Approximately 30 years ago, Doc Gooden made Shea Stadium the place to be on Friday nights, electrifying baseball as a youngster with his power arm.
Brief into his career, Mets starter Matt Harvey is creating a similar type of atmosphere, his starts have become like mini-events and there's a palpable buzz for his Friday duel against Washington's Stephen Strasburg.
Davey Johnson, the current Nationals manager who managed the Mets during Gooden's glory years, remembers the excitement in Flushing during the 1980s when Gooden pitched.
"It was pretty electric every night," Johnson said. "Doc, even at 17 years old, he had the ability to read hitters and he'd bring the ball in on a hitter. If he was getting around on his fastball, they got a piece of that, he'd throw them a curveball and it was all over. He read hitters very well for a young age."
Though he manages a division opponent now, Johnson said he's always interested in the Mets and is pleased to see the influx of young pitchers within the organization. Harvey is one of two premier arms young arms in the Mets system, as prospect Zack Wheeler is working his way to Flushing.
Harvey has gotten off to a tremendous start in 2013 as he's 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA. In addition to making a Friday night baseball game a premier event in town, Harvey has drawn comparisons to Gooden for his power arm and penchant for strikeouts. Harvey has 25 in his first three starts.
In Gooden's first two seasons combined, he struck out more than 500 batters. In his sophomore year, when he won the Cy Young, he went 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA.
"Doc was very special," Johnson said. "He was a 19-year-old young man that came on the scene here, had to do a little arm twisting against [former Mets GM] Frank Cashen to get him here. Located the ball very well, outstanding stuff.
"Harvey's pitched a little against us. I like that he locates well, goes right after hitters, overpowering stuff. It's good to see. Really good to see."
Just as there has been a certain aura surrounding Harvey since his debut last year, Washington's starter on Friday, Strasburg, has made his starts must-watch television. The former first overall pick, is undefeated against the Mets with a 3-0 record and is 1-2 with a 2.95 ERA this year, although he's run into bad luck as he hasn't given up am earned run in two of those starts.
"Stras is so driven to be as good as he can be. It doesn't matter who he's pitching against, or who you are comparing him to, he is always a perfectionist on the mound," Johnson said. "That's just him. He's still in the learning stages, seeing the strike zones, how hitters respond to his stuff, and he hasn't really had a full year in the big leagues yet and he's just getting his feet under him. I like where he's at but the best is yet to come."