I'm not the biggest moralist in the world when it comes to ballplayers behaving badly. I don't expect players to be role models for my kids -- that should be me, right? -- and despite the expectations we as a society place on athletes, they are, after all, human, and relatively young and immature humans when we focus on them the most. When they screw up my first impulse tends to be is empathy rather than scorn, at least if they're not greater dangers to the public than they are to themselves.
But that just because I empathize doesn't mean I condone, and I certainly don't think we should venerate the fallen stars among us. Which is why this idea from Newsday's Jim Baumbach is crazy:
The Mets should use the opening of Citi Field as an opportunity to honor two of the biggest names the franchise has ever produced. Yes, you know where I'm going with this. It's time they forget wondering what could have been with Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, and honor them for what they were. And that's Mets. Homegrown Mets. Time to retire 16 and 18 in a Citi Field ceremony.
I don't believe Gooden and Strawberry should be shunned -- in fact I love that Strawberry works for the Mets and that Gooden has recently dropped his longstanding grudge against the ballclub that made him famous -- but honoring them in the same way that Tom Seaver, Gil Hodges, Casey Stengel, and Jackie Robinson have been honored -- is an awful idea. Doc and Straw were great players at one time, but they, more than anyone else, are responsible for those mid-to-late 80s Mets' teams failing to grow into the dynasty they should have become. In effect this was no different than a player having a good start to his career but petering out into mediocrity as he failed to realize his potential. You wouldn't retire such a player's number, so even without getting into moral judgments, why would you retire Gooden and Strawberry's?