Matt Harvey’s start against the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday marked what hopefully is the beginning of a second career for the 29-year-old as a major league pitcher. All grown up now, Harvey looks to be developing into a pitcher, which is distinctly different from the thrower he once was.
There should be a law that says men get at least three more years than women to develop into a full-fledged responsible adult. If such a law existed, my life, possibly your life, and indeed Matt Harvey‘s life could at least be rationalized instead of demonized. Because the fact is Matt Harvey has taken an inordinate amount of time to grow up, and it’s hurt (beyond the injuries) his development as a professional ballplayer.
Superficially, the first thing I noticed when I tuned in and saw Harvey for the first time on Tuesday was the disappearance of facial hair. It’s a small thing but he just “looked” healthier and better. Okay, forget that because the next thing I noticed were the pitches leaving his hand at 92-93 MPH – for strikes – and he was getting hitters out with those pitches.
Oh, there were a few Dark Knight signs in the crowd remembering the glory days when Harvey was blowing away hitters – until he wasn’t anymore. But you know what? I don’t want that Matt Harvey, anymore. And the Mets don’t need that Matt Harvey anymore, either.
Both Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom have passed by Harvey as they were destined to do. That’s not a crime. Because for every Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan, both of whom regularly made hitters look foolish with 97 MPH fastballs and backbreaking curveballs, there is also a Greg Maddux and Warren Spahn in the Hall of Fame, each of whom rarely topped ninety on the gun.
The name of the game is to get hitters out, any which way you can. To illustrate as an extreme example, Jamie Moyer pitched successfully for 25 years in the major leagues before finally retiring at the age of 49. And if you ask batters who faced him, they are still trying to figure out, with the “stuff” he threw up there, how he got them out and managed to win 269 games in the big leagues.
If indeed Matt Harvey is crossing the bridge to becoming a pitcher, we caught a glimpse of what lies ahead for him as his career continues following this season when he will be out there looking for a new contract in a crowded free agent field.
His line on Tuesday was not particularly impressive, but that’s the point. Matt Harvey went five innings throwing 86 pitches of which 55 were strikes. That percentage is a little low (about 63 percent), and something he needs to improve on. But the one hit he surrendered and zero bases on balls are of significant. Ditto the 22 pitches that were fouled off, an indication that hitters were off-balance and his pitches were moving in the zone.
Matt Harvey has pissed me off too many times to count with his reckless and immature behavior, both on and off the field. But if all that is passed, and it’s looking like it has, I am in his corner as a fan of baseball. And if he can become, the Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb of this year’s free agent marketplace as a genuine number three starter on anyone’s rotation, Matt Harvey will have exceeded any reasonable expectations for rebounding from an injury-riddled career to date.
It’s a head game more than anything. And all Matt Harvey needs to do is look across the way at a fellow New Yorker to see what can happen when a thrower becomes a pitcher. CC Sabathia, when he pitched for Cleveland and Milwaukee, and even his first year with the Yankees in 2009, looks nothing like the pitcher he was back then. But, he is still getting hitters out, and he is still pitching in the big leagues.
If Matt Harvey still dreams of being Joe Namath in the Big City, all bets are off. If he even dreams of winning a modest total of 200 games in the big leagues (he’s 34-35 now), all bets are off. But if he can settle into what he is as the number three starter on the New York Mets, his career is likely to be rejuvenated and extended.
Slimmed down goals, maturity, and determination will decide the future of Matt Harvey. For me, it’s one of those baseball stores I gravitate to, and it’s one that is worthy of following (as I will) over the long haul of the 2018 season.
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