Dwight Gooden only remembers what friends, family members and fans have told him about 1985. He was too much in the moment, living that magical season, dominating every fifth game. He’s starting
Dwight Gooden only remembers what friends, family members and fans have told him about 1985. He was too much in the moment, living that magical season, dominating every fifth game.
He’s starting to relive it now — the buzz, the anticipation and the thrilling masterpiece performances — as he watches another hard-throwing Mets right-hander light up the sport.
“What deGrom is doing, I can watch him and kind of understand what the fans were telling me, the joy that I brought to them, the excitement I brought to them into their house. He’s bringing the excitement to me watching him,” Gooden told The Post over the phone on Saturday, the day after another Jacob deGrom gem, a 15-strikeout shutout of the Nationals. “Me and my son were sitting there watching the game last night, we couldn’t believe it.”
It’s only four starts, a minuscule sample size, but so far, there are shades of Gooden’s 1985 in deGrom’s 2021. That year, Gooden went a astonishing 24-4 with a microscopic 1.53 ERA, 268 strikeouts in 276 ²/₃ innings pitched. He also had 16 complete games and eight shutouts en route to the National League Cy Young Award.
DeGrom, who has two NL Cy Youngs of his own, has a 0.31 ERA in 29 innings with a 50 strikeouts (a major league record for a pitcher’s first four starts of a season) and just 13 hits allowed. He has more RBIs (two) than earned runs allowed (one). He has reached triple digits on the radar gun 37 times already this season, somehow gaining velocity as he gets older.
“When you think you’ve seen his best start, he comes out with another one that tops that one,” Gooden said. “He’s definitely a once-in-a-generation type of pitcher. To me, he’s been the best pitcher in baseball the last three years, hands down.”
There are a lot of differences. Gooden was in his second full major league season. He was just 20 years old. DeGrom is a 32-year-old veteran in his eighth major league season. He already has a lengthy body of work. The overpowering stuff, though, is similar. The hype is beginning to build with deGrom, even if Citi Field can only be filled at 20 percent capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is nobody better to compare Gooden and deGrom than Ron Darling, the former Mets right-hander and SNY analyst. He followed Gooden in the rotation in 1985 and charted his pitches. He has closely watched deGrom’s evolution, from unsung prospect to baseball’s premier pitcher.
“It feels similar in the sense that when you see a game like [Friday] night, when he gets 27 outs, that’s very Doctor-like. To see him dominating, striking out 15 hitters with 105 pitches, that’s very Doctor-like,” Darling said. “I never thought I’d see another pitcher have a season like Doc did in 1985, and Jacob routinely puts these kinds of starts and years together that are different, but equally as impressive and jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring.
“Every pitcher is good in the major leagues, and then there are a few that are a step above. He’s doing stuff where you kind of shake your head and go, ‘I can’t really relate. I never even imagined that it was possible.’ That’s where he’s at right now.”
Darling has been so impressed early on by deGrom, he thinks it’s not out of the question he can finish the season with an ERA under one, which hasn’t been done since Red Sox pitcher Dutch Leonard (0.96) in 1914. DeGrom posted a career-low 1.70 ERA in 2018, his first of two consecutive Cy Young seasons.
“This is part of his greatness. When he gets on a roll like this, nobody doubts he can do it all year,” Darling said. “It’s possible, and that’s what makes him extraordinary.”
A deGrom start is becoming appointment viewing, much the way Gooden’s starts were in 1985. Social media buzzes when deGrom toes the rubber. Citi Field was loud Friday night, despite just 8,130 in attendance. It has giving Darling flashbacks.
“I remember when Doc would occasionally have a Friday night game. The city would be buzzing that he was pitching, very much like when Kobe [Bryant] or Michael [Jordan] used to come to the Garden,” Darling said. “The last time I saw the city buzz like this was, of course, when Matt [Harvey] was at his best. But you can’t miss it.”
Darling was off on Friday night. He rarely watches the Mets live when that is the case. But this was different. DeGrom was on the mound. He made sure to take it all in with his 5-year-old son, Ronald Maurice Darling III. It was, in fact, the first full game his son sat through from the first pitch to the final out.
“He’s never done that. He was mesmerized by what was going on,” Darling said of his son. “Those are the kinds of moments that [deGrom is] inspiring.”
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Zach Braziller