The New York Mets lost to the New York Yankees last night by a score of 11-2. For the Mets, it was the first start of the innings squeeze for ace Matt Harvey. Harvey was dominant for five innings, allowing only one hit while striking out seven. He needed 77 pitches to get through five innings thanks to the high strikeout total. After Harvey left, Hansel Robles came in and promptly imploded, allowing a three-run homer to Dustin Ackley and a two-run double to Carlos Beltran. The Mets lose, and once again, the New York sports narrative shifts back to questioning Harvey’s decision to limit his innings the rest of the season. One thing should be made clear: in a playoff game, Harvey is not coming out after five shutout innings. He was reluctant to come out of this game.
Conserving innings is the right move for Harvey right now. The Mets have a comfortable lead, and while it’s tough to swallow a blowout loss to the Yankees after watching the ace dominate, last night’s loss was mostly meaningless. There were also two crucial errors to start the decisive sixth inning when the Yankees blew open the game. This loss is not on Matt Harvey, and was not caused by his agent’s desire to restrict innings down the stretch.
Scroll down to the bottom of Matt Harvey’s player page on Baseball Reference. There, you will find the salaries tab. In big bold letters, it clearly states why Harvey must be careful with the health of his arm.
The Mets owe Matt Harvey a whopping total of zero dollars beyond this season. He will get arbitration this winter, and the Mets have every right to sign him up to another one-year deal. A nice raise will be coming for the stud right-hander after a sub-3.00 ERA season, but it will hardly be life-changing money. Harvey has earned only a little over $1.1 million in his career, not counting various endorsements and autograph sales. Do not forget that professional athletes are taxed at nearly a 40-percent clip. Of the million-plus Harvey has earned in his career, nearly $440,000 of it has gone right into Uncle Sam’s pockets. Take off state and local taxes and agent fees, and Harvey has not taken very much home for himself. Yes, Harvey earned a nice signing bonus as a first round draft pick, but he is 26 years old with very little of his financial future assured. Seemingly he should be in excellent shape, but remember, if that arm blows up again, his earning potential becomes very limited over the next 50-plus years of his life.
Pitchers like Harvey must protect their arms. Their financial futures depend on it. Normal people with 9-to-5 jobs have a potential to earn a good salary for roughly 45 years of their life. If you work 45 years and earn $75,000 per year, you could very well end up with higher career earnings than Matt Harvey should his elbow break down yet again. With only three years in the league, it’s not as if Matt Harvey can ride out the rest of his life on what he has earned so far. He needs that five- or six-year contract to cement his future. You can quibble with me whether or not a professional athlete should really be earning $20 million per season to throw a baseball across home plate, but that is the economic structure of the world we live in, and we have judged Harvey’s abilities to be worth that much. Baseball, however, has a salary structure that makes it very difficult for Harvey to get his fair market value. The owners, who are billionaires, continue to lord over the players.
For the Mets, there is really only one option. Matt Harvey must be given a long-term extension this winter. Boras has never allowed his clients to sign an extension before hitting free agency, but with the uncertainty surrounding Harvey’s arm, perhaps he will loosen that restriction if the Mets back up the Brinks truck. Harvey has not lost a thing after Tommy John surgery, and he fought hard to return last season, ahead of schedule. It would have been foolish to extend Harvey fresh off surgery, and he did have a lot to prove this year. He has proven it, and the Mets should reward him for it. Harvey is supposed to go out and risk his health, and fight the good fight for the Mets. At what point must the team return the favor?