Farewell to the Dark Knight
How do you say goodbye to someone that's been gone for so long? I've wondered the answer to that question since yesterday morning, when Matt Harvey officially retired from baseball. The last time he put on a New York Mets uniform was 2018. Not a lifetime ago, even though it feels that way.
Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, even Doc Gooden: these Mets greats are from another era, decades in the past. Harvey feels at once both modern and ancient. See a picture of him now and it's not difficult to imagine him striding to the dugout after striking out the side, the Citi Field crowd going berserk like during one of Rick Vaughn's appearances in Major League. At the same time, that memory feels just out of reach, like it would dissolve if you tried to hold onto it.
In a way, that's the perfect metaphor for how Mets fans will remember the greatness of Matt Harvey.
It's there. You can see it and feel it and remember the adrenaline rush it brought you and Mets fans everywhere, even if time has dulled the once razor sharp edges of it. But it wasn't made to last.
I think the reason most people get so invested in sports is to have a chance to witness greatness. If you're one of the exceptionally lucky ones, you get a Tim Duncan, Tom Brady, or Sidney Crosby on your team, giving you well over a decade of incredible memories and unbelievable feats. For the rest of us, our brushes with greatness are fleeting, but they're still something to treasure.
I'll never forget being in the stadium for Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. The Mets were down 3-1, but there was hope in the air. Harvey was on the mound, and if the Mets could stave off elimination, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard were waiting for Games 6 and 7.
It's incredible to look back at that trio now and wonder where it all went wrong. deGrom became the best pitcher in baseball with the Mets, but then left this past offseason to sign with the Rangers. Noah Syndergaard moved on to the Angels, then the hated Phillies and Dodgers, tweaking Mets fans along the way. Both bridges seem burnt.
And yet, Harvey is proof that some day, these wounds will heal over. I'm not thinking today about Tommy John surgery, or thoracic outlet syndrome, or the tabloid headlines that sometimes overshadowed the actual baseball and made Harvey a cautionary tale for future Big Apple stars.
I'm thinking today about a player that welcomed the unique pressure that comes with playing in New York, that embraced the role of being a real life baseball superhero.
I'm thinking about Harvey mowing down the Royals in the biggest game of his life, turning in a pitching performance for the ages to stand alongside Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson and Jack Morris and Madison Bumgarner.
I'm thinking about standing and shouting at the end of the eighth inning until I lost my voice along with almost 45,000 others, "We want Harvey!" And I'll always be thinking about Harvey fighting to pitch that ninth inning, wearing Mets manager Terry Collins down with the tenacity and charisma that made New York fall in love with him in the first place, then bursting out of the dugout and running to the mound like the hero we all deserved.
Sometimes greatness lasts for eight innings, even if you hoped it would last for nine. I'd still take it every time. Thanks for the memories, Matt.