And that's coming from two former stars who were teammates on the 2000 Yankees, the last club to successfully defend a title (1998-2000) by winning the Subway Series against the Mets.
"Going into the season, when the Yankees repeated back then, you kind of expected them to win year after year," said Martinez, the first baseman during that dynasty, who also won a ring in 1996. "So [since] that run ended, it just seems like now it's anybody's game to win. So many teams have gotten better. I think it's fun to watch baseball with the uncertainty of who may win the World Series."
"I think free agency had a big part to do with that," Gooden said of the no-repeat run. "In the '70s and '80s, guys were with their teams for a long time, and now with all the free-agency signings and some trades, I think that makes a big difference. It makes it a lot tougher. ... I think it's great for baseball. It's great for fans as well. Your team has a shot in the season."
The two New York baseball legends spoke on Wednesday at the MLB Fan Cave in Manhattan, where Major League Baseball gave fans the opportunity to pose with them and the World Series trophy. Another Opening Day was just days away, generating the same excitement they embraced as players.
"It's so competitive these days," Martinez said. "It just seems all the other teams have gotten better, and you never know which team is going to emerge from year to year. The Red Sox just came off of two years ago not making the playoffs, and then they win the World Series. So you have no idea which teams will rise up to the challenge from year to year, and that's what makes baseball so much fun."
The D-backs ended the Yankees' run in the final at-bat of Game 7 of the classic 2001 World Series, which followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and Martinez said the ensuing years only further demonstrated that repeating as champion is "a lot tougher than it looks."
"It was great to be a part of that run," Martinez said. "If you ask Doc, we've had so many great teammates, we all played with that group of guys. We all got along so well. But to go out and win every year, the expectations were so high, to be able to do it a couple years in a row, there was a great experience for all of us."
Gooden is best remembered for his superstar days with the Mets, but he won two rings with the Yankees, and it was an especially interesting juxtaposition when, in 2000, he helped a Yankees club that would eliminate the Mets in five. That 2000 season also was Gooden's last as a player. Tampa Bay had signed him on April 13 of that year but released him the following month. The Yankees signed him on June 11, and he went on to appear in 18 regular-season games, pitching in relief in one game of each of the American League Division Series and the AL Championship Series.
"I came on the back end of it," Gooden said of his role during baseball's most recent repeat title. "I came back with the Yankees in 2000. It was fun for me to watch the Yankees at that time. Honestly, the Yankees were like the face of baseball to me. To see them do that, I was just happy to be a part of it, even though I got the end of it against the Mets, my former team."
Martinez and Gooden know all too well the feeling that so many players are about to have. The Dodgers and D-backs got the season started with the MLB Opening Series in Sydney last weekend, and those same Dodgers visit the Padres on Sunday night in the ESPN Opening Night game. Thirteen clubs have Opening Day games scheduled for Monday, followed by Yankees-Astros on Tuesday in the final opener.
"It was only Game 1 of the season, but you got so excited," Martinez said. "You worked hard in the offseason and go through all of Spring Training. I just remember waking up that morning [after] watching the first game on ESPN, and getting to the ballpark and playing your game. It's just so much fun to be a part of that, with all the hoopla."
Gooden's first Opening Day start was a classic: 1985 at Shea Stadium, where Gary Carter hit a walk-off homer in the 10th inning in his Mets debut. For Gooden, that started a 24-win campaign and resulted in a National League Cy Young Award.
"Opening Day was like, you get that postseason experience, the hype that goes on with all the media attention and sellout crowd," Gooden said. "Gary Carter, his first year with the Mets in 1985, all the hype going into my first start on Opening Day, so it's a lot of fun. It's a great experience."
Gooden was pleased to see that Dillon Gee will become the Mets' 23rd Opening Day starter, citing Gee's return from arm problems and saying that the honor is well deserved.
"I hope he can cherish the moment, enjoy everything that goes with it, and stays within himself," Gooden said. "Even though it's Opening Day, it's a new beginning, it's like a postseason atmosphere, to understand what he's out there to do. I hope he embraces the moment, because he deserves it."
While at the Fan Cave, Martinez and Gooden were also serving as spokesmen as MLB and Church & Dwight announced a multiyear, multicategory sponsorship agreement making Arm & Hammer and OxiClean the official laundry detergent and stain remover of MLB.
"I'm very excited about it -- they're great companies," Martinez said. "Doc and I both grew up in Tampa -- all the years of playing baseball with dirty uniforms and whatnot, and our moms washing uniforms. ... People don't realize that after all those guys play baseball, someone has to wash the uniforms. It's pretty exciting to have Arm & Hammer and OxiClean be a part of it, because they do contribute a lot to the game."
"He played a prominent position, first base, and got dirtier," Gooden said of Martinez. "They help families across the country take part in clean uniforms. Like they say: If you look good, you feel good, you play good."