With the Mets off today, I re-read Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends, a recommended collection of baseball mythbusting featuring an excellent foreword by Bill James. Rob investigated an anecdote from Dwight Gooden's book, Heat, and also looked at an excerpt from Mel Stottlemyre's book, Pride and Pinstripes. Here is former Mets pitching coach Stottlemyre on the handling of young Doc:
From the start we were careful not to overload Doc. We put him at the back end of the rotation, so that his first start would be in Houston, rather than New York, and we were careful to limit his innings.
The Mets didn't really limit Gooden's innings though. He threw 764.1 pro innings before turning 21 years-old, including 276.2 in 1985 at age 20. Of course, Doc had (and continues to have) his share of off-the-field issues, which likely contributed to his on-field decline. It's not often that a player's first two seasons are also his best. Which is more to blame for Doc's decline: too many innings at a young age or off-the-field problems?