Matt Harvey is the Ultimate Competitor

By Matt Musico

We all know what tonight’s Mets game will bring; not only will it be another start for Matt Harvey, it will be last start of the season due to an innings limit that the organization is enforcing for their young right-handed pitcher. Before he takes the hill tonight (weather permitting), Harvey has 162.1 innings under his belt between Triple-A and the Majors, which is 26.2 IP more than his 2011 campaign. Typically, jumps of approximately 30 innings are considered acceptable.

Taking care of his arm now to ensure he has a long and prosperous career in the Big Leagues is nothing new to Harvey. Adam Rubin reported on ESPN New York that the young hurler went to visit his agent, Scott Boras, shortly after he was drafted by the Mets in 2010, and he was educated as to exactly why an innings cap is necessary early on in his career. So, he’s well aware of the benefits to being careful now, but he’s clearly not enthused, as he still plans on going through his regular routine for the remainder of the season, as if he was still in the rotation; just in case the Mets change their mind.

Sep 12, 2012; Flushing, NY,USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) heads to the dugout after the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

I doubt they will, but that says a lot about the type of person and player he is. With each start, it’s clear that Harvey is already one of the fiercest competitors on this Mets squad, and it’s something that a few players should pay attention to and try to emulate. In a time when Terry Collins is giving Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy days off down the stretch because they’re tired, Harvey is reporting that he feels better than ever, not feeling any affects from the longest season of baseball in his life.

In his 9 starts and 52.1 innings pitched since getting called up to fill the void that was left in the rotation due to the injury of Dillon Gee, Harvey has dominated; however, one must look deeper than his win-loss record. Although he’s only 3-5, he owns a sparkling 2.92 ERA and solid 1.22 WHIP, while striking out 63 hitters. He’s been consistent, throwing at least five innings in every start, and enjoying two double-digit strikeout games, one in his MLB debut, and another in his most recent start. It’s intriguing because you’d never know he’s having success at the highest level since he’s his own worst critic.

Being hard on yourself can sometimes be a bad thing and detrimental to one’s performance, but it seems to work for Harvey. After every start, whether it’s great or not so good, he always has one or two things that he points out he wasn’t happy with. Every ballplayer is in the constant pursuit of perfection; that’s why they play the game for as long as they can. Not all players verbalize they’re not happy about being perfect, but Harvey is one of them because he’s not afraid of being critical of himself.

Doing so keeps him hungry and helps him work hard every day he steps on the field or into the gym. The minute a ballplayer gets comfortable in their surroundings, the minute they don’t work as hard as they absolutely can. I admire that about Matt Harvey, and I’m excited for him to bring that attitude back with him to Spring Training, a year wiser and more polished than last February, ready to fight for a spot like he’s an undrafted rookie.

The excitement he brought with his promotion in July has worn off of his teammates with their extreme offensive struggles, but with a new year and renewed hope at a competitive season in 2013, his work ethic and determination will hopefully spread like wildfire through camp. When the Mets drafted Harvey out of North Carolina, they knew they were getting a special player in regards to his ability, but if David Wright sticks around for the long-term, it could be him and Harvey who become the faces of the franchise.