In his Thursday night start, Matt Harvey looked very much like the pedestrian major league pitcher he has become. In many ways, the Mets are holding the balance of Harvey’s career in their hands. What’s the right thing to do?
It’s only a little more than a year ago that Matt Harvey shot his career in the foot for the umpteenth time when he went AWOL because he was hanging out with a model friend, Adriana Lima, resulting in the Mets giving him yet another slap on the wrist, suspending him for three games.
For Harvey, the well-practiced mea culpa came easy, telling the New York Daily News, “It’s completely my fault. I’m extremely embarrassed by my actions.” He should have added the word “again” to both sentences.
And we could make this a tell-all story about the rest of Harvey’s off the field activities, self-indulgence, and immature behavior, but that is no longer the story of Matt Harvey. His story now is what is happening on the field, and solely within the realm of his pitching performance for the New York Mets, who can’t afford to fool around in the midst of what is shaping up to be a full-blown effort to seize a pennant this year.
A brief glance at Matt Harvey’s start Thursday night, a loss to the Atlanta Braves, shows six innings giving up six earned runs on 96 pitches, ballooning his ERA up to 6.00. But for anyone who has watched major league pitchers, good and bad over the years, there was something more telling in Harvey beyond just the numbers.
Matt Harvey is not the pitcher he once was, and it’s not even close. Only five of his nearly 100 pitches were swung at and missed. His fastball rarely topped 93 and his off the charts slider of old was nowhere to be seen. If you didn’t know the face and what he looked like, just tuning in you might have guessed it was Roger Craig on the mound for the Mets.
True to his selfish nature, Harvey does not seem intent on making this easy on the Mets, who are facing an almost immediate decision regarding their rotation when Jason Vargas returns from a hand injury. According to a report from ESPN, Harvey has already nixed the idea of moving to the bullpen, saying, “I’m a starting pitcher,” Harvey said. “I’ve always been a starting pitcher. That’s my mindset.”
Except that here’s the mindset of many of us who are looking squarely into the eyes of Matt Harvey:
That’s all fine and good except for the fact Matt Harvey is not performing as a starting pitcher for the Mets, and in this business, you are only as good as your last start, like it or not.
Okay, big guy, you don’t like that? How about a trip to the minors then? This is another possibility on the Mets plate and one that will probably gain increasing traction as it’s already been announced by Mickey Callaway that Harvey’s next scheduled start is in jeopardy.
As a free agent to be at the end of this season, Matt Harvey has a lot riding on whatever the Mets decide to do with him. To land Harvey at Triple-A Las Vegas, though, does not seem like a good idea for two reasons. One is the obvious lure of Sin City, plus the dry heat of the desert sending balls flying through the night doesn’t add much to a pitcher trying to find himself. Double-A Binghamton might be a better bet for the Mets, and in the end for Harvey himself.
And that’s the bottom line so to speak for Matt Harvey. He needs to find himself, and he is out of options as far as someone coming along to find the magic change in his motion or a new grip on his changeup. Instead, it all has to come from within, where the problem has persisted now for six long and arduous years.
Oddly, at least from what we know, Scott Boras, Harvey’s agent, has been unable to crack through the wall either. Boras, for all that is said about him, takes care of his clients, looking out for their best interests at all times. Where has he been with Harvey? Or, has he tried and been shunted aside?
Much like the situation with David Wright, who is still owed nearly $50 million with no date set for his return to the playing field, the Mets owe Matt Harvey nothing. The team has braved through the ups and downs of Harvey’s career, including the injuries, right along-side him.
A change of scenery would seem to be welcome for both sides. Easier said than done? Maybe not, though Sandy Alderson will need to get creative to make it happen. Start with this question – who needs a ready-made, though troubled, major league pitcher as a rental for the rest of the season?
Start with the Angels, add the Dodgers, and mix in the Yankees and there could be a market for Harvey, along with the possibility of a good, though not high, return for the Mets in minor league talent. Another option and the one I favor, though, is for Alderson to work a deal with Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s for Jonathan Lucroy, killing two birds with one stone and solving the Mets catching situation, even when Kevin Plawecki returns.
It’s complicated, as these thing usually are. But clearly, the Mets and Matt Harvey have reached the end of the line, and there is no reason to postpone the inevitability of what needs to happen. Whether on or off the field, the Mets do not need the distractions caused by Harvey, and the time to let go is now.