The Dark Knight, Harvey Day stuff seems like a one-time movie I watched or concert I attended a long, long time ago. It exists only as a fun, unique memory that I'll never see again. And that's OK, I'm fine with it being in the past. We all grow up, gain perspective and adjust our goals and priorities... and Matt Harvey is no different...
These days, Harvey isn't focused on being the best, most dominant pitcher in baseball. He is no longer focused on demoralizing opponents with a devastating fastball and slider. He no longer does high-profile interviews with non-sports publications talking about fashion and style and dating supermodels. He no longer speaks about wanting to be Derek Jeter.
Instead, as his manager Mickey Callaway told him when they talked in the off-season, Harvey's goal now is to simply be the best Matt Harvey he can be...
In his start Wednesday against the Braves in Orlando, he allowed one earned and two hits, while walking one batter and striking out two, in two innings. He tossed 38 pitches and -- for the first time in years -- looked confident and satisfied from the minute he stepped on the mound through when he spoke his last word to reporters.
"I think the hitters tell you a lot and Matt had that extra gear, that extra life on his fastball," Callaway said Wednesday afternoon. "You get Freddie Freeman swinging at balls late, you know you are doing something right. Not only were his pitches real good, he had that life to his fastball."
His pitches looked strong. But, Harvey also looked comfortable in his skin. He talked positively about the afternoon and was seemingly relieved to be answering post-game questions about only his performance instead of surgeries and his emotional state.
"I was definitely happy with the outing," Harvey said after the game. "The first inning was great, and now it's building off good innings and continuing that and getting good outings. All in all today was a good outing."
The fact that Harvey was able to have a routine off-season for the first time in four years is a big deal. It's huge for him. Remember, he had Tommy John surgery in 2013 and was still recovering the following two winters. He had a rib removed in 2016 to correct Thoracic Outlet in his spine and shoulder, during which he spent that winter rehabbing and questioning if he'd ever pitch again. He was never 100 percent in 2017, which eventually forced him to miss two and a half months with weakness in his scapula.
Thankfully, Harvey was able to get back on the mound at the end of last season. He pitched adequately, but -- more important -- he pitched pain free, which allowed him to rest and fire through a typical throwing program. This missing rhythm and routine and peace of mind -- coupled with a stream of encouraging words from a new manager -- all seem to be manifesting in Harvey's demeanor, as well as his results on the mound.
Harvey has a lot riding on his 2018. He will be eligible for free agency and almost certainly wanting a multi-year deal paying him close to $20 million each season. As this year's free-agent market demonstrated, Harvey will need to be better than he's been the last two seasons. Including his dominant 2015 season, he's just 22-25 with a 4.23 ERA over the last three seasons, while averaging less than one strikeout each inning.
These recent numbers, as a 29-year-old right-handed pitcher, will not be nearly enough to get him the type of contract he and his agent, Scott Boras, fantasized about when Harvey captivated baseball as the starting pitcher at Citi Field during the 2013 All Star Game.
Instead, if Harvey delivers similar results to the average of his last three seasons, he can probably expect to see two- and three-year offers, worth around $15 million per season, or something similar to the deal agreed to between Andrew Cashner and the Orioles.
"He is a big kid," Callaway added Wednesday. "He can muscle the ball and throw it hard, but if he is going to get that extra gear and finish his pitches, he's going to have to use his lower half to do it and he looked really good today."
If. It is probably the most common word to run through Harvey's mind these last few months. If he can stay healthy... If he can command his arsenal... If he can find that extra gear... If he can stay positive, relax and keep from beating himself up... If he can do these things, he'll be fine. Harvey has proven he has the work ethic, talent, and attitude to be great.
If he can tap in to those strengths again it will likely mean the Mets had a terrific season, he re-established his value and will be due for an entertaining and lucrative New Year. If he continues to struggle, it's hard to imagine he ever gets his career back on track.
I'm rooting for Harvey because it's what is best for the Mets, but also because it's what is best for Matt. I believe he still has the drive and desire to be elite.
Elite at what has yet to be determined, but that's what his 2018 will be about...
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!