Unofficially, Matt Harvey’s current unemployed status draws empathy among most Mets fans. Where was that support, though, when he needed us most?
Matt Harvey, barring a reversal of fortune, will not be pitching a baseball in 2020.
Not surprisingly, a good number of Mets fans wish it could be different, believing there has to be a team – any team – out there with the sense to at least invite Harvey to Spring Training under a minor league contract loaded with incentives.
We lament (today) a career gone awry, but where were we yesterday when Matt Harvey needed us most?
It was during the summer of 2015 when Matt Harvey had only one friend in the whole full world.
It was the rebound year following the 2014 season in which Harvey was sidelined following Tommy John surgery. The Mets were in the thick of a pennant race, and everyone knew the team would go only as far as Harvey would take them.
And we also knew that Tommy John is almost a rite of passage for any pitcher who throws a baseball at the major league level. But two shoulder surgeries? – that a whole other matter.
Enter The Bogeyman – Matt Harvey’s Only Friend
And so it was that in August of the 2015 season, Matt Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras, reminded his client and the Mets that Harvey was fast approaching the 180 innings limit for this, his surgery rebound season.
Wait a minute, what limit, asked the Mets. Oh yes, there is, said Boras. You agreed to it verbally during negotiations over Harvey’s contract.
Now, we know verbal contracts are equally as binding as written agreements in a court of law.
But who had time to dispute the matter with a decision that wouldn’t come for months – while September and the postseason were looming?
In the background, pundits quickly pointed out that an innings limit on pitchers returning from Tommy John is nothing unusual, and in fact, Steven Strasburg had a clause to that effect in his contract.
For this omission in Harvey’s contract, Boras must bear some responsibility for what is to follow later, but first:
A young clearly conflicted and highly competitive professional athlete laments on what proves to be a fateful decision. (Video)
Matt Harvey: Never The Same Again
Fast-forwarding to what the records show for Matt Harvey’s 2015 season, and we find he labored through 189 regular-season innings. He then tacked on another 26 innings in the postseason up to and including the World Series, equalling a total of 215 innings for the year.
After which, the bottom fell out on Matt Harvey’s career, and as they say, he was never the same again.
Harvey dealt with a blood clot in his bladder in late March of the 2016 season, but it didn’t prevent him from taking the mound on Opening Day. Something was “off,” though.
At first, it was sloughed off as nothing serious, a matter of mechanics as reported by Newsday’s Marc Carig, Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen, who said Harvey was “collapsing his back leg in the stretch,” which hindered his consistency.
But by early July, Matt Harvey reported to then-manager Terry Collins, “My shoulder’s dead, my arm’s dead, there’s no energy there, I couldn’t feel the ball,” (per James Wagner of the New York Times).
That’s it, surgery scheduled. Season over. And though we couldn’t know it at the time, a career that would soon be on life support.
Fans And Friends In Low Places
Now, if you are still with me, here’s where it gets a bit tricky. But it’s also the salient point of this piece of writing.
Where were we when Matt Harvey needed us most, to join sides with Scott Boras to insist that come hell or high water, the ace of the Met’s staff would throw no more than 180 innings?
When we had the chance to realize that eight or ten years in the future is more important than two months now?
This says nothing about the Mets, who could have stepped up to honor the verbal agreement – but that’s an old story about a dysfunctional organization, to begin with.
This is about us and how we, as fans, see and value the ballplayers who entertain our families and us. And the degree to which they are robots helping our team to win.
I’m just asking…
Oops, We Lost A Part – Replace Me
Replaceable robots, as Matt Harvey has become. Like the old high school cheer, “Blah Blah, he’s our man, if he can’t do it, Blah blah can”.
In 2015, the New York Mets were in search of their first World Title in nearly three decades (1986). To the team, players, fans, and most likely Matt Harvey that meant, “go for it”.
But the thing to remember is that if the Mets had captured the World Series in 2015, nothing that came after is changed.
Nothing. And Matt Harvey’s career would still stand where it does today – nowhere.