Even in baseball, it’s not too late to begin a new career at the age of 30 as long as the new one doesn’t replicate the old one. Matt Harvey needs a new script and a new role to replace the diva-like track marks he’s leaving behind in New York. And more than anything, he needs to decide if he really wants to be a major league pitcher.
Matt Harvey‘s story is unlike any I can recall in my half-century of following baseball. It’s complicated, and his story has many levels both on and off the field. But when broken down, your story and my story is also complicated. We are all human and as someone said, “To err is human.”
It is said Albert Einstein once declared, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.” By that non-clinical though very practical definition, Matt Harvey shot himself in the foot with the same self-destructive behavior enough times to be judged insane.
How many times did Matt Harvey think he could push on the New York Mets before they said enough is enough? Too many times and that is why the Mets have complicity in this as well because, in some respects, the Mets created the diva he became.
Think about it. How many times do you and I have the audacity to tell our boss, no? Rehab in Florida with the rest of the team, Matt. No, I want to be in New York. And NYC it is with Harvey in town while the Mets are playing on the road sitting front and center to watch Derek Jeter‘s final game at Yankee Stadium.
Matt, you’ve pitched one helluva of a game, and it’s time to turn it over to the bullpen in the ninth. No Terry, it’s my game, and I want to go out there and finish these Royals off. Okay Matt, but….and we know the rest.
And since that has become the signature moment in Matt Harvey’s career, let’s take a closer look at it from a different perspective, other than the one generally told that this was Harvey at his most courageous and warrior-like self.
No, this was Matt Harvey at his most selfish self. Give me the ball because I deserve it, I’m the Dark Knight. And once again the Mets, this time in the name of Terry Collins, caved instead of listening to the baseball sense that told them Harvey was spent for the night.
The move to the bullpen didn’t go that way though, did it? Harvey said no again, but this time the Mets stuck to their guns. Relegated to mop-up duty, Matt Harvey proved he couldn’t even handle that. This time was different in another way, and in the end, it proved to be the final straw for Harvey.
Mickey Callaway and his pitching coach Dave Eiland know something about pitching. And whether in bullpen or game situations, they both reach the same conclusion that Harvey’s mechanics were so screwed up there was no way he was capable of getting major league hitters out. (Reference his final appearance as a Met).
Matt Harvey had become a reclamation project as a pitcher, which together with all the other crap in his lineage as a Met, made it a no-brainer to cut ties and move on.
Mets GM, Sandy Alderson, was benevolent in saying goodbye, pointing out that Matt Harvey had two serious surgeries, battling back from each. But even that carries a tone of guilt because after all, it was the Mets who allowed Harvey to pitch well more than 200 innings in 2015, his comeback season after the first surgery.
Matt Harvey: The Future
There are teams who will take on reclamation projects like Matt Harvey, but rest assured the Yankees are not one of them. So let that talk die a natural death now. The Yankees have neither the time nor the desire to tack on Harvey’s baggage in the midst of a pennant race, and while the team is riding high having won 14 of their last 15 games.
A team like the Pittsburgh Pirates might be a different circumstance, though. Pirates pitching coach, Ray Searage, loves this kind of stuff and his resume includes Ivan Nova and J.A. Happ as graduates of his doctoral program. And don’t believe for a moment that Searage did not have something to do with the emergence of Gerrit Cole as a bonafide Cy Young candidate, now with the Houston Astros.
The thing for Matt Harvey, though, and I hope his agent Scott Boras is giving him this advice, is to settle down to take a few days on a beach somewhere while the Mets decide what to do with you (they have seven days as of Saturday).
Matt Harvey can be anything he wants to be. He can be a Hollywood diva-like Johnny Depp, where bad-boy behavior makes you big-time money, together with and all those models (supposedly) left over from Derek Jeter‘s career.
The task will be more difficult if Matt Harvey wants to be a successful big league pitcher again. He can choose that route, but it’s going to take lots of hard work, plus a willingness to accept the need to learn a whole new way of getting hitters out with a 92 mph fastball and an assortment of breaking balls.
Matt Harvey: Final Thoughts
I’m not one of those fans who feel sorry for Matt Harvey. In fact, I’m downright angry with him and the way he has squandered his time in the baseball capital of the world. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last that a superbly talented player has come through New York and been eaten up by the lure of “stardom.” Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden are still etched in my memory as “what ifs?” that left us high and dry.
Any pitcher with an overall record of 34-37 as a big leaguer after six seasons at the age of 30 is not destined (anymore) for the Hall of Fame. But neither does he need to be doomed as a journeyman, filling out his career adding to his pension.
But something revolutionary inside Matt Harvey needs to happen if his fortunes from here on are to be anything different. The Dark Knight is no more, and the sooner Harvey comes to terms with that, the better off (from the outside looking in) he’ll be.