Matt Harvey has thrown his last pitch for the New York Mets. It resulted in a line-drive single. The Mets chose to designate him for assignment in spite of the progress.
By Friday, the Mets had made Harvey the offer he could only refuse, not because he shouldn’t be in the minor leagues and wouldn’t benefit from the minor leagues, but because Harvey must have come to understand – just as the Mets had – an eight-year relationship had run its course.
It wasn’t me, they’d almost certainly agree, it was you. Then it’s time to sort the books, grab the spare linens, pat the dog and go.
For that, I admire Matt Harvey.
He has so much work ahead. He is not – today – a big-league pitcher, a righteous fall not for the pitcher he was for a very short period, but for the pitcher he was going to be. That everyone said he was going to be. That he believed he would be. He’s 29 years old.
Maybe he is not physically able. Maybe his head and heart are unsettled. When he reaches for 98 and gets 92, well, that’s bound to temper a man’s once infinite ego. When the man in the mirror is not among the game’s elite starting pitchers, or even a starting pitcher, or even a decent pitcher, and that man bears a real resemblance to Matt Harvey, the day gets hazy. All the days do.
Everyone loves the guy with the 2-plus ERA who throws his shoulders back and takes on the world and owns the city nights, who could never ever be convinced he wasn’t the best man on the field. That guy is impenetrable. Never ever comes, though, because it always comes, the 2-plus ERA is 7-plus, and then few can understand why that guy can’t muster the humility required to start back toward what he was. He sure as hell isn’t giving the city nights back. The qualities that made him great, that made him him, that made him the next whatever or whomever, those are what he picks over today.
It takes time, which is what the Mets were hoping to give him, though perhaps not enough. It might take a fresh start. The Mets were incapable of providing that. They will always be them. He will always be him. They will always have their history together, the good and the bad and the what the heck was that. Their future was going to be short.
Harvey was due to leave at the end of the season anyway. They could spend the next five months pretending he was one of their best five starters, one of their best 12 pitchers. Or the Mets could make the dramatic decision to make themselves and Harvey better by sending him to the minor leagues, and Harvey could make the better decision to call it off, to say good-bye, to go get well somewhere else. To get on with it.
“Matt is an appealing, likeable and vulnerable individual. In spite of the issues, I really like Matt. We’re going to miss him, in many ways,” Sandy Alderson told reporters in New York on Friday, which has it about right.
I know Matt Harvey as well as you can know a person who has zero interest in ever talking to you. And I’m going to choose to believe his refusal to report to the minor leagues was a decision made in a moment of composure, not in a fit of anger or humiliation. Not that it really matters anymore. His choices from here, all of them, will have to be made as an answer to a question: What will make me a better pitcher? What is best for my career? How do I make this right again?
The answer is not to cry about how he should be treated or how he should be viewed. To rage against a front office and coaching staff that have made their own choices. Soon, he’ll have a new team, a new mound, a new future. A new relationship. A lot of new choices.
The first one – to leave the Mets behind – was a good start.
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