Mets: The demise of the Matt Harvey

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 20: Matt Harvey
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 20: Matt Harvey /

Following a disastrous 2017 season, the onetime ace of the Mets finds his career at a crossroad.

When Matt Harvey made his major league debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks in July of 2012, his upbringing offered the first sign of hope. Hope that there were brighter days ahead for the franchise and that one day the Mets would shift from a laughingstock to a contender.

Harvey made 10 starts in 2012, showing glimpses of greatness, striking out 10.6 batters per 9 innings and posting a 2.73 ERA. It seemed that this guy could evolve into a front of the line starter going down the road.

Then, out of nowhere, 2013 happened. It seemed like it was the second coming of Dwight Gooden. Every five days, the Dark Knight took the mound and you knew he was going to dominate. When he gave up his first walk or hit, you moaned a little because you thought maybe, just maybe, this start was going to be the one where he threw a no-hitter.

There were the “Harvey’s better!” chants, the pitching through a bloody nose, the emphatic fist pumps after getting out of a late inning jam. Citi Field was ELECTRIC when he took the field. Every fifth day was Harvey Day and it was the best day of the week, period.

Matt seemed to be some sort of prophet. He was the man who was sent down to the Mets to lead them to the promised land- a World Series title. And then, on a Monday afternoon in August all of that seemed to fly out the window.

It was announced that Harvey had a partially torn Ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow and he would be out the remainder of the season. When you’re a pitcher, Ulnar collateral ligament is probably the worst thing you can hear when getting a medical diagnosis. Why? Because it means you need Tommy John surgery.

While the news was crushing, it was not the end of the world. Most pitchers come back from the surgery and are able to regain their prior form. Matt was not going to be one of those guys that came back and was ineffective. He was still going to be the Dark Knight.

When Matt took the Citi Field mound for the first time in over a year and a half, the electricity in Citi Field was restored. He had some hiccups along the way, but for the most part 2015 Matt Harvey was every bit as good as 2013 Harvey. The passion and fire was still there and so was his ability to absolutely dominate hitters. There was an innings limit debacle in the beginning of September, but Harvey made his intentions clear. There was no way he wasn’t pitching in the Mets first playoff appearance in nine years.

It seemed fitting Matt was given the opportunity to start the first ever playoff game in Citi Field history. Wasn’t this the plan all along? It was step one of fulfilling his destiny of leading the Mets to a World Series title. Step two was just as easy as step one for Matt, as he dominated the Cubs in the NLCS, helping lead the Mets to the World Series.

And then there is step three. Step three still haunts every Met fan to this day. It was Game 5 of the World Series.

Win or go home for the Mets and Harvey was on the mound. It just seemed right that he was getting the call for this game. He was our workhorse in the playoffs and he was going to save us and starve off elimination for another day. For the first 8 innings, the game felt like a dream. It felt spiritual. Batter after batter, Harvey dominated the Royals, producing one of the most impressive elimination games in recent memory. It was awesome, until it wasn’t.

It was awesome until Harvey came back out for the ninth, it was awesome until the Royals tied the game, it was awesome until reality hit and the realization occurred that the Mets season was over and little did we know, Matt’s career as we knew it was too.

Ever since that game and specially in 2017, the Dark Knight has not been that superhuman figure that Mets fans fell in love with.

In the past two seasons, Matt has run into his worst enemy, injuries. First, it was Thoracic outlet syndrome in 2016 causing him to undergo season ending surgery, then it was another shoulder injury in 2017, this time described as “a stress injury to the scapula bone in the right shoulder”.

Now there are no more emphatic fist pumps, no scintillating performances, no more “Happy Harvey Day!”. Instead, every time Harvey takes the mound, we wince a little when he allows yet another walk or gives up his 5th, 6th, or 7th run of the game. We feel sorry for him at the postgame press conference, where he is dejected and at a loss for words.

We wonder how this could have possibly happened. Once seemingly on top of the world, now not knowing if he will ever be an effective starting pitcher in the major leagues ever again.

Next: Mets GM Sandy Alderson to return in 2018

The 2018 season will be his contract year and he will need to have a strong campaign to prove his worth to one of the 29 other teams in baseball. There is hope that with a now diminished pitch arsenal, Harvey can learn to be a potent 4th or 5th starter.

The Matt Harvey story wasn’t supposed to end this way. But things in life rarely go to plan. As the saying goes, “Oh, how the mighty have fallen.”