‘Doc & Darryl’ ESPN ’30 For 30’ Premieres Tonight

Even if renegade gunslinger Bill Simmons is no longer with ESPN, arguably the Boston native’s biggest innovation for the network continues to hit Manny Ramirez-style home runs. The network’s hit documentary series 30 for 30 has maturely tackled everything from Len Bias to Chuck Wepner, the original inspiration for Rocky Balboa, returns tonight with a new topic or two.

Judd Apatow, the creative mind behind Knocked Up, has produced a 30 for 30 titled Doc & Darryl, which, as one might expect, tells the story of New York Mets legends Dwight “Doc” Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Despite All-Star talent and electricity that brought excitement to a city enduring a serious sports rut, both Gooden and Strawberry saw their careers derailed by drugs and personal faults. This is the first 30 for 30 that Apatow, a longtime New York Mets fan, has officially produced.

The official ESPN page for the documentary reads as follows.

“When they were good, they were the biggest stars on a team that captured New York City and the 1986 World Series. But when they were bad, Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry broke the hearts of Mets fans. ‘They were going to be our guys for years,’ laments Jon Stewart in this evocative yet searing 30 for 30 documentary directed by Judd Apatow (‘Trainwreck’) and Michael Bonfiglio (‘You Don’t Know Bo’). Reunited at a diner in Queens, the pitcher and the power hitter look back on the glory days of the mid-’80s and the harrowing nights that turned them from surefire Hall of Famers into prisoners of their own addictions. Listening to Doc talk about missing the parade down the Canyon of Heroes, or Darryl counsel others at his ministry, you can only wish that these two very different men had not followed the same destructive path.”

From 1983 until 1990, Strawberry compiled a.263/.359/.520 triple stat line for the Metropolitans with 252 home runs, 733 runs batted in, and 191 stolen bases. Strawberry also averaged a 4.4 Wins Above Replacement during that time and only had two seasons following 1990 where he had a WAR above 1 (3.6 in 1991 with the Los Angeles Dodgers and 1.5 in 1998 with the New York Yankees).

From 1984 to 1994, Gooden went 157-85 in 305 games (303 starts) with a 3.10 ERA and an 1875-651 K-BB ratio in 2,169.2 innings for the Mets. If you only factor in 1984 to 1990, though, those numbers look much cleaner at 119-46 with a 2.82 and an astounding 20 shutouts. In his time with the Mets, Gooden averaged a WAR rating of 3.8, though his best season by far was a 12.1 WAR in 1985. For comparison’s sake, Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw had a 7.5 WAR when he won both the National League’s Cy Young Award and MVP in 2014.

In addition to their 1986 World Series win with the Mets, both Gooden and Strawberry won World Series with the New York Yankees in 1996, 1998, and 1999. Gooden also won a ring in 2000 for the Bronx Bombers.

Key themes of Doc & Darryl, as would be expected, are addiction and the battle to overcome the struggles that come with it. Apatow, in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Ted Keith, explained the desire to go so in-depth on a topic that hits home for him.

“I have great compassion for their struggles. Addiction is a vicious disease. I have known an enormous amount of comedians who have fought it and many who did not survive. I can’t imagine how painful it has been for them, but they continue to fight and survive. Anytime people witness the destruction that addiction leaves in its wake, one would hope it serves as a cautionary tale to others who consider doing drugs…. I think due to a combination of genetics, difficult childhoods, pressure and an environment that was accepting of this type of behavior, these guys were a perfect storm for this type of addiction nightmare.”

These guys were a perfect storm, indeed, as they’ve both struggled with drugs even after their retirements. While Strawberry and his wife Tracy have founded the Darryl Strawberry Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping autistic children and making their lives better, the eight-time All-Star also served eleven months of jail time starting in the spring of 2002 for violating his probation. Gooden has battled numerous legal issues as well since his retirement with the New York Yankees following the 2000 season. That includes a seven-month prison sentence in 2006 after violating his probation by using cocaine.

When talking about his own Mets fandom, Apatow said the following.

“I graduated high school on Long Island in 1985 and was a giant Mets fan. I loved them when they were terrible. I always relate more to the losers than the winners. I would go to Shea Stadium and watch the game with crowds of 5,000 and be in heaven. It was the era of Dave Kingman and George Foster. On Banner Day I walked around with a banner [referencing former Mets announcer Ralph Kiner] that said ‘Kiner Makes Me Want to Ralph!’ I even interviewed Mookie Wilson in junior high school for my school paper.”

doc and darryl 30 for 30 espn premier

Apatow had every reason to love the Mets, especially when Gooden was on the mound. In a nearly two-year span of 50 starts from August 11, 1984, to May 6, 1986, Gooden posted a record of 37-5 with a 1.38 ERA and a 412-90 K-BB ratio in 406 innings.

So far, reception to Doc and Darryl seems to be mostly positive, with Awful Announcing’s Ben Koo saying the following.

“The film pulls no punches in chronicling their downfalls. There is lot to go through there unfortunately but all along the way we’re being teased some sort of happy ending given both are here in modern times and nostalgically and warmly looking back at their glory days. Darryl gets clean. Doc throws a no hitter during a time of personal crisis for his family. We’re on schedule for a happy ending, but it never comes and nor does a sad one ever fully announce itself.”

Upcoming 30 for 30s include Phi Slama Jama, which tells the story of Houston Cougars’ iconic Phi Slama Jama teams of the 1980s, and Nature Boy, an in-depth look at wrestling legend Ric Flair. There remains no word on Down in the Valley, the Kevin Johnson-centric 30 for 30 that was supposed to premiere in October 2015 before being pushed back due to allegations of sexual misconduct.

Doc & Darryl will premiere on ESPN immediately after U.S. president Barack Obama concludes his 8 p.m. ET town hall with ABC’s David Muir and Jemele Hill. The running time for Doc & Darryl is 78 minutes, though that is pushed up to 90 with commercials.

[Photo by Frank Franklin II/AP Images]