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Friday, July 30, 2010
Updated: July 31, 11:50 PM ET
Like it or not, we can't give up on Doc

By Rob Parker
ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- For sure, some fans will be saying Sunday afternoon that Dwight Gooden belongs in jail more than in the Mets Hall of Fame.

During the Citi Field ceremony, in which former slugger Darryl Strawberry, former manager Davey Johnson and former GM Frank Cashen will also be inducted, some won't be able to focus solely on Gooden's fine career with the Mets.

There are just too many issues with drugs and run-ins with the police to overlook.

Still, there's one message fans should take with them after the celebration: Don't give up on Doc.

Dwight Gooden
Dwight Gooden has meant equal parts joy and pain to Mets and Yankees fans over the years.

Eventually, Gooden will have to face the music in a New Jersey courtroom.

Back in March, Gooden, the former star right-hander, was charged with driving under the influence of drugs and leaving the scene of an accident. He was also charged with child endangerment and motor vehicle violations. His 5-year-old son was in the car at the time of his arrest.

At least one person can identify with Gooden's plight. Strawberry, who has had his own drug and jail issues in the past, has cleaned up his life. Straw knows it's possible.

It's understandable if some fans simply want to give up on Gooden.

In a most ironic twist, Gooden, a man nicknamed Doctor K for striking out so many batters in his career, may have finally struck out with the masses after so many brushes with the law over the years.

For as much joy as Doc gave us wearing either a Mets or Yankees uniform, he's given us an equal amount of heartache and embarrassment.

Nonetheless, we can't give up on Doc.

He is one of us, a part of our life, our fabric, our city.

Simply put, he's one of the family.

You can't turn your back on family, as hard as it may seem sometimes. And right now, it's hard. Gooden could be facing yet another stint in jail.

We all have family members or friends who have made poor decisions. But we can't just give up on them. Sometimes they are a part of us whether we want them to be or not.

Gooden, more so than any other athlete who came through NYC in recent years, falls into that category as well.

It's hard to forget that fresh face with the gold tooth, standing tall on the mound at old Shea Stadium.

At 19 and with a big arm, he was the second coming of Tom Seaver. The Mets were finally going to have better days because Gooden had arrived in 1984. All the losing was going to be behind us. The Mets would finally be the last team standing again, and Gooden was a big reason why.

Oddly, among that brash Mets squad, Gooden was a quiet, shy kid. He was cool, calm and collected. He went on to win a National League Rookie of the Year award, 194 games in his 16-year career and pitch a no-hitter for the Yankees in 1996.

All the way through, we rooted for Gooden on the field and off.

At times, we were both madly in love with Doc and felt sad for him at the same time.

He was the good son, the son you just didn't expect to get into trouble. But he did -- over and over.

Yes, we won't soon forget about the drugs and legal troubles that damaged his career and continued to plague him even after his retirement. Since then, he's been arrested several times and had numerous stints in rehab.

But we also can't quickly forget what he meant to us on the baseball diamond. He was dominant, pitching the Mets to a World Series in 1986. He also helped the Yankees win two titles in 1996 and 2000.

So often, it was so hard to understand why he would throw it all away with bad decisions. He hurt so many people along the way, but mostly himself.

In the end, we have to think of Doc as a family member. He's in our blood, whether we like it or not.

Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.

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