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Something like a Phenomenon

Stephen Strasburg makes his Major League debut tonight. Over at SI.com, Joe Posnanski tells us what it all means while Cliff analyzes the debuts of some other hyped phenoms.

I remember this one:

Dwight Gooden
Team: New York Mets
Opponent: Houston Astros
Date: April 7, 1984
Line: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 HR, 2 BB, 5 K, W

The fifth-overall pick in the 1982 draft out of Tampa’s Hillsborough High School, Gooden struck out 300 men in 191 innings in A-ball in his full-season debut in 1983, and in 1984, he broke camp with the Mets as a 19-year-old who had never pitched as high as Double-A. Gooden was sharp in his debut and, after a hiccup in his second start (3 1/3 IP, seven hits and six runs, all earned, while taking the loss against the Cubs), he went on to enjoy one of the best starts to a pitching career in major league history. In 1984, Gooden won the Rookie of the Year award on the strength of a 17-9 record, 2.60 ERA, and a league-leading 276 strikeouts (in 218 innings!). In 1985, he won the NL Cy Young award and the major league pitching triple crown, leading the majors in wins (24 against just four losses), ERA (1.53, second only to Bob Gibson’s 1.12 in 1968 since the arrival of the live-ball era in 1920) and strikeouts (268). Things went downhill from there, in part because of the 744 2/3 innings Gooden threw over three seasons prior to his 22nd birthday, but also because they couldn’t go up. The impossibly high expectations Gooden created for himself led to a vicious cycle of self-destructive behavior including alcohol and drug addictions which continue to disrupt his life to this day.

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1 Jon DeRosa   ~  Jun 8, 2010 2:51 pm

Doc in 84 and 85 was the most jazzed I've ever been about a Met. That was something to see.

I would definitely tune in tonight if it was possible.

2 rbj   ~  Jun 8, 2010 2:54 pm

Let's hope Strasburg doesn't go the Gooden/Strawberry route.

3 Sliced Bread   ~  Jun 8, 2010 2:58 pm

Is Strasberg a Method Pitcher?

4 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jun 8, 2010 3:02 pm

I remember those two seasons like they were yesterday. I remember 1985 when I cooked up these awful dilemmas in my head: "What if it were the ninth inning of Game 7 in a tie game and Mattingly came up against Gooden with the winning run on second base? Who would win? Who would I *want* to win?" In the end it was Mattingly, of course, only because the Mets were my secondary team, but the glory of that hypothetical match-up was a perpetual concern of mine that year (I was 12).

Ralph Keiner and our old buddy Tim McCarver, Gooden in those Met pinstripes, that hook from absolute hell, freezing hitters to induce in me that same primal sense of bloodlust I get from one of Mo's backwards Ks.

I did not realize that Doc's 1.53 was SECOND to Gibson. Wow.

I also remember the stats: 1984: 11.39 K/9; 1985: 10.68 K/9. That second one may be off but I'm sure about the first one.

5 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jun 8, 2010 3:04 pm

[1] Me too. In fact, he must have been the single most important player in getting me to pay attention to the Mets for real. Before him, who'd they have? Maz? Mookie? Hubie Brooks?

6 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jun 8, 2010 3:05 pm

[3] Hehheh.

7 RagingTartabull   ~  Jun 8, 2010 3:11 pm

the only two I'm old enough to remember are Prior and Lincecum. In my mind's eye it's Prior that had more hype though, if only because in '07 Lincecum was overshadowed on his own team by the Bonds HR chase. As long as Bonds was doing his thing, Lincecum wasn't even gonna be the biggest story in San Francisco let alone the sport.

Prior on the other hand...ooooph. That right there was a real shame, what a waste.

8 thelarmis   ~  Jun 8, 2010 3:15 pm

[5] maz. mook. hubie. man, those are some good memories! my godfather was the VP of the Muts in the early 80's. (i'm about the same age as you, prolly a few months younger.) even though i was a Yanks fan, Mookie was my favorite player and that was my nickname all throughout little league and middle & high school baseball. i wore #1, batted leadoff and played CF. i got to meet Mook many many times. lovely guy!

hubie was my #2 there. he was nice, too. i remember when i was 8, my brother and i got a special tour of Shea. my uncle (we called him "uncle", but he's just our godfather), really gave us some amazin' memories. my brother was a catcher and got a pro mitt. i was given a louisville slugger with my name engraved in it. i threw to him from the shea mound. we got to go into joe torre's office and take pictures there. it was the offseason. i'll never forget - lee mazzilli's locker was completely FULL! tons of clothes and a small name plate that read: "Italian Stallion". i thought he was pretty cool and special.

it's ironic, last night, i was reading Wilker's Cardboard Gods book and read the passage on Maz and his "feathered hair"!

9 Jon DeRosa   ~  Jun 8, 2010 3:18 pm

[5] exactly. then in a short span they infused hernandez, straw, gooden, darling, and carter. what a transformation. mygrandfather didn't know what to do with all those interesting players!

10 Hank Waddles   ~  Jun 8, 2010 3:29 pm

I'm really psyched to watch Strasburg tonight. I talked to a buddy of mine in DC, and he tells me the entire district is buzzing about it, which is great for the Nationals. So my plate is pretty full tonight -- Strasburg's debut, the usual Yankee game, plus the Lakers. I get tired just thinking about it...

11 RagingTartabull   ~  Jun 8, 2010 3:34 pm

[10] same here! I love when a big sports night pops out of nowhere on a random Tuesday in June. In all honesty the Yanks are probably number 3 on depth chart in terms of my interest tonight. Strasburg I'm just too curious, and what can I say I'm a sucker for Lakers-Celtics.

12 Hank Waddles   ~  Jun 8, 2010 3:57 pm

[11] Agreed. Yanks are #3 tonight.

13 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jun 8, 2010 4:14 pm

[8] Oh, and how could I forget, George Foster and his 52(!) home runs (though those were hit with Cincinnati, no?)! Still, that was back when 52 home runs really meant something!

14 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jun 8, 2010 4:16 pm

[8] Those are beautiful memories, friend, thanks for sharing them!

15 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 8, 2010 4:16 pm

I remember many a heated debate between my brother and I in the mid-80s about who was better: Dr. K (my choice) or the Rocket (my brother's choice). In terms of career, my brother ended up being right, but I could not then and can not now overlook 24-4, 1.53 and 268.

If you had told us, in 1986 or 1987, that both would someday pitch for the Yanks on World Series-winning teams, after we got over our disbelief, we'd have been the happiest kids on the planet.

BTW, for those without Extra Innings or mlb.tv, MLBN is carrying PIT @ WAS tonight. I'll be watching.

16 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 8, 2010 4:24 pm

[12] The Yankees are ALWAYS #1. :)

[15] The most heated Yankee/Met debate around my parts in the 1980s was who would win in a fight: Winfield or Strawberry. I always delighted in the fact that most baseball cards listed Winfield at 6'7", an inch taller than Strawberry's 6'6"

As heralded as Gooden was, I don't think any debut comes close to tonight's unveiling of Strasburg. The combination of his talent and the modern information age is a powerful mix.

17 thelarmis   ~  Jun 8, 2010 4:31 pm

i agree with william - Yanks come FIRST!!!

Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada DH
Curtis Granderson CF
Francisco Cervelli C
Brett Gardner LF

RHP Phil Hughes

18 thelarmis   ~  Jun 8, 2010 4:33 pm

[13] exactly. yeah, with the reds. but i always equated 52 and george foster w/ the mets. and that name - how can you not say it w/ a NY accent? mine even comes back when i say it! : )

i think 52 has bit more meaning again now and will continue to carry some weight if/when it's reached...

19 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 8, 2010 4:45 pm

Strasburg #1, Hughes #2, Stanton #3 and I'll read about Lakers vsCeltics in the paper tomorrow ...

20 thelarmis   ~  Jun 8, 2010 4:50 pm

[19] i thought jimi hendrix was your #1 ; )

21 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jun 8, 2010 4:51 pm

[15] "Do the Right Thing," of course, features the same debate! (Or was it "Jungle Fever?")

22 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jun 8, 2010 4:52 pm

[16] Hahahah! Winfield was actually 6'6" and a half, I think!

23 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 8, 2010 4:52 pm

[20] Just for tonite it's Strasburg!


24 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jun 8, 2010 4:56 pm

[18] The 52 really leapt off the page when you were studying the list of annual home run champs. It was only a few years (before, I think?) Reggie led with THIRTY-TWO!

It was just unfathomable, especially from a player who was not a Reggie. "*This* guy hit 52 home runs??" eyes popping out of my head.

25 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 8, 2010 4:58 pm

In case anyone missed it, from KLaw's chat today:

What was the reason behind the Yankees taking Cito Culver with their first round pick?

Klaw: They loved his makeup, knew the kid inside and out, scouted him extremely heavily, and felt that he’s a switch-hitting shortstop with a plus arm and a chance for average or slightly above-average power. I don’t quite share that optimism, based not so much on my own notes from seeing him last summer but more on what other teams are telling me.

I’m starting to come around on Culver after buying some spin. Is there something to be said for the Yankees knowing this kid better than other teams’ scouts because of his location? I don’t know what to think of this.

Klaw:Just following up – I have never liked the take-the-local-kid philosophy. That’s how the Pirates ended up with Neil Walker. Sometimes it works, and if you’re the Angels or Braves the local kid is often pretty good, but that can’t be your primary rationale for taking a player if you’re north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Aren’t the “other teams” talking you about Culver somewhat biased? I think you’re better off sticking with your own notes.

Klaw:Biased by what? This includes all the area scouts up here who told me this spring not to burn a trip to see Culver again.

Our draft picks so far:

1. Cito Culver, SS, NY HS
2. Angelo Gumbs, OF, CA HS
3. Rob Segedin, 3B, Tulane
4. Mason Williams, OF, FL HS
5. Thomas Kahnle, RHP, Lynn University
6. Gabe Encinas, RHP, CA HS
7. Taylor Anderson, OF, LA HS
8. Kyle Roller, 1B, East Carolina
9. Taylor Morton, RHP, TN HS
10. Ben Gamel, OF, FL HS (Mat's brother)
11. Zach Varce, RHP, Portland
12. Dan Burawa, RHP, St. John's
13. Tyler Austin, C/OF, GA HS
14. Travis Dean, RHP, MA HS
15. Chase Whitey, RHP, Troy
16. Evan Rutckyj, LHP, Ontario

26 RIYank   ~  Jun 8, 2010 5:04 pm

My brother (lives in a DC burb) is going to Strasburg's debut. Er, opening night? Yeah, he said tkts on StubHub were quite reasonable a few days ago.

Thelarmis, when you wrote

Hughes RHP

I misread it and thought, "What, he's dead?"

[25] Oh, they loved his make-up. Like A-Rod's lip gloss. I guess Cash is into that kind of thing.

All those 16 picks suck, by the way. Awful. WTF is Cashman doing?

27 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 8, 2010 5:15 pm

[26] Obvioulsy, he's a Red Sox double agent. They're just waiting for the right moment to spring it on us. There's going to be some photo op with Cashman and Hank Steinbrenner where all of a sudden, "Sweet Caroline" will start blaring on the PAbefore Cashman hauls off and clobbers Steinbrenner with a folding chair while the announcers scream, "That's Red Sox Nation's Music!!!!!!!"

28 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 8, 2010 5:20 pm

Here's video of the last pick they took, hard throwing RH college closer.


29 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 8, 2010 5:33 pm

[21] That's right! It was in "Do the Right Thing", which I did not see until some time in the late 90s.

[26] [27] You guys crack me up. ;) And thanks for the KLaw commentary, cult!

30 RIYank   ~  Jun 8, 2010 5:38 pm

[27] The worst part of that scenario is that they're playing "Sweet Caroline". It makes me want to hit myself with the chair.
[28] Every scouting video I've seen just makes me think, "Huh, I guess they drafted a jerky teenager." Did their moms take those videos?

"Klaw" is "walk" spelled backward. That must be significant. Diane, explain, please.

31 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 8, 2010 5:40 pm

Every scouting video I’ve seen just makes me think, “Huh, I guess they drafted a jerky teenager.” Did their moms take those videos?


32 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 8, 2010 5:53 pm

From BA's Draft Blog summary of Rounds 16-20:

... in the 17th the Yankees took one of Canada's top talents in Evan Rutckyj, a lefthander with good size at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, and a fastball that has reached 92 mph. He's raw and inexperienced, but that won't stop the Yankees if they like what they see.

... in the 18th, the Yankees wrapped the round by taking hard-throwing Georgia Tech closer Kevin Jacob. A Boras Corp. client, Jacob has a very distinct, some would say ugly, arm action but throws up to 98 mph and was the top prospect in the Alaska League last summer. He's a likely summer follow. [Jacobs is in the clip from 28]

The pick @20 Kevin Jordan might just be the steal of our draft, "Kevin Jordan began the year as a potential Top 200 talent, but he came down with an illness that caused him to lose about 15 pounds and much of his strength. Scouts estimated that Jordan was playing at about 75 percent when he started playing again in late April, but they still came out in droves for a mid-May matchup with Delino DeShields Jr. and Woodward High. At his best last summer, the lefthanded-hitting speedster showed good barrel awareness and above-average raw tools offensively and defensively for center field. Jordan was expected to be a summer follow but also could wind up at Wake Forest, where he'd start from day one. "

33 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 8, 2010 5:56 pm

[32] Evan Rutckyj - anyone want to take a guess at how you pronounce that one?

34 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 8, 2010 5:59 pm

[33] RUH-kee?

35 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 8, 2010 6:02 pm

Since I've been following the draft ... it's ROOT-ski

36 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 8, 2010 6:41 pm

[35] Polish-Canadian, perhaps?

I would have thought it was "ROOT-keeg" . . . thanks again, cult!

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