Joss was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in 1978 through the veterans committee even though he did not meet the minimum of ten years service time. There is no question he would have had Hall of Fame numbers had he continued to pitch, so Joss making the Hall of Fame was long overdue. Questions arise though, over how much better Joss could have been if he had avoided contracting meningitis. Perhaps this is the same question that could be asked about Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden, who had hit his statistical height after his 10th MLB season. So, before I give my opinion on what Joss could have accomplished, lets compare the two pitchers.
With the obvious fact that Joss pitched in the dead ball era, it was obvious Gooden was more of the strikeout pitcher. Joss completed 225 of his first 248 starts and 234 of the 260 he made in his career. Gooden finished his career with 2293 Ks, while Joss only had 920. Other than those facts, they were incredibly similar at the beginning of their careers. In Joss' career, he was 160-97 in nine seasons, finishing with a 1.89 ERA and 45 shutouts. He made just 12 starts in his last season, missing time with some arm trouble. He was 155-92 in 248 starts in his first eight seasons.
Gooden's Mets career was just as overpowering. The ten years he pitched for the Mets, he went 157-85, with a 3.10 ERA in 303 starts. Due to a drug suspension in 1994, he only made 7 starts in what would be his last season with the Mets. Through his first nine seasons, he was 154-81 in 296 starts.
Averaging Joss over the course of his first eight seasons, he averaged 19.375 wins, 11.5 losses and 31 starts a season. Over the course of a 20 year career, he could have won 387, lost 230 in 620 starts based on his first eight seasons. Gooden, over the course of his first nine seasons, averaged 17.111 wins and 9 lossed in 32.89 starts. In 20 years, at that pace, he could have gone 342-180, in 658 starts. Of course, Gooden stopped pitching at age 35, with years of decline beforehand. Joss died before his 31st birthday so both of these scenarios can never be more than hypothetical.
The only issue was Joss' arm injury and decline of the 1910 season. Sometimes health is the best gift given to those who have the talent. Gooden is an enigma because once he returned from his drug suspension in 1995, he was never close to the same pitcher. Could he have maintained his dominant pace if he laid off the drugs? Meningitis and drug abuse aside, it still may have been a reach for both of those pitchers to finish as all time greats.
Had Gooden continued his historic pace, he would have been a Hall of Famer, like Joss. Both were dominant in their own ways. Gooden was more the strikeout pitcher, while Joss completed most of the games he pitched. Both had deceptive motions, with Gooden's stride off his high leg kick and Joss' complete pinwheel motion which kept the ball from being seen before it left his hand. Two extremely sad stories over pitchers that had that much talent. Pitchers like Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan and Greg Maddux pitched around or more than 20 seasons. They each could have pitched that long.