Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
On July 26, 2012 in Arizona, Matt Harvey made his presence felt, striking out 11 Diamondbacks in 5 1/3 scoreless innings while allowing three hits and walking three in his Mets debut.
Harvey, who many scouts projected to be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter, took it up a notch after arriving from Triple-A Buffalo, featuring wipeout sliders that reached the low-90s, fastballs that sat between 95 and 97 MPH and at times ticked higher, a plus changeup, and a plus curve.
With the Mets In the midst of their fourth-straight losing season, Harvey was not only a legitimate ace, but the first real glimmer of hope for the team as Sandy Alderson's rebuild took shape.
And then there was Harvey's demeanor.
On May 7, 2013 at Citi Field, he took the mound against the White Sox with blood dripping from his nose and fire in his eyes, looking possessed and not wiping his nose until the top of the first inning was complete. Harvey was nearly perfect that night, and fans anticipated a no-hitter or perfect game every time he took the mound that season. His stuff was that ridiculous.
Harvey's starts became events, he was given the Dark Knight moniker, and #HappyHarveyDay was born. After posting a 2.73 ERA and 1.14 WHIP during his rookie season in 2012, Harvey had a 2.27 ERA and 0.93 WHIP with 191 strikeouts in 178 1/3 innings in 2013, starting the All-Star Game at Citi Field. And then he was derailed.
Tommy John surgery in October of 2013 knocked Harvey out for the entire 2014 season, and the sight of John Buck with his arm around Harvey in the dugout at Citi Field, both of them solemn, right after news of his torn UCL came out, represented not just Harvey's mood, but the mood of the entire fan base.
To no one's surprise, though, Harvey returned in 2015 and had arguably the greatest post-Tommy John season any pitcher has ever had.
As the second half of the season got underway and the Mets turned in to contenders, the innings-limit talk started. Harvey initially said his doctor had given him an 180-inning limit. Fans freaked, and Scott Boras (Harvey's agent) tried to bully the Mets into obeying a limit that hadn't actually been set, but Harvey eventually threw caution to the wind and said he would pitch through the playoffs.
Harvey was limited down the stretch as the Mets ran away with the N.L. East, but was unleashed in the postseason after having already thrown 189 1/3 regular season innings. Harvey was solid in Game 3 of the NLDS agains the Dodgers, dominated the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLCS, and struggled a bit in Game 1 of the World Series against the Royals, allowing three runs in 6.0 innings while striking out just two.
Then came Game 5 of the World Series at Citi Field.
With the Mets facing elimination, Harvey was brilliant, firing eight shutout innings and striking out nine as Citi Field rocked and he bounded off the mound after each inning, unleashing primal screams. We all know how that ended, with Harvey talking Terry Collins in to letting him start the ninth inning, and the season ending later that night. But that's not worth rehashing here.
Ever since literally running to the mound for the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 of the World Series and then taking the slow walk off of it, Harvey hasn't been the same. It could have everything to do with him throwing as many innings as he did during his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Or it could have nothing to do with it.
Harvey struggled mightily in 2016, for the first time ever, eventually finding out that he needed surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome -- a condition that had caused numbness that he tried to pitch through. And the recovery from TOS surgery was one that left many more questions than answers.
Since returning, Harvey has been a shell of himself. His velocity has dropped and risen, his location has been all over the place, and his secondary pitches (including the once-vaunted slider) have been ineffective. After his last two starts, Harvey has stood at his locker, dejected, looking nothing like the human tour de force he used to be.
Matt Harvey, the Dark Knight moniker gone and #HappyHarveyDay no longer a thing, has a 6.60 ERA and 1.66 WHIP with just 64 strikeouts in 88 2/3 innings in 2017, while also having missed significant time due to a scapula injury. There has been talk of him being non-tendered after the season, and even vitriol from some of his once-adoring fans. To that I ask, what has Harvey done wrong?
If Harvey's innings totals in 2015 turn out to be a cause (partial or otherwise) of the injuries that have derailed him since, he arguably sacrificed both his career and livelihood by helping to pitch the Mets to the World Series that season. At the very least, he risked his career and livelihood to do so.
At its core, assuming he doesn't rise back up to the dizzying height he was at from 2012 to 2015, Harvey's story is an incredibly crushing one -- to him, to the Mets fans who embraced him five years ago, and to baseball as a whole.
A generational talent is no more, for now. This isn't a punchline, it's not a cause for anger at Harvey, and it's not something that should be taken lightly, with fans urging for him to be discarded and replaced by any run-of-the-mill No. 5 starter. The upside of Harvey regaining some or all of what he's lost far outweighs the downside of offering him arbitration.
Harvey should work through this with the Mets. And he should be given the chance to reclaim some or all of what he's lost. It seems unlikely at the moment, but what an amazing final act it would be if the Dark Knight rose.