Last night was the coldest I’ve ever been at a Mets game. I was fortunate enough to attend Playoff games at Shea in 1999, 2000, and 2006. None of those days or nights rivaled last night’s in terms of the raw cold and unforgiving wind that tore through the ballpark during last night’s tilt against San Diego. Fortunately for Mets fans, as the cold was tormenting us, Matt Harvey was tormenting the Padres.
If it hadn’t been Harvey on the mound last night, perhaps I would’ve stayed inside the relative warmth of McFadden’s a bit longer. Instead, I entered the ballpark before the first pitch and attempted to keep warm by moving around as much as possible.
Harvey struck out two of the first three batters he faced while I stood on the field level beyond left field. He continued his dominance as I made my way up to the promenade level. I briefly took refuge in the promenade club when the wind threatened to rip the cap off my head and the drink from my hand. While there, Harvey did what he’s been doing since being called up shortly after last year’s All-Star break – he dominated.
As I left the comfort of the promenade club and moved around various promenade box sections, Harvey kept firing away. While the Mets were blasting homers to right field and putting the game out of reach, the 24 year old bulldog from Connecticut was pumping in fastball after fastball. Even though the Padres could do nothing with his best pitch, he decided to mix in some exploding sliders for good measure. Late in the game, he snapped off a few curves that left the Padres helpless.
It was Harvey’s mound presence that kept the fans engaged, and his performance that made braving the cold worth it. As most fans in the seating bowl were layered, wrapped in blankets, and/or shaking their heads in disbelief at the ridiculously cold night, Harvey was standing on the mound without long sleeves. When he reached base after roping a single, he refused to wear a jacket (as most pitchers do, even when it’s not cold). Harvey was later quoted as saying that jackets don’t belong on a baseball field.
It can be reckless to put too much stock in a pitcher’s first 11 career starts. However, I’m willing to throw caution to the wind when it comes to my expectations for Harvey. Lots of people were shocked at Harvey’s results after he was promoted to the Mets last season, and nearly everyone (including Wally Backman, his manager in AAA) was taken aback after noticing that his pure stuff after reaching the majors was much more explosive than it ever had been while he was at AAA.
Harvey had long been pegged by scouts as a potential number two or three starter. His results in AAA seemed to back up those assertions. At this point, though, it appears Harvey was simply saving his bullets for when he reached the highest level – something he’d been dreaming of since he was a child. To Harvey, he had nothing left to prove in AAA last year. Once he reached Flushing, he took it up a notch.
Harvey is settling in to big league life and he’s letting it fly. He’s pitching like a legitimate number one starter, and there’s no reason to doubt that he’ll end up being one for the long-term. His demeanor on the field is something that has Mets fans thrilled, and his demeanor off the field is equally impressive. Nothing phases Harvey, and it doesn’t appear as if that trait will ever be absent.
What’s borderline absurd, is the fact that most believe that Zack Wheeler has a higher upside than Harvey. Whether or not that turns out to be the case is yet to be determined. Still, it’s beyond exciting to picture Harvey and Wheeler at the top of the Mets’ rotation. For the moment, though, all of the attention and expectations are rightfully on Matt Harvey. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.