Matt Harvey Needs to Ignore His Innings Limit

Somewhere in Flushing, New York, there are New York Mets fans reading about Matt Harvey‘s innings-limit fiasco and reminiscing about the good old days. There was never an innings limit for pitchers like Jerry Koosman. Koosman, from 1973 to 1980, averaged 248 innings a year and eclipsed the 260 innings mark three times in that time span. One hundred and eighty innings? Tom Seaver was just getting loose.

Late last week Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras, came out and said that there was a strict innings limit of 180 innings, including the playoffs, for Harvey set by Dr. James Andrews. Mets GM Sandy Alderson said that the innings limit of 180 was a “soft cap” and “The plan last winter was 185 innings plus the playoffs. Let’s shoot for 185 and see where we are at the end of the regular season and make a decision then about the playoffs, depending on the condition of the player. That was before we went to spring training.” Alderson would also admit no such innings limit of 180 was placed on Harvey by Dr. Andrews.

Harvey did confirm what Boras said about an innings cap of 180 innings set by Dr. Andrews was true and isn’t answering any questions whether he will pitch in the postseason if he exceeds the set limit.

With 166 1/3 innings already pitched and the Mets just weeks away from their first playoff appearance since 2006, Harvey looks selfish.

If there was going to be a strict innings cap of 180 innings, it needed to be expressed and talked about at the start of the season. Not when you’re less than 14 innings from reaching a set cap that all of a sudden has become a prominent number that you cannot exceed.

How can a pitcher who is viewed as the ace of the staff, nearing a playoff birth for the first time in his career, all of a sudden not want the ball?

A few years ago the Washington Nationals faced a similar situation. The Nationals, who had discussed a shutdown innings limit earlier in the 2012 season for ace Stephen Strasburg, did not allow him to pitch after 159 innings and shut him down for the entire postseason. An outcry of disbelief rang throughout the nation’s capital. The Nationals weren’t going to use their best pitcher in the franchise’s first ever postseason berth? Strasburg was none too thrilled, either. But the Nationals were thinking of their future and did not want to jeopardize Strasburg’s future by making him throw too many innings fresh off of Tommy John Surgery.

Harvey is more than a year removed from having Tommy John surgery and three weeks ago in an interview with Jimmy Traina said that he “did not believe in innings limits” and “was unsure if he was on one.”

Why all of a sudden the change of heart? Could it be perhaps his agent Boras has gotten in The Dark Knight’s head and is simply trying to get Harvey not to pitch to avoid injury in pursuit of his eventual payday in three seasons?

Mets’ great, Doc Gooden, is unhappy and has called Harvey out on his innings limit.

Gooden averaged 248 innings pitched in his first three seasons and pitched 276 innings as a 20-year-old. Gooden eventually would flame out and never recapture the success he had in this first five years. It is widely believed that his high workload at a young age is what killed what looked like a Hall of Fame career.

But the Mets aren’t asking or pushing Harvey to throw 279 innings. They are hoping he can go past this innings cap by a mere 20 innings or so. Harvey is also 26 and 6’4″ 220 pounds. A much more mature body than what Gooden was at 20-years-old.

You have to feel bad for the position that Harvey has now put ownership in. You have a franchise that has been excruciatingly bad to watch for nearly a decade and they finally get a core of players together that has a legitimate shot to win a World Series and their best pitcher is pulling the plug on their journey to capturing their first title since 1986.

Alderson has handled the situation perfectly. In a recent interview with Newsday, Alderson said of Harvey’s willingness to pitch past 180 innings, “Ultimately, it’s his decision,” he said, “It’s not the team’s and not his agent’s. If he’s not prepared to pitch, he’s not prepared to pitch.”

Now let’s great something straight: I am all for protecting the game’s elite and pitchers in general. It is completely understandable to set an innings limit for a pitcher that is coming off a major surgery and trying to limit the mileage on their arm. Just as the Nationals did with Strasburg.

But don’t all of a sudden contradict yourself about innings limits after the Mets tried to implement a six-man rotation to save innings on Harvey’s arm and then he complained about it.

If Harvey does decide not to pitch in the playoffs, the Mets are lucky enough to have other quality pitchers to lean on. You could make the argument that Jacob DeGrom is actually better than Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard has had a superb rookie campaign and the Mets recently got back another rookie phenom, Steven Matz, to help bolster an already impressive rotation.

But no one can disagree that the Mets are a better team with Harvey toeing the slab every fifth day, giving them a better opportunity to win a title. If Harvey is truly the competitor that he proclaims to be and truly wants to win, he will take the ball come Game 1 and ignore this “limit” that has become a big deal. If he does decide to shut it down, it may be a move he regrets forever.

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