Everyone, we need to talk.
We need to come to some hard truths about Matt Harvey. See, he got torched again on Thursday against the Atlanta Braves to the tune of six runs over six innings, all of which came in the first three in a 12-4 loss. Harvey’s ERA for the season is now six. The Mets certainly have to be thinking about replacing Harvey in the rotation. Jason Vargas is probably one rotation turn away from making his second Mets debut. Seth Lugo will always be an option to start. Perhaps Robert Gsellman will be a rotation option again. Hell, the Mets signed Vance Worley for depth, and while career W-L record isn’t a true indicator of talent, Worley has a better one than Matt Harvey … for crissakes.
Point being, Harvey isn’t going to have the luxury of time to work out his problems. Not anymore … not now that the Mets are good and are playing meaningful games. He’ll have one more chance, but when Vargas comes back, Harvey has to go somewhere, whether it be the bullpen, the minors, or Jupiter. There aren’t any easy answers to that. You can tell that Harvey believes that he should be in the Mets starting rotation until the retirement tour. Just listen to his post game:
I’m glad that he still has a shred of confidence left in him. But it seems silly at this point. Because this isn’t about confidence, attitude, or mindset. It’s not about whether it’s better to have distractions or be more focused. It’s not about cartoon characters, logos on bats, late night benders, or early morning rounds of golf. It’s not about whether he’s in shape, or a little bit husky. It’s not about Qualcomm, the Rangers, or 1Oak, Surf Lodge, or Swallow East. It’s not about pitch counts, six man rotations, or Game 5 of the World Series. This isn’t even about whether he’s cupping the ball on his windup or not.
What it may be about, however, is that Matt Harvey hasn’t been able to overcome Tommy John surgery and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and because of that, has become an ordinary pitcher who hasn’t been spectacular in three years. It happens. It happened to Jeremy Hefner, and we accepted that two Tommy John surgeries were too much for Hefner to overcome because it was Hefner. But unfortunately, it also happens to great pitchers, and pitchers who should have been great. Matt Harvey was, and should have been great. Anybody who’s watched him pitch and didn’t just look at his W-L record on Baseball Reference will tell you that he was great. They’ll tell you about his debut. They’ll tell you about 1-hitter against the White Sox which was vultured by Scott Rice because the game had the nerve to go to the tenth inning. They’ll tell you about the 2013 All Star Game where he struck out Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, and Adam Jones.
And yes, they’ll tell you about Game 5 of the 2015 World Series where he demanded the ball in the ninth inning with everything on the line. Maybe if he wasn’t pitching for a star crossed team like the Mets, the outcome would have been different and he would have been that hero that everybody remembers. He was the Dark Knight that night. He was the hero we deserved. But it all went horribly wrong. And that fleeting moment of legend … Harvey running out to the mound in the ninth inning to a deafening Citi Field roar and jumping over the foul line … is never coming back. That Matt Harvey, I fear, is gone forever. Instead, what’s left is the Matt Harvey who gives up home runs to Mallex Smith and Kurt Suzuki. He is our version of Vance Worley … with one more surgery and one less victory.
It sucks. Because for whatever faults you found with Matt Harvey, however you thought he should have overcome the distractions that befall athletes in New York … he could have overcome them had it not been for the things he couldn’t overcome. So far, he can’t overcome the incisions made to his arm and his rib cage that turned our Dark Knight into Vance Worley. The answers to what can turn him back into the hero that we need and deserve just might not exist, and this season he’s not going to get the chance to find them in the starting rotation. He shouldn’t. There’s too much at stake.
He may never find those answers. At some point, we are going to have to accept that.