Thursday, July 14, 2016

Of Doc and Darryl

DARRYL AND DOC. Doc and Darryl.

Demigods and heroes upon which we Mets fans of the 1980s projected all of our hopes and dreams. Darryl Strawberry, who arrived first in 1983, was going to be part Ted Williams, part Willie Mays, a colossus whose silky swing propelled baseballs into orbit. Twenty-six in his freshman year, to go along with 74 runs batted in and a .257 average.

Naturally, he was the National League's Rookie of the Year.

Oct. 18, 1988
Teen-aged Dwight Gooden arrived the next spring, firing fastballs and spinning curves en route to 17 wins, 276 strike-outs and the Mets' second straight Rookie of the Year award. The next year he was even better, 24-4, 268ks, 1.53 ERA and the N.L. Cy Young Award.

The following year, -- 1986 --amid the Mets' first world championship since their miracle of 1969, it all began to come apart. 

When this New York Magazine issue hit the stands in October 1988, the man called Dr. K. had already been through drug rehab and the Mets had returned to the playoffs after a 100-win season, during which they swept their National League Championship Series opponents, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Unimaginably, unknowably, the end was near. The Dodgers pushed past the Mets, taking the series in seven games, on their way to humbling the Oakland A's. Kirk Gibson was the hero that year, not Darryl, not Doc, not anyone who wore a New York uniform. The team wouldn't return to the post-season again for 11 years, by which time Strawberry and Gooden -- battling drugs and other ailments -- had gone on to other glories, ironically, with the New York Yankees.

Tonight, they're the subject of an ESPN 30-for-30 documentary. 

What might have been. What could have been.

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