For Mets ownership, the Matt Harvey drama is nothing new

By now, we pretty much know what happened, short of being tableside at the club 1 Oak with Matt Harvey and his cronies on Friday night, May 5. The details have been played out across the entire media spectrum since mid-morning on Sunday and there’s really no need to rehash them here. The absolute bare facts: Harvey didn’t show for Saturday night’s game; Harvey was suspended without pay by the team for three days; on Day Three, Harvey returned to the clubhouse and apologized to the team, the coaching staff, the front office, the media and the fans. The incident is done. It’s all over and should be put to bed. But this is New York and in this town, nothing is ever quite that simple. It usually takes a little longer than normal for something like this to die down. Your intrepid columnist is loathe to stoke the fading embers of this story, other than to say that for Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz, the “inmates running the asylum” is a familiar story, almost a long and proud Mets tradition.

If you’re a somewhat older reader, you might recall the mid-‘90s and Bret Saberhagen spraying bleach at reporters and Vince Coleman tossing firecrackers at fans from a moving car. You might remember Coleman damaging Dwight Gooden’s shoulder with an errant clubhouse golf swing. These incidents saw little repercussion from upstairs. It was well-known at the time that ownership sought input from the players, fostering what Fred Wilpon liked to call a “collegial atmosphere,” where his players weren’t merely employees, but near-equals who could bypass traditional hierarchical channels – the normal chain of command: manager/GM/owner — and go straight to ownership with a suggestion or a complaint. They actually bragged about it in the papers. Look at how well it’s worked.

Think back about 15 years to around the turn of this century. It’s 2003 and the Mets are trying to sustain the aura of their surprise 2000 pennant and unsurprising loss to the Yankees in that year’s World Series. Three years down the road, they’ve not been nearly as successful. They’ve jettisoned their manager and loaded the team with aging, big name veterans. A year previously, GM Steve Phillips signed or traded for Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz and Shawn Estes. As one wag put it, “Phillips has assembled an All-Star team. Unfortunately, it’s the 1997 All-Star team.” These are the Mets of manager Art Howe, who “lit up the room” in his interview, according to Fred Wilpon. Little did we know it only took a 30-watt bulb to do that. Anyway, the leaders of the ’03 clubhouse were two pitchers, Al Leiter and John Franco. It was at their urging that these meandering Mets make a big splash and sign another pitcher, Tom Glavine, away from their chief tormentors, the Atlanta Braves. Everyone outside the organization scratched their heads. This was a team going nowhere fast – their record in ’02 had been a craven 75-86 – and Glavine wasn’t going to right the ship by himself. It was rumored that this was a political move: Glavine had been quite active in Players Union activities – as had Franco and Leiter – and working in New York would give him easier access to the MLPA offices. It may also have been why the Braves let him waltz away to a division rival with little fuss. Additionally, again at the urging of their veteran pitchers, 2003 saw the return to the Mets of David Cone. Cone, of course, was well past his prime, having basically retired after a sorry 2000 season as a Yankee – breaking the Mets’ hearts in the World Series, of course – and a desperate 2001 season as a Red Sox. He didn’t pitch at all in 2002, but when he dropped hints about making a comeback, Leiter, Franco and Glavine insisted he come to spring training. Also in camp that year was a raw rookie pitcher with a world of talent. Scott Kazmir had been drafted the previous year and shown so much promise – and the Mets being so desperate – he was invited to train with the big-leaguers that March. Unfortunately, his taste in music didn’t sit well with the leaders and when he had the temerity to play it louder than they liked, they gave him the business for it. His response wasn’t what they were used to, wasn’t a rookie “knowing his place” and they used their “collegial” channel upstairs to voice displeasure. From that point on, it seemed like Phillips and his successor Jim Duquette couldn’t wait to trade the kid. Halfway through the following year, Kazmir found himself and his wicked left arm winning games for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Glavine had the worst year of his career to date, Leiter and Franco aged before our eyes and Cone pitched 18 innings over four starts and one relief outing before hanging them up for good. The Mets went 66-95.

When Omar Minaya was brought on to replace Duquette, that kind of talk died down a little, but it was the veterans on the team that set the attitude and bore the brunt of criticism for the collapses of 2007/2008. With the circus atmosphere surrounding the Harvey situation – and let’s not forget Noah Syndergaard’s refusal to get an MRI on his aching arm – it looks like the Wilpons have gone all collegial on us again.

Heaven help us.

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.

2 comments for “For Mets ownership, the Matt Harvey drama is nothing new

  1. May 11, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    Despite whatever hashing may have gone on about this incident, I don’t know the ins and outs because I don’t care. This is not why I invest so much in the team.

    What I do know is that I’m glad the team suspended him. Back when the innings kerfuffle came about in 2015, when the topic was a potential refusal to obey orders, my belief was that if Harvey chose not to pitch when the team told him to pitch, the only logical response for the club was to suspend him.

    Generally, I’m pro player. I believe they should get their big salaries and should have the best working conditions possible. But in return for that, they should bust their hump both in between the white lines and training so that they can excel when they step on the field.

    I want Harvey to date supermodels and hob-nob with the jet set crowd. I want him to experience all the joys of being young and rich. I just want him to do it during the offseason. I’d like his role model to be Tom Brady.

    We see Brady clowning around with pals at the Kentucky Derby. His wife/gf is one of the biggest supermodels around. But generally we don’t see Brady stepping out during the season or causing distractions. And he inspires great loyalty in his teammates.

    That’s my hope for Harvey. It’s so incredibly sad because he had the talent to own the city and instead it seems to be crashing down all around him, for a variety of reasons. I’m a fan and I want nothing more than for his starts to be events again.

    Maybe the suspension is the slap in the face to get him on the right path again. But this all depends on Harvey’s reaction. The ball is 100 percent in his court and hopefully he brings a dedication to his craft to rebound as much as his surgically-repaired body will let him.

    Bottom line – I support ownership/management’s decision to suspend him.

  2. Metsense
    May 12, 2017 at 7:29 am

    The recent incident by Harvey has not caused a circus atmosphere around the Mets. The media and tabloids stoke the fire to generate readership and revenue.
    Alderson extinguished the flames by handling the incident quickly and judiciously without adding more gasoline to the fire. Collins followed Alderson’s lead like a good soldier. The Wilpon’s stayed clear of the incident and let their baseball GM make the decision. Harvey was exposed once again as a me first player.
    I hope Harvey can have a good season. He will be a free agent in 2019. I would not look to extend him but instead trade him this winter under any circumstances. Hopefully his value will be high and they will receive a good return. I would not let him become a free agent and receive nothing for him.

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