Who’s to blame in the Matt Harvey fiasco?

On Friday afternoon, news spread that the New York Mets planned to go against the wishes of Scott Boras, the agent for star pitcher Matt Harvey. Boras wanted his player shut down for the year after 180 innings. The Mets said no. Harvey said nothing.

Until yesterday afternoon that is.

Speaking with reporters before his team’s 7-0 victory over the Miami Marlins, Harvey confirmed that he is indeed on the same page as his agent. He trusts Dr. James Andrews, the surgeon who performed Harvey’s Tommy John surgery two years ago. Andrews has drawn a line in the sand at 180 innings, and now a potentially ugly situation is close to boiling over.

Harvey did not say much, and did not address his availability for the postseason.

Mets’ manager Terry Collins also fielded questions on the topic following his team’s victory.

Well, that escalated quickly.

In the span of approximately 24 hours, Harvey has gone from hero — the guy willing to put the team on his back, medical opinion be damned — to goat — the guy who is willing to bend to the wishes of an agent and doctor while putting more stock in his future career than his team’s chances to win a World Series. Predictably, New York turned its back on Harvey in rather dramatic fashion. He was called a hypocrite, a betrayer, and labeled trade bait.

While there is certainly some blame that can be put on the broad shoulders of Matt Harvey in this situation, he is hardly alone in wearing the villain hat. First, there’s the agent, Boras. Boras is a master manipulator of the media and the teams his clients play for. He knew what he was doing opening up to the media about the strict 180-inning cap. There is a time and place for going to the media, and this is not one of them. Boras ultimately created an untenable situation for Harvey. This should have been done behind closed doors. Yes, Boras is only trying to do what he thinks is best for his client’s future earnings potential, but in the end, Harvey will come off looking like a bad guy if he goes along with what Boras wants.

Then, there is the Mets’ front office. The Mets were so steadfast in their wishes to hold Harvey back last season when he wanted to pitch in meaningless games. Now that the games matter more, it seems throwing caution to the wind is an acceptable course of action. There would undoubtedly have been discussions, both internal and with Boras, before the start of the year regarding Harvey’s innings limit. Why was it never agreed upon? Was it agreed upon and tossed aside as soon as the team began contending? And why hasn’t General Manager Sandy Alderson been more open with Harvey on the team’s plan for him? When the team confirmed that Harvey would pitch in the playoffs, that should have been done with the understanding that the player was on board with the team’s wishes.

Lastly, Mets’ manager Terry Collins deserves a heaping pile of blame. A manager is supposed to have his player’s back. Not Collins. Speaking after the game, Collins only threw gasoline on an already out-of-control fire. Collins firmly dug in his feet and questioned his pitcher’s character. That could be a huge mistake in what is most likely already a locker room divided on the issue. Collins’ best move would have been to say nothing inflammatory about Harvey, but he decided against that route. His comments come off as a guilt-trip.

Harvey, now, is left to play pawn in the back-and-forth between the front office, his agent, and his doctor. While he could have taken control of the situation himself, boldly declaring himself available for the postseason (instead of meekly batting the question aside), it’s likely he still does not know what he wants. His career-high for innings is 178.1. While medical research is still sketchy when it comes to proclaiming a strict innings limit, there is plenty of past history showing it is probably not a good idea to set a new career-high for innings pitched the first season back after Tommy John. Though Harvey has looked good all year and shown no signs of breaking down, elbows and ligaments are unpredictable pieces of connective tissue, ready to snap in an instant. There is no guarantee he will have a ten-year career, and throwing an extra 30 innings in the playoffs clouds that future even more. If he decides to protect that future, he will come off as a player who puts himself before his teammates, even though many in the clubhouse would not begrudge him the desire to protect his own health.

The Mets and Harvey now have a difficult decision to make. Harvey may pitch in the playoffs as a starter, but more likely in relief since the innings issue has already become a sticking point. It will ultimately be Harvey’s decision to make, but the process has been handled poorly on all sides for the entire season. Someone was always going to come away unhappy, but it never had to be this ugly.

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