As the New York Mets try to rebound from another weak performance from staff ace Matt Harvey, the tension may be building to a climax in the clubhouse. In a city where sports media expects greatness on the field and access off of it, Harvey provided neither. Last night, Harvey pitched five innings and gave up three home runs, then exited the ballpark without talking to the media.
The New York media, for some reason, has an issue with Matt Harvey. Nobody has been more vocal about his issues with Harvey than the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro. After writing last week attacking Harvey’s physical appearance, last night’s game and brush off with the media prompted the writer to borrow from Catcher in the Rye, referring to Harvey as a phony. These continued failures by Harvey are only going to lead to more critical think pieces to the Mets’ easiest target.
Today’s attack by Vaccaro, saying that the Mets are coddling Harvey from having to face criticism from the media, only adds more fuel to the Harvey bonfire. This column also shows the terrible side to sports journalism.
There are plenty of writers who are always critical of certain players. For anyone who has covered a baseball beat at any level, there will be players who are difficult to cover. Be it from not providing great quotes, them being a jerk, or even being shy or timid, there is the expectation of being a professional journalist. Regardless of one’s feelings, airing out those grievances about that player comes off as a less-than-professional move.
Being a sports journalist is a two-way street. There are times one has to be critical of plays and calls by the team, but one has to be fair in assessing it. Repeatedly writing columns questioning a person’s intentions and referring to players as phonies will affect a writer’s relationship with that beat.
Harvey’s struggles have been constant and essentially a mystery to everyone. It seems pointless to attack a guy for not fielding questions following another poor outing. Catcher Kevin Plawecki and manager Terry Collins took questions, which is more than adequate to finish the game recap. Harvey is frustrated, and even if he did field questions he would probably not offer much other than simple cliches.
It will be hard to imagine Harvey being that outgoing in interviews for reporters from this point on. Call it coddling or call it protection of his ego, but attacking him for it is just bad journalism. This game has seen players and the media function well without the interview. Steve Carlton became renowned for his shunning of the media. George Hendrick was known as “Silent George” due to his policy of never interacting with the press. Both had great careers, and while it made some in the press angry, it did not cause the newspapers and TV stations to shut down. Harvey brushing off interviews last night is not the end of the world.
While these interviews are part of the job, at the end of the day, all it is doing is adding an insider element to the coverage. If a writer has a poor relationship with a certain player, the player has the ability to close off that avenue of insider access. Forcing them to talk will create worthless information. That is where you get your meaningless statements and cliches.
Writers do not need to be the player’s mouthpiece. These are just baseball games. Just because Matt Harvey is struggling does not mean the sports world needs personal commentary on how much a writer hates his “professionalism.” It is not even June, and neither the Mets nor the media have a clear idea about why he’s playing poorly. There is more to life than attacking a player who is having a season setback. These writers need to relax. Who knows? If they lay off, maybe Harvey will be more hospitable in the future.