Harvey: Two Sides Of The Same Coin
Thanks to Joe Petruccio for letting me use the image above. If you need cheering up after Tyler Clippard coughed up Sunday’s game or want to celebrate the Mets 8-5 win against the Nats today, please check out Joe’s daily Mets’ paintings at his Facebook page and his Instagram -– Joe never fails to deliver great stuff so it’s worth it.
The Nats pulled within four of the Mets yesterday, and going into the series we had the Matt Harvey incident. For the one or two of you that didn’t rant on Twitter after Harvey’s press conference, here’s your chance to discuss what you think in the comments below. Harvey’s up next, after all. How’s he going to respond?
Harvey’s always had a “side” to him and this has drawn attention to the bad one. I’ll plead the case for both sides of the scarred coin, and then lay out my thoughts at the end.
The Mets wouldn’t be where they are in the division without Matt Harvey. Harvey has exceeded all my expectations by remaining largely healthy and pitching to a high standard. That’s some feat coming off the back of Tommy John surgery. Even Tommy John wasn’t as good in his first year back, and they named the surgery after him. Harvey is clearly a top 10 pitcher in the NL, and you could argue – through ERA – that he’s in the top 5. I prefer that to a full season of Dillon Gee.
Financially, Harvey is also vital to the Mets. Don’t forget that this guy is playing for close to the Major League minimum, and that he’s playing for a team who had the financial acumen of a four year old in a candy store. Harvey fills out Citi Field whenever he pitches and has been a boon to the tacky Batman mask industry. Putting up with a few sullen moods and comments from Harvey is easy when you have $ signs in your eyes. Do you think the Giants put up with Barry Bonds for his award-winning personality?
Popularity waxes and wanes, anyway. As soon as A-Rod started hitting homers in 2015, people groused a lot less. Harvey may have been a fraud, but at least he’s not a cheat. And, by backing down the next day and saying he’ll pitch in the offseason, my guess is Harvey will receive more cheers than jeers in Tuesday’s key game with the Nats.
Matt Harvey has often been right in the past too. In 2013, he (subtly) criticised the team’s lack of ambition and – according to some reports – he was pissed in 2014 when the Mets locked him in a training room rather than let him talk to the press about his injury. If he’s grousing more than that behind the scenes, it’s probably with good reason. Uncle Terry endears us with his shrivelled peanut face, but his umm… creative use of Eric O’Flaherty to a right hander in a tight game on Friday shows he’s still fallible. And, if you were Harvey, would you like to deal with Jeffy and Sandy behind the scenes? Me neither.
Yes, Harvey has a chip on his shoulder. It’s easy to tell from his hunched body language in the dugout and in press conferences. Meanwhile, Jacob DeGrom is all smiles and Bartolo Chuckles is throwing firecrackers and behind the back passes to catch a guy a first base.
Maybe Harvey doesn’t like some of his teammates? Or Uncle Terry? Or maybe it’s because lesser – albeit very fine – pitchers like Francisco Liriano are earning $11m plus. Harvey earns more than a comfortable salary and he’ll be making a mint from endorsements but don’t forget that Harvey is still a kid at 26, and he’s got plenty of testoterone surging around. He wants to maximise the money he can from his arm. You blow that out again and… well, you won’t be such a hit with the society gals in New York.
Finally, despite what some people think, Matt Harvey is not a doctor. 35% of pitchers who receive Tommy John twice don’t return to the majors. That’s some pretty big dice to roll.
Hypocrisy is a word that’s bandied around too much. But we had a doozy here.
Harvey complained about the six man rotation and being forced to skip starts and then he seemed to be drawing a line at 180 innings with 13 2/3 innings left and a month to go? No wonder people were foaming at mouth. Why the hell wasn’t this figured out earlier? Why didn’t Harvey express this to the media at the start of the season – or even a month into it – and make it clear he (and his representatives) had a hard limit.
The other thing – nicely picked up on by a couple of ESPN writers – is that Harvey has pitched LESS than a lot of pitchers with similar amounts of innings. He’s been economical this year and averages less than 100 pitches per start. Unless you count trotting over to cover first base or craning your neck to watch a fly ball, I’d say pitches are a better gauge of arm fatigue.
The killer is Harvey has made his toughness vocal and bigged up his Dark Knight persona. He played the role of a gruff rebel with aplomb, fooling both the fans and the press. Never screw with fans, of course, and NEVER screw with the press. They’re ALWAYS looking for a chance to knock you down and they’re revelling in the “Joker” headlines. Smile and move on, Matt, and do a Wright or a Grandy or a DeGrom. It ain’t worth the hassle, and his backing down indicates he’s learnt that lesson.
It doesn’t help that Scott Boras – the unfortunate mix of human DNA with diarrhoea – has a mouth as big as a barn door and can accrue dollars as fast as the Wilpons can lose them. Boras knows the Mets won’t be able to pay the going rate for Harvey when he’s out of team control, so why not get him out of Dodge already? Boras doesn’t care that the Mets might get to the World Series… but he does care about protecting his investment.
Matt Harvey comes out of this smelling faintly of cowdung, because people hate a hypocrite. You can be an asshole and tell the truth and people grudgingly respect that. Harvey is ultimately paid by the fans – especially in terms of his endorsements. Popularity equals big bucks, and Harvey (perhaps temporarily) has screwed that up.
Lastly, the Mets are pretty good this year. The Royals were pretty good last year too. Look what happened to them. Harvey really could be on worse teams and – with a lack of a no-trade clause – he might end up on one elsewhere in 2016. If he’s grouchy here, imagine how much fun he’ll have in Colorado.
My Two Cents:
Like most people, I watched Harvey’s press conference with my mouth slowly opening and steam coming out of my ears. In amongst all the flim-flam, the not-so-hidden message was 180 innings was a hard limit. He dealt with the situation very poorly.
Since then, Harvey’s said he will pitch in the offseason and has been in contact with Sandy Alderson, who’s no stranger to flim-flamming himself.
Why didn’t all this discussion take place behind closed doors? I point the blame for that with Boras and Dr. Andrews, meaning Harvey had to respond to the details his advisors made public. But I’ve got a suspicion he initially chickened out and prompted them to make the comments, in a backfiring attempt to protect his macho image.
Harvey’s backdown quote also interested me with its careful wording:
“I love to play baseball, and I love winning even more. I would not give that up for anything. I also know I want to be able to play and win for a long time. But there has never been a doubt in my mind: I will pitch in the playoffs. I will be healthy, active and ready to go. I am communicating with my agent, my doctor, [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] and the entire Mets organization. I can assure everyone that we’re all on the same page.
“Together, we are coming up with a plan to reach an innings limit during the season,” he said. “It will be a compromise between the doctors and the Mets organization to get me, and the team, to where we need to be for our postseason run. I understand the risks. I am also fully aware of the opportunity the Mets have this postseason. Winning the division and getting to the playoffs is our goal. Once we are there, I will be there.”
I note he doesn’t say he loves the Mets and he did a great job of hiding his lack of doubt in pitching in the playoffs in the press conference. I have no doubt he didn’t want to go beyond the 180 innings limit and now has been forced to back down. Fan power, huh?
Post All-Star Break it’s been fun to ride the wave of Mets positivity and watch some good baseball. Of course, being a Mets fan you always suspect something weird or negative is around the corner. It’s a shame it kicked off with the Mets leading the East and the most important series coming up next… [[[Reader, insert the swear word of your choice here.]]]
What Will The Mets Do?
From the recent comments from Harvey it seems he’ll pitch twice – maybe three times if he has a short outing – more in the regular season. Then I believe they’ll make him the third starter in the offseason so he’ll only have to pitch once in the first series.
I’ve seen it mentioned that Harvey should be punitively put into the bullpen to fill out the seventh inning. I seriously doubt that will happen. He’ll lose value to the team in a trade and – if you want to keep him – will antagonise your second best pitcher.
My gut feeling is that the Mets won’t trade Harvey over the offseason. I think they should. Do you? He has serious value and the Mets will have a big hole in the outfield because Cespedes won’t be at Citi next year. Lagares will be facing his own Tommy John Surgery too. This year’s rentals have been great, but the Mets need to retool heavily for 2016.
The problem, as it always seems to come down to with the Mets, is money. Matt Harvey will still be affordable next year. And you get better bang for your buck – even with some other Rockies thrown in – than Carlos Gonzalez’s expensive contract and nagging injuries.
Urgh. It was all a standard Mets mess but let’s be positive… the frisson of excitement just makes Harvey’s start tomorrow all the more engaging.
I will root for him tonight. If they deal him this offseason I won’t shed a tear, so long as the return is fair and it is to Colorado or an AL Team. In no way do I expect him to be a Met in three years, and that is fine as well, so long as the Mets have young arms behind him to step in and do the job. The Tampa model works well, especially when the offense and position players are maintained at a high level.
I did not assume there was any discussion of a hard 180…that is my point. Harvey and his agent are “acting” as if that was the deal all along, which is baloney since I do believe that he, his agent, and Alderson all have more capabilities than a 3rd grader.
Vilos may be correct regarding how Harvey feels, and he is certainly entitled to make adjustments based on how he feels…that is why you don’t act like you will always take the ball, never want to come out of a game, and are pitching until the season ends. Hopefully he learns from this, and ultimately it comes down to how he feels at this point or beyond, and really only he knows. But his “persona” clearly takes a hit, with the fans and likely with players in the clubhouse.
His self proclaimed image, the fact that he doesn’t share long term goals with the Mets organization and probably execution errors, got in the way of making an inhouse adjustment to the original plan, that didn`t trascend to the media.
For me, I`ll continue to go one step at a time, and hope he dominates tonight.
In any case, the reactions by fans and the press have been horrible. That’s what I’ll remember most from all of this.
Harvey MUST have received plenty of media training so it’s frustrating he handled the situation badly. But it was positive that he was one of the first to celebrate with Kirk last night. And Harvey is still a kid.
My favorite part about last nights game was that the Mets came back. Last night was not about Matt Harvey, last night was about the Mets team.
There are guys on the team that love playing for the Mets – guys who want to be Mets. Flores cried thinking he got traded. When he hit the infamous walk off he popped the Mets jersey before hitting home plate. And when that infamous dinger flew into the stands, Murph was the first guy exploding out of the dugout looking like he actually enjoyed it more than Wilmer. EY jr last night was so fired up after Kirk hit that dinger that he almost passed out. He was the first guy on the steps waiting for a high five. Kirk talking about how happy he was to come back to NY because he loved his teammates and loved the city. Uribe has an orange and blue pinstripe suit. Cuddy got the WWE belt going in addition to setting a season long tone of playing the game as hard and as fast as you can. Grandy saying real NY baseball fans are Mets fans. The Captain coming back. These guys love being Mets. Matt Harvey is not one of these guys.
We’re not going to be able to pay all the young pitchers and keep YC. The situation seems to be handling itself.
Boy, it was great to watch the Mets turnaround last night. I’ll try to write a summary of the whole series tomorrow.
This offseason will be an interesting one, to say the least. The Mets will have Murph, Gee, Parnell and Meija coming off the books. Is that enough to free up money for YC? I doubt it, unfortunately. This is still the Metsies.
I certainly hope the Mets resign Uribe and Johnson, cost-effective guys who add a huge amount of versatility to this team. Their enthusiasm also fits with the team’s mood, led by the guys you talk about. They’re huge fun to watch.
I have nothing against the Nats and almost feel bad for their ’07/’08 Mets routine, but it is SO nice to see the shoe on the other foot for once!
A saga in several parts by argonbunnies:
Entering 2012, Harvey had yet to generate much hype with his performance. He’d walked plenty and posted a 4.53 ERA in Binghamton, and his AAA assignment seemed ambitious to many. He continued walking guys in Buffalo, but allowed fewer hits and stranded more runners for a 3.68 ERA. Hardly numbers I’d expect to translate well to MLB, and I steeled myself for at least short-term disappointment when he arrived. Harvey looked like a classic case of the Mets hyping a mediocre player simply because he was the best they had on the farm.
As 2012 wore on, Harvey blew us away with his stuff and his mound presence. He did walk nearly 4 per 9, but not many pitchers can consistently throw high fastballs by MLB hitters, and not many rookies show that sort of “attack!” demeanor. We didn’t know if he’d be great — the secondary stuff was erratic, and presumably hitters would lay off the ball up out of the zone eventually — but we knew he had some rare tools and a chance to dominate.
When 2013 began, Harvey was impossible to hit. He’d greatly refined his slider — the break was short, but sharp and late and he was hitting the corner with it. Pair that with improving command of that same running 97 mph heat and he was mowing through lineups early. He did still issue a few walks, but what does that matter when you never allow hard contact? Through 4 starts he had a .108 AVG allowed and was 4-0 with an 0.93 ERA. Harvey was officially on the superstar radar, and when he one-hit the White Sox in his 7th start, issuing 0 walks in 9 innings, it seemed like he’d paired A+ command with his A+ stuff. He was suddenly in the discussion for Best Pitcher in Baseball.
Then, on June 18, Harvey reminded us that he still had the ability to bring unhittable stuff to the mound, striking out 13 Braves while routinely hitting 100 mph in the early innings.
So, here we have a guy who can hit the corners, and a guy who can whiff the world. Now those Best Pitcher in Baseball discussions went from whispers to shouts. Three more good starts and Harvey entered the All-Star Break as an absolute sensation, with Bochy naming him All-Star Game starter “on merit, not just because the game’s in New York”.
Harvey did not disappoint the NL squad, blowing away Miguel Cabrera en route to a scoreless outing.
I don’t recall exactly when Harvey started showing up in clothing columns for his style and gossip columns for dating models and celebrity columns for being a Rangers fan and sports pages for being The Dark Knight of Gotham, but it was somewhere around this time. Amid a Mets season that only occasionally teased with being competitive, Harvey was THE attraction, and when Adam Rubin began announcing his starts with “Happy Harvey Day”, the slogan caught on with press, T-shirt makers, and even some Mets staff like Terry Collins.
Harvey showed no signs of slowing down, throwing his first complete game on August 7 to shut out the Rockies. His season line now looked like this:
9-3, 2.09 ERA
.190/.232/.265 line, up there with Maddux, Gibson, Tiant and Pedro as the only starters to post a sub-.500 opponent OPS since Walter Johnson.
0.858 WHIP, again on the short list since Walter Johnson, behind only Pedro, Maddux, McNally, Gibson and Koufax.
A 10.0 K rate paired with a 1.6 BB rate, for a 6.1 to 1 K/BB rate that was the best ever for a pitcher in his first full season.
Harvey wasn’t just great, he was historic. His only flaw seemed to be that he tired around 90 or 100 pitches (with some quicker hooks, his ERA would have been closer to 1.80). Not much of a flaw for a young guy in his first full season of major league work! His build and approach of going right after hitters seemed to portend an eventual workhorse. Scouting magazines were giving him 80s on the 20-80 scale, a rating that basically says, “First-ballot Hall of Famer.”
Those of us out in fan-land who knew anything about pitching health science all had heart attacks, as forearm tightness is one of the most common signs of a UCL tear.
The MRI revealed a UCL tear.
Doctors recommended Tommy John surgery. The Mets recommended Tommy John. Harvey’s agent recommended Tommy John. Harvey explored all options to avoid the procedure, but most fans knew he’d be a ticking time bomb without the surgery, and just wanted him to get the inevitable over with. Eventually, he agreed, and was officially done for the year, and probably for almost all of 2014 too.
This basically ended any thoughts that the Mets had momentum toward contention. We all hoped that Alderson would stock the 2014 team with talent anyway, but we weren’t shocked when he half-assed it and when the inevitable “when we gt Harvey back” comments became ubiquitous in conversations about the direction of the franchise.
The Mets, and all their fans, were waiting for that historically great pitcher from 2013 to return and lead a charge out from misery to contention. If anyone could do it, the Dark Knight could.
Fans and experts debated the wisdom of his slower-than usual path from the operating table to the pitching mound. Some thought it was prudent caution, others an ignorant meddling with scientists’ prescription.
Then Harvey balked when the Mets tried to make him rehab in Florida, preferring to continue living at home in New York and being around his teammates to add motivation and keep his head in the game. Everyone took sides on this — either Harvey was a trouble-making diva, or he was the one guy tough enough to stand up to The Man. Harvey also screwed up a radio spot by refusing to talk baseball while hyping the product he was endorsing, and committed a major faux pas by going on air while the Mets were in the middle of a game.
Harvey also talked publicly about pitching for the 2014 Mets, despite another lost season, before being persuaded by virtually everyone to rest up for 2015.
Throughout all this, despite accruing a few critics, Harvey remained an icon. His errors and conflicts were the errors and conflicts of a true alpha male who would surely make us adore his combative qualities while dominating opponents on the baseball field. We cautioned each other not to expect too much too soon from a guy coming off Tommy John, but really, most of us were expecting an excellent 2015 from Harvey to play a major role in any progress the Mets could make.
I’m not sure if any pitcher’s spring training has been more watched then Harvey’s was, and I’m not sure if any pitcher has looked better in spring training than Harvey did. In his first start he was throwing 99 and dotting 3-2 curveballs on the black. Forget any idea that his recovery would resemble a mere mortal’s — it was clearly time to pick up where 2013 left off. He might not be the huge K machine of late 2012 and early 2013, but he looked like he’d be the strike-thrower of mid-2013 who’d efficiently chew up opponents and occasionally mix in a 13-K game for good measure.
Then in his next two starts he fanned 15 while walking none, but he also gave up a lot of hard-hit balls for 13 hits and 2 HRs. He was 3-0, but didn’t really look like 2013 Harvey. This is exactly what Tommy John experts had told us to expect — that command and touch would return slowly, and his first year back might get off to a rocky start, but get better from there. This made sense, but it would have made more sense (or at least avoided any sense of disappointment) if he hadn’t looked like Roger Clemens in spring training.
Harvey’s next 5 starts were extremely effective — 1.23 ERA — though not a K fest (32 in 37 innings). He got a lot of weak contact by varying the movement and speed on his 4- and 2-seam fastballs. It was hard to tell how much of this was intent and how much was luck. His curve waned from disuse and his slider never really came around. His change-up was good one day and bad the next. But still — 1.23 ERA! 5-1, 1.98 through 8 starts has to be beyond everyone’s wildest dreams, right?
Then things turned. Harvey didn’t show any worse stuff or command, but he gave up a long string of big hits over his next 4 starts, putting his season line at 6-4, 3.62. Then he allowed 1 run over his next 3 starts, but without a lot of Ks or ever pitching beyond the 7th. This season was hard to figure. Whether hittable or not, at least Harvey wasn’t walking people — a stellar 1.5 per 9 on the season.
Then in his next 3 starts, he walked 13.
It wasn’t that an ERA around 3 (3.04 through 18 starts) should reasonably have been viewed as a disappointment, but Harvey found a very weird way to get there. He looked like a god in the spring, a possible ace in April and early May, and an up-and-down sort of 2-3 starter in June and early July. We;d all been told that pitchers were supposed to get BETTER as they worked back from TJ. Harvey looked like he was getting WORSE.
The Mets’ lack of run support left Harvey with an 8-7 record. His overall performance left him a clear second fiddle to a dominant Jacob deGrom, who put together a stretch from mid-May to mid-August (9-2, 1.44 ERA, .167 opp. avg., 0.728 WHIP) to rival anything from Harvey’s 2013. “Harvey Day” wasn’t really a thing anymore, and it’s hard to strut as Batman when everyone knows Superman is up next. Not to mention that Harvey’s role as radar gun destroyer had been usurped by Noah Syndergaard, a 6’6″, 240-pound monster nicknamed “Thor”. For a decent stretch, Harvey was the Mets’ third most exciting pitcher, and fourth most entertaining (thanks, Colon) — not exactly the status that goes with models and menswear and nude photo shoots and nicknames and telling team brass to stick it. My point is not that Harvey had engendered ill will or done anything wrong, it’s only that the mystique had died down, perhaps evaporated, or perhaps just lying dormant, waiting for a big moment to resurrect it.
Being one of three great pitchers isn’t the same as being THE great pitcher, but still, by dominating a good team in a big game, Harvey was back on the star map, helping to lead a playoff push. And lead he did, not with any exciting quotes or fancy suits or starlet rumors, but with his arm, allowing a total of 1 run over 4 August starts as the Mets built a division lead. The Mets weren’t all about Harvey like in 2013, but now he was a co-face of an actual winner. Batman-themed Harvey gear was common at an increasingly full Citi Field. Who knows — as Syndergaard faltered and deGrom cooled off, maybe Matt Harvey was one big-strikeout performance away from truly reclaiming the spotlight! But then September happened.
Harvey’s first September start was a mixed bag. 4 runs, but 9 Ks and a win. Afterward, he was unavailable to speak with reporters, as he was receiving fluids for dehydration.
Two days later, Harvey’s agent publicly announced that Matt had only 14 innings remaining in his season according to doctors’ orders.
The day after that, Harvey spoke to members of the media, all of whom knew what every Mets fan was thinking: “This is a team that’s been carried by its starting pitching, and could go deep into October for that reason. This is what every Mets fan has been dreaming of since 2014, with every update on your TJ rehab, and every minor league level leaped by Syndergaard, and every Rookie of the Year vote garnered by deGrom. More generally, this playoff run is what Mets fans have been waiting for since 2006. You are NOT going to ACTUALLY take that away from them, are you?” So the media inquired accordingly.
Harvey’s reply: “We’ll see. My agent and my doctors are looking out for my best interests, so if they tell me I have 14 innings left, I need to listen. Anyway, I’m just focused on my next start.”
Regardless of whether Harvey was the face of the franchise who could put the Mets on his back, or merely a co-face leading the team’s biggest strength… regardless of whether the Dark Knight shirts or deGrominator shirts were the coolest… regardless of whether he’d ever again post historic stats like in 2013, or merely top-10 Cy Young stats… regardless of whether his alpha dog public persona was 100% legit or just a tad overblown… regardless of all these things, the fact that Harvey would even CONSIDER bailing on the Mets and their fans at the worst possible time was just unconscionable.
So the fans let him have it on Twitter. And elsewhere online. You could practically smell the Batman masks burning.
For the moment, at least, the Dark Knight was gone, replaced by a mere mortal — possibly skittish, possibly greedy — who didn’t particularly resemble him.
That’s the saga to date.
Thanks for reading. I know we’re all staying tuned for further developments.
A pitcher pondering pulling the plug on the playoffs probably wouldn’t paint such a pernicious picture if not for the paragon of power and proficiency which Harvey has previously portrayed to the people.