By Paul DiSclafani:Can we please stop worrying so much about Matt Harvey? Talk radio today was teeming with theories about what is wrong with “The Dark Knight”. Everyone was an expert and everyone knew exactly what the Mets should do.
Except the Mets know what they want to do and it’s not what everyone else wants them to do. They are going to give their pitcher a chance to work out his problems.
But don’t they know they are in a fight for the pennant? Don’t they know that they can’t afford to let a player “work things out” at the major league level? Don’t they know that his head is so messed up that he should be sent to the minors where he can find his groove and get back to an elite level?
Do you really think that sending Matt Harvey to the minors will help him get his confidence level back?
“He was the best in baseball [in 2013]. That’s the guy we’re trying to get back instead of ‘woe is me,'” Manager Terry Collins said. “What he did last year, there’s going to be a period he’s got to recover. … That’s where I want the fight. That’s where the fight has to be. Quit fighting yourself and just understand we’re a support team here. We’re in this together.”
Of course, what is going on with Harvey is a mystery to everyone at this point, including Harvey. They all agree it is not a physical problem – yet his fastball velocity on Monday dipped from 96 to 92 in just two innings. By the time he got to the fifth inning, he was out of gas.
Callers and baseball experts are now pointing to the 216 innings he threw last season, although that was not part of their dialogue in Spring Training. Why is that an issue now? Collins had a different take on his recent struggles. “This guy has thrown 200 pitches in five days,” Collins said, suggesting that Harvey’s throwing regimen between starts might be a contributing factor, “So when he hit the wall in the fifth (inning), I’m not surprised.”
Collins, pitching coach Dan Warthen and assistant general manager John Ricco had a powwow this morning along with general manager Sandy Alderson via phone to discuss how to get their former Ace back on track. All the options that the fans have been screaming about on talk radio were on the table – skipping a start, a trip to the DL, sending him to the bullpen and even a demotion to AAA Las Vegas. But they chose to have Harvey stay in the rotation and make his next start on Monday against the Chicago White Sox.
“We believe the best way to get him back is to have him keep pitching and keep making progress and stay up here in the big leagues,” Ricco said.
Collins knows how important Harvey is to the Mets: “This guy is too big a piece to write him off, to flip him in the bullpen to where you’ve got to pick and choose when you might use him.”
Can we look at this situation a little differently and take emotion out of it? As a matter of fact, take the name off the back of the jersey for this discussion.
The Mets are a contending team in the NL East and just one-half game out of first. Some say they can’t afford to allow player to “work things out” at the major league level. Again, some perspective – have they got a better option to take this player’s place? Are the Mets relying on him to win every fifth game right now? With Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom and Bartolo Colon pitching the other four days, is it really critical that our #5 pitcher is struggling?
Who do you want to bring up, Rafael Montero?
If the name on the back of this jersey was “Verrett”, would we be having this discussion? If all four of the other Mets starters lose their games, is needing a win from the #5 starter a requirement?
This Mets rotation is built to withstand a string of loses one time through the rotation – can you ever see this team losing 10 straight? Granted, they went through a rough patch with a 4-7 west Coast trip, but wasn’t that an aberration? Is that going to happen four or five more times this season? If it does, this entire Matt Harvey discussion is moot anyway.
Harvey seems lost out there on the mound, like he has no friends to lean on. And maybe that’s his doing. He has alienated the fan base with his “star” attitude, and he alienated most of his teammates last season by not pitching when they needed him the most, so he has earned his prima donna reputation.
And now he is on the verge of becoming a distraction. If Harvey wants the adulation that comes with being a star baseball player in New York, then he needs to know what comes with the territory – and that’s standing up for yourself and meeting the media head-on. Skipping out of the locker room after Monday’s debacle was childish and caused his teammates to have to cover for him.
Harvey embraced his “Dark Knight” persona when things were going well, so it’s time for him to back it up with his actions. And I am not talking about on the field. He is too good of a pitcher to have his efforts on the mound continue in a downward spiral. It is time for him to grow into the professional baseball player he needs to be. It is time for him to understand that at one point in his Met career, he was the only star here. But not now, not on this team. He is just 1 of 25 and he needs to understand his place in the pecking order.
Obviously, the Mets are going to struggle if he is unable to pull himself out of this funk, no question. Although the brain trust is going to do everything they can to help him, Harvey has to accept that help. It’s time for him to understand that the Mets and their fans want him to succeed and are as frustrated as him when he does not.
Gotham needs their Dark Knight, and he may need us now, more than ever.