Sure, you, Jeane Dixon and the Oracle of Delphi all knew that at
the All-Star break the Cardinals and Royals would be on track to
become the first World Series participants since the 1967 Orioles and
Dodgers to dive under .500 the next season. And that Ken Schrom would
have as many wins (10) as Bret Saberhagen, Ron Guidry and Dave Stieb
combined. And that the season's first two 10-game losers would be
ex-Cy Young Award winners Saberhagen and Rick Sutcliffe. And that
Rance Mulliniks would have more home runs (10) than Jim Rice, Reggie
Jackson, Tony Armas or Carlton Fisk; that Jim Morrison would have
more RBIs (41) than Dale Murphy; that Joe Sambito would have more
saves (9) than Dan Quisenberry; that Mike LaCoss would have as many
homers (2) as Willie Upshaw; that Bill (Wild 'n' Wonderful)
Mooneyham would have more innings pitched (67 1/3) than Joaquin
Andujar; and that the Red Sox, Giants and Angels would be in first
place. It was all fairly obvious, wasn't it?
But no one could have predicted that the headlines after Dwight
Gooden's last start before the break would read DR. KO'D and WHAT'S
UP, DOC? In Gooden's dozen starts from May 11 to his Houston
All-Star showdown with Roger Clemens, baseball's Mozart seemed
eminently human for the first time in his three-year career. In that
stretch, Dr. K was only 5-4, with an ERA of 3.84, 62 strikeouts and
76 hits in 84 1/3 innings. By midseason the Mets had lost as many of
his starts (7 of 18) as they lost in his 35 starts last season.
The Gooden question is more complex than that of Saberhagen, who
has been hammered and whose apparent lack of concentraton has
irritated manager Dick Howser and his teammates on the Royals. Dwight
hasn't been that bad. He has been downright unlucky at times.
Everyone around him tries to figure out why Gooden is mortal, and he
hears a different answer from every voice: He's throwing too much
breaking stuff and not throwing hard inside. Hitters have adjusted
and are no longer chasing his fastball as it rises out of the strike
zone. His curveball has been inconsistent. He has concentrated too
much on getting economical outs rather than relying on strikeouts.
The man has been clocked at 95 mph, so it isn't as if he has lost
a foot off his fastball. So, while Sid Fernandez and Bobby Ojeda
both may deserve to start the All-Star Game ahead of him, the Doctor
isn't likely to be a Mets problem. Jesse Orosco -- who has forced
Roger McDowell into the role of stopper -- might be, because he was
used seven times in eight days in June. Should McDowell lose as much
off his fastball as Orosco lost on his in June, Mets pitching could
have a serious hole. Keep in mind that the hard times of Dwight
Gooden read 10-4 at the All-Star break. Ask Rick Langford (1-10)
about hard times.
ANTHONY NESTE At the All-Star break, Gooden's stats weregood, but to some, not good enough.