Michelle Ioannou, MetsBlog | Twitter |
It was May 7, 2013. The Mets were playing the Chicago White Sox. Matt Harvey, a pitcher just starting to make a name for himself, was on the mound for the Mets. He retired the first 20 batters he faced, before giving up an infield single in the seventh.
That night, Harvey joined Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan as pitchers who went nine or more innings with one or fewer hits allowed and 12 or more strikeouts. According to the Elias Sports Bureau at the time, Harvey was the only modern era pitcher to toss nine innings with at least 12 strikeouts, all while allowing only one hit and no walks, to wind up with a no-decision.
That was the dawn of the Dark Knight.
Fast-forward four years. Where are we now? After a dominant 2013 and 2015 (with Tommy John surgery in the middle), Harvey's return to the mound from Thoracic Outlet surgery has been rough, both on and off the field. We haven't had a Happy Harvey Day, or seen the Dark Knight, consistently. There's so much potential that Harvey isn't reaching. And that's been noticed by his new manager, Mickey Callaway.
During an appearance on SNY's Hot Stove, Callaway advocated that it's time for Harvey to no longer be the Dark Knight, but instead be himself. He made it clear that he shouldn't be trying to be something he used to be, and instead should be trying to redefine himself, and being the best that he can be today.
"We don't need the Dark Knight. We need Matt Harvey to come out and be Matt Harvey on a daily basis and be comfortable with who he is so he can go out there and get the job done," Callaway further explained. "He's gotta be in a place where he's accepted for who he is and not shunned for who he's not being."
All of this is huge. Present-day Harvey is not the Dark Knight. This is obviously seen by his performance, and the fact that his average fastball velocity was 94.3 MPH in 2017, compared to 2012 to 2015, when his fastball was sitting between 96 and 97 MPH.
The importance of this? Harvey's manager understands that he is no longer the Dark Knight, and instead of pushing him to try and get back to that, he wants to encourage him to be who he is today. From the sound of it, Callaway wants to take a look at Harvey's current strengths and play to them. He wants him to feel as though he is accepted as Matt Harvey, and that Matt Harvey can be a dominant pitcher -- it doesn't just have to be the Dark Knight.
By having a manager who understands this, he can work with Harvey to release his inner potential -- one that we all know he has within him. The talent from 2012 to 2015 is still there, he's just no longer the same exact pitcher stuff-wise.
The Mets need a fresh start after last season -- I've already advocated the importance of this. And Harvey needs a fresh start, too. So, is it too late to fix Harvey? If the right person is working with him, I don't think it is. We know the skill is still there. Harvey just needs some guidance, some work, and his confidence, to succeed again.