Four years and eleven months ago, Matt Harvey entered the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves and allowed a swinging bunt hit to Jason Heyward. It was the first hit he had allowed in a 13-strikeout affair that featured a slew of high-90’s fastballs. It was the third time all season Harvey had taken a no-hitter into the seventh inning. The confident UNC product appeared to be an answer to years of frustrating, underwhelming returns on pitching prospects.
Since the beginning of the 2017 season, however, the story has taken a turn for the disastrous. Harvey has posted a 6.59 ERA in 22 starts, facing just six batters from the seventh inning on while averaging just 6.9 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9. His fastball has sat between 91 and 93 miles per hour, and while separate surgeries to repair a torn UCL and thoracic outlet syndrome can best explain the diminished velocity, nobody can speak for the clear loss of feel. Not even Harvey, who was yanked from his spot in the rotation just a week ago, seems to have an answer.
Last Tuesday, after allowing a run in his first relief appearance against the Cardinals, Harvey fled the postgame scene, leaving rookie catcher Tomas Nido to answer questions on his behalf. Upon arriving in the locker room the following afternoon, Harvey again refused to discuss his outing, going so far as to swearat them.
Reports emerged that he had spent his Friday night clubbing in Los Angeles while his team was in San Diego. When asked if he was upset, general manager Sandy Alderson responded “…I get upset if a report is unexpected, so I guess the short answer is no.”
Harvey has had a rough transition to the bullpen, to say the least, but his most recent performance has left fans, writers, and executives numb. The series itself had been a loss for the Mets, who are now a game and a half out of first place. Between another Jason Vargas implosion, a discouraging relief outing from Robert Gsellman, some gravely lacking fundamentals from an already-struggling Amed Rosario, and a near no-hitter from Julio Teheran in the finale, Harvey’s five earned runs on three walks and a homer, objectively speaking, were small potatoes.
Such appalling baseball, especially with a roster that has shown its moxie and overcome adversities in weeks and seasons past, demands an explanation. Harvey, who now has a 10.80 ERA in five relief appearances, was mature enough to stick around and answer questions, but in a much more personal sense, the domineering charmer we expected Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland to revive was unavailable.
He refused to address questions regarding the 26,000 fans that booed him off the field, instead vacantly citing the “positives” of his afternoon that merely translated to a strikeout of Ronald Acuna that ended the sixth inning.
Nobody asks that a big league pitcher, one of the most controlling forces in any sport, play the victim, but as the signs become clearer that Harvey’s career itself is hanging by a thread, the answers Harvey himself needs to find within himself have become harder to decipher than ever before. At one point or another, dodging questions when there is no excuse while still tapping into one positive in a blowout loss, a practice Harvey has notoriously repeated, needs to yield actual results.
The plusses that have actually molded a better attitude and more effective pitcher have been difficult to come by this season, and have been almost non-existent since his first start. Callaway has assumed damage control, asserting that “He’s got a ways to go… but one thing we can’t ever do is give up on anybody.”
On another end of the spectrum, former Met and current SNY postgame anchor Nelson Figueroa took a more apprehensive approach: “The hitters can almost smell blood in the water. And you can read his body language… it’s saying he’s a man that’s defeated and can’t find a way to get outs.”
Harvey’s comments fall more in line with those of Callaway, as he muttered that he would “watch the video [on] Friday and see the differences between that at-bat and some others… and just try to build off of that.”
But the harvest is clear in terms of how Harvey has chosen to plant his seeds.
The locker room, at this point in his interview, is all but empty.
Once the reporters are done and everybody packs it up, the public relations rep on hand looks to Harvey and smiles.
“Perfect,” he says.
Published at Fri, 04 May 2018 15:15:53 +0000