Marcus Stroman’s arrival in New York City was met with mixed emotions. In due time, the cultural, social and emotional impact of his return home will be revealed to all doubters.
The emergence of Stroman at Citi Field indicates a culture shift that is necessary for baseball and within the Mets organization.
To put it frankly, the Mets organization is very white. From the front office leadership to the players on the field, they aren’t feeling the struggle nor using it as motivation. The organization is financially set, too frugal and chases the back pages instead of efficient team building.
Stroman is built for the wars. He feeds off the haters and has already overcome career-threatening injuries in his MLB career. He has the take no prisoners attitude the franchise needs. Moments after putting on a Mets uniform on Wednesday, he was already showing the confidence and clubhouse leadership he brings to the mix.
“I was praying we didn’t trade any of those guys that were being rumored about, [Zack] Wheeler and [Noah] Syndergaard (at the trade deadline), Stroman said Wednesday. “Because I actually think we can have the best staff in all of baseball.”
A Black superstar in the heart of MLB’s most lethal staff is just what the Mets need to regain a dwindling African-American fan base and inject some soul into a very lackluster, one-dimensional organization.
It’s what they had back when Doc Gooden was throwing heat. Black people love baseball too. They just enjoy it more when they see somebody who looks like them shining on the diamond.
DR. K TAKES OVER NY
Doc Gooden was one of the all-time great pitchers before his career was tragically stunted by a drug problem that he just couldn’t kick. Dwight was the golden-armed savage who took baseball by storm. He was Black and beautiful on the mound and from an era in baseball where Black players comprised between 15-18 percent of MLB rosters but had already become a rarity as pitchers.
Nowadays Black pitchers are almost extinct. When Dr. K was at his best, he was a lightning bolt of positive results and precision. The old Shea Stadium resembled a Metallica concert when Dr. K was rolling. The K-corner was prominent and the 19-year-old kid from Tampa Bay Florida owned New York in the mid-80s. Black kids were emulating the pitching motion of Gooden and the sweet swing of Darryl Strawberry in inner-city parks all over New York.
The Mets were defined by their overwhelming talent and over-the-top grit back then. They had Gooden, who was becoming the modern-day Bob Gibson. A black shortstop in Hubie Brooks, a highly-touted 6-foot-6 Crenshaw baller named Strawberry, who was already larger than life as a two-sport phenom by the time he reached the Mets.
There was a black pitcher named Floyd Youmans, another outfielder named Herm Winningham and then later, a gold-tooth rocking, chain flashing outfielder named Kevin Mitchell who could hit 50 bombs, catch balls with his bare hands and throw a mean left hook.
Brooks, Youmans, and Winningham were all traded to the Montreal Expos for Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, before Gooden’s Cy Young season in ’85.
Nothing lasted too long for the Mets back then. That Mets team is among the lost dynasties in sports history and Dwight is like a myth to many of today’s current Mets fans. His rise was swift and his fall has lingered for the past 30 plus years as he still struggles with his addiction.
His brief moment among the baseball gods seems like a pleasant dream we once had. Was it even real? The fact that the Mets haven’t had another Black all-star pitcher since Gooden makes the arrival of Marcus Stroman encouraging.
His arrival conjures memories of the days when Doc’s electricity, personality, and unapologetic Blackness shook the stadium.
For a decade (1984-1993) Doc was a mainstay in the Mets rotation and even as his stuff dwindled and his drug battles were revealed, he was still a shining star in New York, especially among young Black kids with diamonds dreams.
METS FRONT OFFICE LOST ITS SOUL
The Mets haven’t had another US-born Black pitching star since. New York’s baseball culture has never been the same since Dwight left for the crosstown Yankees and won championships and pitched his first career no-hitter with them.
The city lost some sauce when Doc and Straw left the building. Mets Nation hasn’t been able to regain the edge it had over the Yankees during that glorious period, despite a new stadium, fielding some competitive teams in the 2000s and advancing to a World Series in 2015.
Mets Nation was strongest back in the 80s when it was represented by various ethnicities all striving for one championship goal. Somewhere along the line, ownership lost touch with the personality of Queens, New York, one of the most diverse communities on the globe.
STROMAN IS JUST WHAT DOCTOR ORDERED
Stroman brings diversity and familiarity. He grew up on Long Island as a Mets fan and he keeps his energy at 100 on the field. The Mets need that influence. The fans need a new face.
At 5-foot-7 he is the walking epitome of where hard work and what uncompromising determination gets you. Stroman is a guy that everyone can easily rally around. His presence is bigger than baseball. Anyone criticizing Stroman’s arrival has forgotten what a boss-ass brother on the mound looks like. It’s different.
The Mets did attempt to find the next Dwight Gooden when they selected Justin Dunn with the 19th pick in the first round of the 2016 MLB draft. Dunn hasn’t panned out either. He’s still bouncing around in the minors with Seattle, unable to advance past AA ball but overall they haven’t been interested in acquiring potentially explosive Black pitching talent.
The only other Black pitcher of note in Mets history is Anthony Young — the anti-Gooden. Young, who passed in 2017 at the age of 51, was known for his clean living and terrible, hard-luck pitching.
He lost 27 straight games with the Mets from 1992 to 1993 and will forever be known as one of the prolific losing pitchers in MLB history.
Go across town and the Yankees at least had CC Sabathia for years. During his stint in New York, he’s inspired many young black kids to get on the mound and afforded baseball opportunities to the disenfranchised and underserved. His presence has made a difference. It’s time for an African-American pitcher to become a star with the Mets again and fate has brought Marcus Stroman to the forefront of this mission.
Both sides need to embrace it and see where it goes.