The New York Mets have gone through some struggles in the last 35+ years since their 1986 World Series win. And while their bats may waver each season, there's one aspect of their game that has continued to be top-notch since the mid-80s: their pitching.
With Max Scherzer, Chris Bassitt, Taijuan Walker and Carlos Carrasco leading the Mets rotation in 2022, the Mets are hoping their All-Star caliber rotation can bring postseason baseball back to Queens. Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey almost brought a World Series ring to Queens in 2015, but the Kansas City Royals weren't about to lose two Fall Classics in a row.
But there's one pitcher who used their rookie season to announce to the league that they would be a problem for years to come. And then, almost 30 years later, another Mets legend completed the same feat. The message was clear. Once again the Mets had another pitching phenom, who wasn't going away any time soon.
Doc Gooden Dominates at the 1984 All-Star Game
It's a shame to see Dwight Gooden brought to so many lows when his Major League Baseball career started on such a high note. The good Doctor burst onto the scene as a teenager and made a splash in an MLB All-Star Game people still talk about.
The New York Mets made the Tampa, Florida, native the fifth overall pick in the 1982 MLB Draft right out of high school. His time in the minor leagues was brief, as he was called up to the big leagues for the beginning of the 1984 season. Gooden was a 19-year-old phenom already in the majors, and he quickly proved he wasn't in over his head.
With an incredible fastball and a better curveball, Gooden racked up so many strikeouts Mets fans began calling him "Dr. K." This quickly became shortened to "Doc," giving Gooden his lifelong nickname. "Doc" pitched so well as a teenager that he was named to the 1984 All-Star Game as a rookie.
Representing the National League, Gooden took the mound in the fifth inning. He became the youngest All-Star ever. "Doc" was undaunted. He faced three hitters: Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon and Alvin Davis. Gooden struck out all three of them. By the way, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela struck out the side in the fourth inning, meaning the American League whiffed in six straight at-bats.
The rest of the 1984 season went great for Gooden. He led the majors with 276 strikeouts, and while nobody would have known it at the time, he also led the majors with a 1.69 FIP. "Doc" finished second in Cy Young award voting, but he did end his first regular season with the National League Rookie of the Year award.
Jacob deGrom Shuts Down the AL at the 2015 All-Star Game
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New York Mets Ace Jacob deGrom's coming-out party didn't occur during the 2014 All-Star Game, but he won that year's Rookie of the Year award after scorching National League hitters. Two moments in deGrom's early years cemented his status as one of the best pitchers in the game. The first came in 2014 when he began the second-to-last start of his rookie season in a record-breaking fashion, by striking out the first eight batters he faced.
The second was when he took the ball at the 2015 All-Star Game.
Clayton Kershaw had allowed the American League to jump out to a 3-1 lead, and it was up to deGrom to stop the bleeding. Facing Stephen Vogt, Jason Kipnis, and Jose Iglesias, deGrom did something rarely seen in the modern format of the MLB All-Star Game: He struck out the side on ten pitches.
Vogt stepped into the box first and only saw three pitches before heading back to the dugout. Kipnis was the only batter who saw a ball outside of the strike zone as deGrom missed on an 0-2 fastball that future Hall of Famer Yadi Molina couldn't frame back into the zone. Iglesias knew what was coming and decided to swing at every pitch offered by deGrom. The fastball up in the zone for strike one was followed by two curveballs in the dirt that Iglesias chased, giving deGrom an easy 1-2-3 6th that was one pitch away from becoming an immaculate inning.
The message was clear: Jacob deGrom is a force to be reckoned with on the mound.
Two Met Aces Lighting Up the National Stage
Doc Gooden and Jacob deGrom's careers may have had similar beginnings, but that's just about it in terms of sharing the same storyline. Gooden would lose focus during the 1980s, allowing drugs and alcohol to derail his path to Cooperstown. By the time the 1990 season began, Doc simply was not the same pitcher. Whether that was from his drug abuse or his heavy workload in the early days of his career is still debated among baseball pundits.
Jacob deGrom, on the other hand, has gone on to win back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019. But deGrom's struggles to remain healthy and on the field have slowed his ascension to GOAT status over the years. Missing the first half of the 2022 season is fine if you're the fourth or fifth starter on a team, but deGrom is the defacto Ace in Flushing. Some Mets fans wonder if this is a franchise issue, as other Mets stars like Matt Harvey and David Wright had their careers cut short due to the mismanagement of injuries.
But still, the almost identical All-Star game performances have allowed fans in Queens a taste of the good life, a reminder to appreciate greatness before it's too late.
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