Matt Harvey is an easy target. Once called the Clown Prince, his fall has been public and mostly self-inflicted. Is there a new chapter on the way…
Matt Harvey once owned the city of New York. “He could throw that speedball by ya, make you look like a fool,” as the Springsteen song goes.
Larger than life, Harvey managed to slide through his time with the Mets with numbers (34-37, 3.66 ERA over six seasons) that never measured up to the hype.
Harvey’s Ron Swoboda – Bobby Thompson – Aaron Boone moment came on November 1 in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series against the Kansas City Royals.
Matt Harvey, the Dark Knight, had rendered the Royals helpless over eight innings. Harvey argued forcefully with his manager Terry Collins to pitch the ninth inning with the Mets leading 2-0.
Collins relents, and the rest, as they say, is history. On a 3-2 count, Harvey walked Lorenzo Cain, giving Collins another chance to make a pitching change.
Instead, Cain promptly stole second and Eric Hosmer, on an 0-1 count lined a double to left field, scoring Cain. After that, the floodgates opened courtesy of Jeurys Familia to complete the loss in extra innings, ending the Mets season.
The Harvey legend is briefly sustained
The title lived on, though, and Matt Harvey was still looked upon as the next Tom Seaver in waiting.
And wait the Mets did. Harvey’s 4-10 season in 2016 was rationalized as an outlier due to injuries and that “damn Collins” who should have taken Harvey out before he hit 109 pitches in the chill of the Fall air.
The waiting went on with still more injuries and surgeries, but no one (yet) could not explain Matt Harvey’s performance when he was healthy. His record shows that 2015 would be his last winning season as a New York Met.
If the history of Matt Harvey’s career contained only the above account, most of us would conclude he was just another of those early Mark Prior type burnouts. Alas, what could have been…
The darker side of the Dark Knight
But there was, and possibly still is, another part of the Matt Harvey saga – a darker side of the Dark Knight.
A side in which Harvey displayed a glaring propensity to shoot himself in the foot.
Bewildered, we watched as a series of events that called into account a seeming lack of maturity and an inability to take control of himself or his career seriously.
I suppose it began when Harvey declared himself to be in competition with Derek Jeter for the New York City spotlight – and more specifically – with Jeter’s “ability” to walk around Manhattan with a starlet on each arm.
Innocent enough at first, Harvey’s presence on Page Six of the New York Post newspaper quickly became a source of newsprint, outweighing his accomplishments on the field.
It got darker, however, when a photo was widely distributed with Harvey giving “the finger” from a hospital bed following one of his surgeries.
This evolved into the “I’m bigger than the team” episodes when, for instance, Harvey insisted on accompanying the Mets during a rehab stint while the team asked that he remain in Florida where he could better continue the work necessary to return as an active player.
The Mets plead no contest
Finally, on May 8, 2018, the Mets pleaded no mas, trading Matt Harvey to the Cincinnati Reds, where many hoped he would gain a new lease on his baseball life.
Today, Matt Harvey is without a job in organized baseball. Stints with the Angels and A’s following his time with the Reds were not enough to keep Harvey from being released and unceremoniously sent on his way.
In theory, at age 30, Matt Harvey hasn’t forgotten how to pitch and get major league hitters out. Instead, if healthy and all indications are he is free of injury, Harvey should be in his prime.
No more get out of jail passes
But the fact is the Los Angeles Angels already have given him a one-time “get out of jail card” last year when they awarded Harvey a one year deal (yes, get this) for $11 Million.
Which brings us to this moment when we reach deep into the character and mindset of Matt Harvey – a risky venture for sure – but lets at least ask a few questions.
First, is Matt Harvey of the same character as, for example, Jason Isringhausen, whose widely hyped career with the Mets mirrored that of Harvey?
To the point where Isringhausen spent all of 1998 on the DL, only to reinvent himself as a relief pitcher later, to reach a point where he led the National League in saves in 2004?
Is a similar achievement within the scope of Matt Harvey’s commitment to baseball – and the necessary work it will take to get there?
A better question is if it’s in the scope of Harvey’s thinking as he muses about the next forty or so years of his life?
And when he sits down with his accountant or agent who happens to be the legendary Scott Boras – how much of the $28 million he has earned is there left? And perhaps he chooses to take the carefree life of Southern California beaches.
Will the “soul” of Matt Harvey be revealed
But, if Matt Harvey wishes to regain his status as the on the field Dark Knight, there is an opportunity to do that, even if it means starting all over again.
In the course of Mets’ history, we have seen the darkest side of past players on the team.
Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry and their issues with drugs and alcohol, together with Lenny Dykstra and his ascension into fraud and subsequent jail terms and Wally Backman‘s inability to handle a drinking problem that led to “issues” with women acquaintances.
Matt Harvey, as far as we know, has none of these issues. Ironically, it all comes back home to Harvey in a more striking and responsible manner – because at least on the surface – the only thing standing in the way of Matt Harvey is Matt Harvey.
There’s a team out there still willing to take a flyer on Harvey, with the Yankees reportedly at least considering a minor league offer.
Forget the $11 million the Angels handed to him last year. This one is solely on Matt Harvey and how much he wants this…