Matt Harvey is struggling. This we know. He’s 3-7 with a 6.08 ERA and 1.69 WHIP this season. That’s not good, but it happens.
But ducking out of media responsibilities? Not taking questions after allowing three home runs in a 7-4 loss to the Nationals? That’s not okay – and it definitely wouldn’t have been okay in previous generations.
“If you had a bad game as a starting pitcher, you heard about it from everyone in that locker room for the next four days,” former Mets All-Star and World Series champion Ron Darling said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. ‘Hey, nice job last night, college boy.’ Those kind of things would happen, so you had to get tougher or they would just swallow you up. But it was a different time.”
Darling, of course, was a key cog in a Mets rotation that helped New York win the 1986 World Series. He shared his memories from that team and that season in a new book, “Game 7, 1986: Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life.”
“That team is the only team I ever played on that not only wanted to win the game, they kind of wanted to embarrass the other team,” Darling said. “I’ve never played on a team like that that just really wanted to go out and (dominate you). If they could beat you 15-0, that’s where they were trying to start from. So you had to get on board. Once you got on that train, it took you all different places.”
From Darling to Dwight Gooden, from Darryl Strawberry to Gary Carter, from Keith Hernandez to Sid Fernandez, the Mets had plenty of names and plenty of talent.
“It was like throwing 25 guys with type-A personalities into one small locker room,” Darling said. “It was combustible, absolutely. Where everyone found solace was on the field. There were hugs but fights in the locker room occasionally and loud words and exchanging of words. It was a perfect time because that player in those days could take that kind of abuse in the locker room, but at the same time, you had each other’s back. It’s very strange to even describe, but it was a fun time.”
Gooden and Strawberry, of course, battled drug addiction during and after their playing days. In recent years, Brandon Tierney has sensed that Strawberry, thanks in part to his wife, Tracy, has stayed on the straight and narrow, but he still wonders about Gooden.
Darling does, too.
“I think that anyone that has an addiction will tell you that you should worry about everyone every single day – because they do,” he said. “They worry about themselves every single day trying to be strong. That’s a fair point. I played with Dwight, and I wouldn’t pretend to know him. That’s a strange comment to come from a player who’s a teammate. But Dwight, listen, he was four or five years younger, he was always by himself, he kind of was a little quiet, and you didn’t really get to know him as well as you got to know other guys. So I feel for him in the sense that I don’t want him to ever feel like he’s alone or lonely out there. We would always, on the drop of a hat, be there for him. Even though we might not all know Dwight as well as we’d like to, he’s one of the sweetest human beings I’ve ever been around. That seems to conflict with the kind of choices he’s made, but that’s just how it goes. It’s a very democratic thing, addiction. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or how little money you have. It can get anyone.”