5 years ago seems like an eternity in Major League Baseball. The All-Star Game featured two pitchers to start somewhat on different stories. Max Scherzer, then pitching for the Detroit Tigers, had one of the best pitching seasons in a long time, but there was that vibe that he would not “make it” over a long period of time. On the flip-side, Matt Harvey, a rookie for the Mets, took the league by storm and just was lights-out. He was must-see TV to say the least. And pitching in Citi Field for the All-Star Game was just a cherry on top.
One month however, Harvey tore a ligament in his elbow, thus needing Tommy John surgery. He tried rehab first but failed and after the season, got the surgery, which eliminated his entire 2014 season. Funny how things go however, as most players who have gotten Tommy John Surgery it isn’t the death blow like it was 20-30 years ago but more of a “meh, I just need to find a way to pitch stronger when I am fully healthy.” Harvey was no different. When the 2015 seasons started, Harvey picked up where he left off, dealing like he had before the injury. Media, fans, and players (both former and current ones) alike gave praise for Harvey as some believed he would be the greatest Mets pitcher in history. He impressed those such as former Met standout Dwight Gooden & Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez and foes like Bryce Harper, who believed he was a Cy Young winner down the road.
People all around loved his toughness and Harvey showed in 2015 he was a tough pitcher. But maybe the first crack of his career came when his own agent (shocker: Scott Boras) expressed concern of he’s pitching too much and needed an innings limit before he needed to be shut down for the remainder of the season. The Mets, who were playoff-bound, wasn’t keen on it and of course, being in New York it did not sit well with the fans. Maybe it was a backtrack on Harvey or maybe he went against his agent, but he came out and said he would pitch in October. And the Mets fans were glad he did, going 2-0 with a 3.04 ERA and a 1.09 ERA. The Mets got to the World Series for the first time in 15 years in a surprise fashion before bowing out to Kansas City.
However, a debate happened the year after as Harvey wasn’t even near the player he was in 2013 or 2015 as he was hit hard, going 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA. His final start was on the 4th of July against the Marlins, a team he stymied down in Miami a month earlier in a great pitcher’s duel with Jose Fernandez (I remember that since I was actually at the game) and didn’t make it past the 4th inning, getting hit for 6 runs on 11 hits. But the shoulder was now and issue and needed to have season-ending shoulder surgery.
The one thing about Harvey however was that he was nicknamed the Dark Knight. He loved Batman growing up and Sports Illustrated gave him that moniker for a cover. But it seemed like if he couldn’t be Bruce Wayne, the next best thing was to be a pitcher. He loved the playboy lifestyle, dating supermodels, partying, etc. That’s all fine and well if it doesn’t interfere with your job. But it started to net himself into trouble with the Mets, getting himself fined and suspended for numerous issues relating to it. After the 2016 season, Harvey continued to struggle, going 5-7 with a 6.70 ERA.
When Terry Collins stepped down and the Mets hired Mickey Callaway, a friend of mine mentioned that with a new manager and coaching staff, there should be hope for Harvey (as well as Mets fans). However, things went south fast. And when asked about heading to the bullpen, Harvey responded by saying “I’m a starting pitcher” in somewhat of a defiant attitude. Yes, we understand that in your job and a job that you feel like you’ve done great in, you deserve to earn that spot. However, it has been 3 years ago since Matt Harvey was productive for the Mets. And the Mets still sent him to the bullpen. However, talks of partying continued as on the west coast, Harvey gave up a home run the appearance after this. 2 outings later, Harvey got shelled for 5 runs in 2 innings against the Braves.
That was it, the Mets said. Harvey needs to go back to the Minors to figure things out or he needs to go. Harvey said no to the Minors and the Mets have said “bye-bye” to Harvey.
So now a debate has begun of “well, where does he go?” And it is hard. Of course, the cross-town foe Yankees have been mentioned as they have been known to take up former troubled Mets greats of Gooden and Daryl Strawberry and turn them around, but it seems like they may err on the side of caution and take a pass. When the Yankees grabbed Doc & Daryl, remember it was a time period where the Bronx Bombers didn’t care about if you were a knucklehead, if you could play you could play. And kind of seeing how the Yankees are with the young group and a group that is very close-knit, I don’t know if it is a good fit. But right now, even the Yankees would probably tell Harvey “hey, you have to go to the Minors. We cannot use you as you are now.” And given how the Yankees have a pretty strong rotation so far in 2018 (and still waiting for Sonny Gray to get his act together), there may not even be an open starting spot, which Harvey so desires. I don’t think Harvey would go to a city that isn’t really front & center where it is a media hub (Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati) or a lavish spot just So that would narrow it down a lot. Maybe the Marlins would consider it, but we would also have to consider Harvey’s ruthless agent Scott Boras. He will try to get Harvey top dollar even at this time of his career and given how Harvey believes he is a starter, it may be a bit where he expects to be injected in the rotation from the first day of his signing. And given how the Marlins are the Marlins, I don’t think they are going to give him a heavy contract assuming if the Mets release him (which is more likely than a trade). And I am not sure if Harvey or Boras wants an incentive-laden deal (which may be his best shot) so there may be issues there.
The problem with Matt Harvey is that he let success get to his head and fast. Yes, the two major surgeries have played a major part. However, what I think happened was that in Harvey’s growth from an early stage (and even through this) was that there wasn’t a veteran pitcher to show Harvey the ropes early on. RA Dickey comes to mind in 2012 but Harvey was not there for a full season. New York did have Bartolo for a few years and players loved him, but I don’t see Colon being considered as a “mentor.” If you look at the likes of the pitchers today who have great careers like Kershaw, Bumgarner, Verlander, and a few others that had that veteran to somewhat show them how to handle being a Major League pitcher (Kershaw had Randy Wolf, Bumgarner had Zito, Verlander had Kenny Rogers). Harvey had…….Dice-K? And he couldn’t really go to deGrom (a year older than Harvey) nor Syndergaard (4 years younger than Harvey) either. I’m not saying it is the Mets fault for Harvey’s lack of maturation as a professional baseball player, but it just seems as if Harvey’s issues may not be as mechanical as many point out, but more of a mental/emotional issue……the same issues that took a Met great in Doc Gooden out of Flushing at a relatively early age.
I will use the cliche of “never say never” with Matt Harvey making the bigs again because if Johnny Venters can do it for the first time in 6 years, so can he. But the problem is Matt Harvey. He can re-invent himself but he seems to have that mentality of he can still pitch high 90’s and be a dominant pitcher as well. And he also has that vibe given out that if it doesn’t go his way, then “screw it.” And that is not a good attitude to have, especially if you’re career is already at a crossroads like his. For Harvey to stay in the Majors, something needs to change of his, and I don’t think it is a mechanical issue.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat