New York Mets history would have looked a lot different in the 2010s if Matt Harvey didn’t suffer some devastating injuries.
As many New York Mets fans will fondly recollect, before 2012 it had been a while since a young, hard-throwing pitcher had burst onto the scene and truly dominated in Queens. That is, until Matt Harvey made his highly anticipated debut on July 26, 2012, against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Harvey had a start to remember, with 5.1 scoreless innings and a Mets record 11 strikeouts in his debut.
From there, Harvey quickly rose to stardom in New York, leading to the event known as “Harvey Day” that was one of the weekly highlights for Mets fans in 2013. He also started the first All-Star game ever at Citi Field. But Harvey’s career took a quick downturn when he went on the DL in August with elbow troubles and eventually needed Tommy John surgery to recover.
Though Harvey did return to form when he came back from injury in 2015, it’s worth taking a look back at that 2013-2014 period and wondering, what might have happened if Harvey had stayed healthy and never needed Tommy John? Furthermore, what if he never contracted thoracic outlet syndrome in 2016?
One possible gut reaction might be, “well, the dream rotation of deGrom, Harvey, Syndergaard, Wheeler, and Matz would have stayed perfectly intact.” But let’s remember, Harvey was out for the entire 2014 season. 2014 was also the year that deGrom made his debut, in a rotation that before him had featured Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler, and Jenrry Mejia.
With Harvey hypothetically inserted into the 2014 rotation, presumably one of the above would have been the odd man out. Let’s also not forget that Rafael Montero was a much more highly touted prospect than deGrom in 2014, and made his big league debut the day before deGrom.
Given these factors, it is entirely possible that with Harvey in the 2014 rotation, deGrom might never have made it into the starting rotation at all, given that he was initially being primed in the minors to be a reliever until Gee went down with an injury. That means that without a Harvey injury in 2013, deGrom’s Rookie of the Year award in 2014 might never have happened.
Would a healthy Harvey in 2014 have rocketed the Mets towards contention? Likely not.
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The 2014 team simply did not have enough offensive firepower to carry them to a postseason berth.
However, given that Harvey did come in fourth in Cy Young voting in 2013 despite missing the last few weeks of the season, he easily could have won the Cy Young in 2013 if he were healthy the entire season, potentially leading to a very different “Mets pitching GOAT” conversation today.
Let’s also consider the 2016 season, in which Harvey started off shaky, was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome in July and proceeded to miss the rest of the season. deGrom also went down with an injury in September that sidelined him for the remainder of the year.
With these two powerhouse pitchers out, it was left to Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellmen to patch up the rotation. They did remarkably well, filling in when deGrom and Matz both went down and helping the Mets go from 61-62 and 12.5 games back in the standings, to the second Wild Card berth.
If Harvey had stayed healthy in 2016, might he have won a few more games earlier in the season that would have given the Mets a shot at the division? It’s hard to say. But a healthy Harvey certainly would have bolstered the pitching staff even more down the stretch.
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Though Harvey enjoyed a historic rise to fame in New York, his injuries and off-the-field troubles have now placed him more in the category of “what could have been” rather than “what was” for Mets fans. Still, his fantastic years in 2012, 2013, and 2015 allow Mets fans to nostalgically remember the glory that was “Harvey Day.”