Dwight Gooden is confident this Mets team is good enough to beat the Kansas City Royals in the World Series. But good enough to beat his 1986 Mets?
Not so fast.
"Their pitching is tough, but we had guys -- and I'm not saying this team doesn't -- but guys that I played with had heart," Gooden said Tuesday from his Westbury home. "They would find a way to win, no matter what it takes."
Speaking hours before Game 1, the former Met said he moved last year to Long Island, not far from where he lived as a Mets player in the 1980s.
"Everyone says we should have won more," he said. "I wish we had the wild card back then."
Gooden said the buzz that this year's team has generated reminds him of the mid-80s when the Mets owned New York -- and he likes everything about it. Although he speaks fondly of the Steinbrenner family, Gooden said, "I'll always be a Met."
"You see the Mets flags in people's yards, you go to the delis and everybody's talking Mets now," he said. "Normally around this time of year, it's Yankees. This year is different."
Now 50, Gooden says his days revolve around what time the Mets are playing.
He said he considers Matt Harvey a friend, saying they met at an event last year, exchanged phone numbers, went out to dinners and attended the Super Bowl together.
Gooden considers Harvey the ace of this staff, but he says hard-throwing Noah Syndergaard has the best future of the Mets' young pitchers.
"I think once it's said and done, he'll probably be overall the best pitcher," he said.
Asked if he had any advice for the Mets' young pitchers, Gooden said they should enjoy the moment. "I wouldn't say it's easy to get here," he said, "but once you're here, you can't take it for granted that it's always going to be like this."
Once seen as a sure Hall of Famer, Gooden's career was hurt by his off-the-field problems with drug addiction. He said he's been clean since March 11, 2012, and he tries to share his struggles with other addicts as a way of therapy, both for them and him.
"Some of it is embarrassing," Gooden said. "But you know what? That happened. That was me. That's not me today."
Gooden also said he recently patched up his differences with former Mets teammate Darryl Strawberry.
"We're like brothers," Gooden said. "One day you hate your brother. The next day you love them. Same thing."
One of Gooden's biggest regrets during his Mets time was missing the 1986 championship parade because of drugs.
But, he said Tuesday, "I've learned to accept that now, it's OK, I missed that one." Then he smiled. "And hopefully, I'll make the one this year if the Mets get it."
Gooden plans to attend Games 3, 4 and 5 at Citi Field. And though he said the Mets haven't reached out to him, he said his arm is ready just in case they need someone from their past to throw the ceremonial first pitch.
"Even if they don't," Gooden said, "I'll be there."
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