November 1st, 2015: It was the top of the ninth, World Series, Game 5. Matt Harvey had pitched eight beautiful innings. The Mets were up 2–0 and were on their way to going back to Kansas City for game six.
Despite a pitch count of 101, alarming considering his Tommy John surgery the year before and the obvious overwork he had experienced in the postseason, Harvey convinced Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen to send him back out for the ninth inning.
Mets fans know how this decision affected the game all too well. Lorenzo Cain would walk on seven pitches, Eric Hosmer would hit an RBI double, knocking out Harvey, and Salvador Perez would groundout to David Wright, scoring Hosmer and tying up the game.
Who am I kidding, that’s not an accurate description:
The Royals would then score five runs in the 12th to secure their first World Series championship since 1985. That was what the Mets already knew.
What they didn’t know was that the Dark Knight had lost his star that night. They did not know that the Batmobile would suddenly lose its wheels and crash two years later. Nobody knew that from that point forward, the Dark Knight would just be “Harv”, and, on May 4th, 2018, be designated for assignment with very little fanfare.
Just like that, the Matt Harvey that was fourth in the Cy Young Award voting in 2013, the Harvey was expected to earn a huge payday this winter, the Harvey that was supposed to be the next Tom Seaver was unemployed and with a fuzzy future.
So what happened to Matt Harvey after that fateful Game 5?
Let’s start with the statistics because it’s quite simple. After going 25–18 with a 2.53 ERA (146 ERA+) in 65 starts from 2012–2015, he is 9–19 with a 5.93 ERA (69 ERA+) in 44 games (39 starts) until now. He’s not limiting hits and striking out hitters (7.0 H/9/9.5 K/9 to 10.8 H/9/6.9 K/9). (Baseball Reference)
The stats are right there. The only thing to figure out now is WHY this happened? And when it comes to Harvey, you could see the issues even when he was on the top of the world.
It all starts with his work-ethic and ego: the former was little, the latter was ridiculous. From the time he stepped onto the scene as a future all-star caliber pitcher, he always thought of himself as “the man”? From pressuring the Mets to activate him off the DL in 2014 to his appearance in ESPN’s The Body Issue to his consistent clashes with the media and his teammates and partying, the man had a huge chip on his shoulder.
But before I move into the present, you also have to consider the stress the Mets organization put him through in 2015. Harvey had rebounded nicely from Tommy John but was approaching an alarming amount of innings as the season winded down. The Mets felt pressured into letting him continue to pitch because of the unexpected postseason push that season despite Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras warned the organization that he could not go any further. According to reports, the Mets wanted him to pitch 190 innings and reasonably pitch in the postseason, while Dr. James Andrews, noted orthopedic surgeon, stated that he suggested 180 innings with no postseason activity. Harvey would later write in the Players’ Tribune:
“I understand the risks [of pitching]. I am also fully aware of the opportunity the Mets have this postseason. Winning the division and getting to the playoffs is our goal.
Once we are there, I will be there.” — Matt Harvey, I Will Pitch in the Playoffs, The Player’s Tribune
So what happened? Harvey missed a team workout during that NLDS, adding to his list of bad history with the organization, but pitched relatively well in the postseason up until that final inning in Game 5 of the World Series.
Had he completed that inning, that would have been 217 innings on the year, 27 more than what was suggested.
Scott Boras and other analysts say that is what caused the downfall in 2016. His velocity had dipped dramatically and the command wasn’t there. It was all thought to be mechanical issues until June when Harvey decided to undergo surgery to resolve thoracic outlet syndrome. Numerous MLB pitchers had undergone the procedure, like Tyson Ross, Phil Hughes, Chris Young, and Matt Harrison.
Very few come back from the procedure as strong or stronger than they did before. Matt Harvey was a part of the larger crowd. After starting 2017 well, a rule violation (later revealed to be a “headache” due to playing golf the night before), another injury, — a stress fracture in his scapula — and simply terrible outings led to a 5–7 record and 6.70 ERA. By then, the Dark Knight had died out. His Player’s Weekend nickname was “Harv”.
Now we go to the present: expected to return to All-Star status, Harvey starts off the season terribly, but doesn’t take it seriously at all. With Jason Vargas coming off the DL, instead of sending down Steven Matz, the Mets elected to move Harvey to the bullpen, to which he stated that he was “on a scale of 1 to 10, obviously, I’m at a 10 with being pissed off”.
All of this ties back into his massive ego, he used very few good innings in his four awful outings as proof he could still be the man. He was caught partying in Los Angeles before the Mets were to travel to San Diego. And after another terrible bullpen outing in Atlanta, the Mets had decided to send him to the minors, in which Harvey refused. He was suddenly handed his pink slip. There is no certainty if he will sign with another team.
There is certainty in one thing. This was a long time coming. Sandy Alderson admitted it. You could see it in Mickey Calloway as he stated that he failed Harvey.
Don’t worry, Mr. Callaway, it wasn’t you. It was the previous regime’s ineffectiveness to deal with Harvey…and the man himself.
He will have to be content with being “Harv”.
Follow Payton Ellison (@realpmelli14) on Twitter.