi Field. Strawberry is an easier case to make than Gooden. He's the Mets' all-time leader in runs, home runs and RBI nearly 20 years after hanging up his spikes. Every one of his eight seasons as a Met was a good one and his departure as a free agent was a disaster for both player and team.

Gooden is a bit of a tougher case. There may never be anything quite like the Doc Gooden of 1984 and 1985 again. A pitcher so young and so dominant is a rare, rare thing that it leaves a lasting impression on the minds of everyone who sees it. That impression was so strong that it meant his last nine years as a Met were spent with a reputation far greater than his actual production.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't retire his number; it may actually mean the opposite. The way Gooden appeared like a thunderbolt from Mount Olympus affected the Mets in a profound way, and that's something that should be celebrated at Citi Field. Gooden, Strawberry, Mike Piazza, Jerry Koosman, Tug McGraw and others have major places in the history of the franchise. They mean a lot to the people who care about the team, and retired numbers are as much about those people as they are about the players themselves.

Whether you retire their numbers is almost irrelevant. Have a team Hall of Fame or a museum or drape huge pictures of memorable players and moments in the concourses of Citi Field. The point is that the history of the Mets is something that should be celebrated more often.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to and in addition to his duties for

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