There is no easy way to put it. The past three weeks have been ugly for Matt Harvey. Since agent Scott Boras made the public demand for Harvey’s innings to be capped at 180 this season, Harvey has been called, among other things, a coward, a betrayer, a hypocrite, and a liar. His desire to win and manhood have been called into question. Teammates in the clubhouse have felt let down as they watch David Wright battle back from spinal stenosis to get ready to play October baseball.
The first start of the Harvey innings squeeze was a nightmare. It could not have gone worse for Harvey or the Mets. He threw five shutout innings against the New York Yankees and left after only 77 pitches. The Mets imploded after Harvey exited, and lost the game 11-2. After the game, Harvey sounded like a kid who had made his bed but no longer wanted to sleep in it. The innings limit must have sounded like a good idea to Harvey when it was fed to him from a respected surgeon and an agent who has made himself more money than Harvey ever will. Seeing the plan in action, however, was another thing.
Harvey clearly did not like leaving the game early against the Yankees. At his core, he is a competitor and a gamer. Pitching in the Subway Series was important to him as a member of the Mets, just as pitching in the postseason always was. Last night, as the Mets clinched their first division title since 2006, Harvey quieted any remaining doubters in the bleachers, the pressbox, and the clubhouse.
Staked to a 7-2 lead, Harvey still threw 97 pitches over 6.2 strong innings. With a big lead, Terry Collins had the perfect opportunity to lift Harvey early, but the big right-hander wanted the ball. He will be going deep into games in October, and needed to approach 100 pitches to avoid shocking his system come the NLDS. There should be no more questions about Harvey’s desire to pitch for and compete for his teammates come the postseason. Every fifth day, from here on out, Harvey will be ready to leave it all on the field, 180-plus innings or not.
The entire situation has been mishandled from the jump. The Mets front office had no plan in place for their ace’s first season back from major surgery. With no real postseason expectations entering the season, they surely felt they could feel the situation out and make a decision come the end of August. With the playoff race heating up, the decision kept getting pushed off until it became to late. Boras is just looking out for his client (and his own commission), Dr. James Andrews is making a medical decision, the Mets want to make the playoffs and push for a World Series. That leaves Harvey in the middle to be jerked around. He is the child in the middle of a heated custody battle being pulled every which way before being tasked with making an unenviable decision of whose house he will call home. Turns out, Harvey was capable of making that decision on his own all along.
In the end, Matt Harvey quieted all doubters. That he was the winning pitcher on the night that the Mets clinched their playoff berth could not be a more perfect conclusion to the entire innings limit debacle. With the division title in hand seven games before the end of the season, the Mets can elect to begin shuffling their rotation for the postseason. That rotation will include Matt Harvey, but not a watered down version of him. With that in order, the Mets can get back to focusing on winning baseball games, not thinking about innings limits. That’s good for baseball, good for Harvey, and good for the Mets.