Where have you gone, Matt Harvey?

Matt Harvey has left us. Or, better stated, the Harvey we loved has. A combination of untimely injury – really, when is an injury ever timely? – slow recovery, diminished effectiveness and a little bit of his own bad judgment have conspired to threaten what was once limitless potential. Those first three conspirators are connected, of course. We knew it was bad during his magic 2013 season, when he was scratched from a start with “slight forearm stiffness” at the beginning of August. Within minutes, it seemed, word came out that Tommy John surgery was necessary and the rest of 2013 and all of 2014 would be lost to him…and us. Before the injury, watching Harvey pitch was pure delight, drawing comparisons to the two overwhelming pitching stars of the franchise’s past – if you need me to name them, you haven’t been a fan for very long. It got to the point where he had to be compared to a horse, for goodness sake. Couple his ability with a take-no-prisoners attitude and approach on the mound, it is no wonder he was beloved around here. When he outpitched Stephen Strasburg early in the season, the chant went up from Citi Field that “Harvey’s better” than the long-touted Washington hurler. At that point, he was. And in an eyeblink, it was over.

Harvey returned for 2015 and had a fine season, slightly less dominant than 2013 had been, but worth 13 wins, an ERA under three, an ERA+ of 140 and 4.3 WAR. We all remember – heck, it was only the year before last, but sure seems a lot longer ago – game five of the World Series, where Harvey made his case to manager Terry Collins to continue into the ninth inning of that elimination game. It’s been said many times that Collins should have pulled him after allowing his first base runner, but he didn’t and Kansas City tied the game in the ninth and yadda, yadda, yadda…

In 2016, we all expected that same Harvey fastball and swagger to be back in full force, but something was missing. We could tell, right from the get-go, as he struggled on Opening Night against those same Royals he’d smothered in game five. Through the first three months, he was clearly laboring and the tough mound bulldog we had become used to seeing was nowhere to be found. His season was done after July 4, his second consecutive start in which he couldn’t get out of the fourth inning. He had developed something called thoracic outlet syndrome, something that required another surgery and the removal of a rib. Supposedly, the recovery time was a lot speedier than the TJ surgery, but all evidence this year points to his not being recovered at all. He had to miss two-and-a-half months this year with a “stress injury” in his shoulder, probably a result of altered pitching mechanics after the two surgeries. It also hasn’t helped that his personal life was splashed all over the headlines back in early May. In any case, since he has returned from the stress injury, he has looked dreadful, not to put too fine a point on it. It looks like he has lost his stuff, his command and his confidence. It appears like he is constantly fighting uphill and losing.

No fastball, no swagger. It’s a shame.

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.

12 comments for “Where have you gone, Matt Harvey?

  1. September 21, 2017 at 7:47 am

    No hope? Dontrelle Willis said Harvey looked “finished”. I don’t know about that. But his confidence is not there. Will the Mets just let him walk or invest another 5 million+ for 2018. Charlie I’m not sure even if he’s healthy. Redemption is a good incentive. It’s his walk year. If there’s anything left we’ll know by ST.

  2. Jim OMalley
    September 21, 2017 at 8:13 am

    He will have the entire off-season to dedicate himself to getting himself back to where he was. Colon told him to make baseball number one; if he does that, he could come back. He certainly isn’t alone on the staff with issues and question marks and if they somehow band together, they could all benefit from each other’s commitment.

  3. Metsense
    September 21, 2017 at 8:40 am

    Eventually Harvey will get it together and be a major league rotation piece. The Mets should not wait for that to happen. Harvey should not be taking 2018 rotation starts to “find himself” so that when he does he can leave the Mets as a free agent in 2019. The Mets are not a training ground. Instead, make the best possible trade this winter and move on.

    • September 21, 2017 at 9:59 am

      Then I’ll assume you’re going to sell low and take whatever “B” prospects you can get for him? Which team(s) do you think would be in a play for Harvey and his 5 million dollar+ salary who may be seen as a potential bust. The Nat’s?

      • Metsense
        September 21, 2017 at 6:17 pm

        Last night, the Brewers started Aaron Wilkerson, as 28 year old rookie that had only one prior major league game in his life, in a crucial game in their playoff drive. Toronto GM has stated that they are looking for pitching. I think there are many teams that would trade for Harvey.
        If the Mets get a prospect(s) for him then they can apply the saved salary to a top tier free agent starting pitcher to slot in with deGrom and Syndergaard in 2018. It is more expensive but the least risky way to go. This rotation needs stabilization not question marks.

  4. Pete from NJ
    September 21, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Everyone heals at a different pace so the Mets are locked into offering a contract for Harvey next year. If the results are not there, then he gets released and the FO eats the contract. It happens.

    Two other thoughts. Where is Scott Boras. I suppose, what can he say. And was Boras right towards the end of the 2015 season and the inning limit? Well never know for sure.

    For both the team and for a one time superstar I hope for the best.

  5. September 21, 2017 at 11:29 am

    What was the last big contract the poor Wilpons ate Pete? You’re talking about 5 million dollars + for a helluva question mark and an unnecessary risk. At least Matz, Montero, Gsellman and Lugo are minimum salaries next season. Thor and Wheeler will both probably be under a million next season as well. At least those salaries are less risk/reward. Harvey’s a FA next year. Time to move on and let go this off season.

    • September 21, 2017 at 12:13 pm

      Syndergaard and Wheeler are both arbitration-eligible and will make more than you forecast here.

      As for your question, they cut Jason Bay with two years left on his deal following the 2012 season.

  6. September 21, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Wheeler is 3-7 with a 5.21 era with 17 starts. At 800,000 you’re saying Wheeler is going to get more than a 25% raise? Thor has 5 starts this season. How is he going to go from 600,000 to over a million with the results from the past season? You’re saying a raise of nearly 100%? Completely forgot about Bay. Thanks for the painful reminder.

    • September 21, 2017 at 1:22 pm

      Wheeler didn’t pitch at all in 2016 and went from $546K to $800K. So, yes, I think he will top $1 million this year. And I would expect Syndergaard in his first year of arbitration eligibility to make a number similar to the $4 million plus that deGrom made in 2017 in what was his first year or arb eligibility.

  7. Pete In Iowa
    September 21, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Totally agree with you Charlie. No matter if they trade, cut, re-sign, let him try to pitch his way to a spot in Spring Training or beyond.
    It’s a real shame.

  8. Jimmy P
    September 21, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    The Harvey problem is physical.

    I hate all the psychological mumbo-jumbo that people throw around on this one, getting his confidence back, blah blah blah. It’s crazy to me that we can all blame Mets problems this year to injuries to our starting pitching, but then blame Harvey’s problems on a lack of focus, etc. , minimizing the impact of the surgeries. He’s not physically right.

    Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery is bad news.

    Look at Tyson Ross. That guy was a very, very good pitcher. From 2013, ERAs of 3.17, 2.81, and 3.26. Surgery in 2016.

    In 2017, he’s wasted: 49 IP, 42 Runs, ERA of 7.71.

    Do you think Ross has a medical problem? Or does he need to get his head together? Get his confidence back? Meet with a therapist?

    Now maybe Ross and Harvey need more time to recover, that’s very possible.

    The only psychological help Matt Harvey needs is to blow a fastball by a hitter for a change. He’s not going to get that lying on a couch talking about his mother.

    Dillon Gee came back this year, to an extent. He’s only thrown 45 IP and his 3.77 ERA masks a 5.12 FIP. Strikeouts down, walks significantly up. (Ross has had terrible time with control.)

    Again: Matt Harvey is a great pitcher and a great in-game competitor. And he’s always been a little bit of a prick. I believe his tremendous baseline of talent has allowed him to get away with a significant dropoff in “stuff.” It’s amazing he’s done this well, essentially with nothing.

    I’d personally give him the rest of the season off, let him rest and rehab, start throwing in January, and try to earn a job in the Spring. If he’s improved, great; if not, cut him loose before season starts and save 80% of the salary. Could go either way. I don’t see what he gains from these last two starts.

    If I had to bet: I’d guess he’s going to be better next year. How much better, I sure don’t know.

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