By: Paul DiSclafani
It wasn’t about the Mets bullpen imploding and losing the rubber game of the Subway Series to the Yankees 11-2 after Matt Harvey was virtually un-hittable in five very brief innings. It wasn’t about who is to blame in this “innings limit” fiasco, as there is plenty of blame to go around between Harvey, his agent and the Mets brain trust.
It was about perception. It was about the fans perception that a player like Harvey, “The Dark Knight”, was a bulldog and we needed him to stay in that game and give us a few more innings. We’re a selfish bunch, us fans.
You think the fans didn’t understand what Wilmer Flores was going through that night, when he thought he was playing his last innings as a New York Met? You think the fans didn’t feel for him, and maybe weep along with him? And how great was it just two night later, when Flores won the game with a walk-off home run? The iconic image of Flores rounding third, about to meet his jubilant teammates at home plate, grabbing the front of his jersey and shaking it, saying, “I’m a Met, this is for us!”. Flores became a folk hero that night.
You think the fans don’t appreciate what David Wright has had to endure this season, after suffering an injury in just the 8th game of the season? Forget about the season, his career was in jeopardy. All those gloom and doom stories about baseball great Don Mattingly and former Met Lenny Dykstra, two players whose careers ended prematurely with spinal stenosis. How easy would it have been for Wright to shut it down in August and take the rest of the season and then the off-season to heal and come back at full strength in 2016? And who would have blamed him?
Instead, the Captain put the team ahead of his health (and future earning capacity) to rejoin the Mets and do whatever he could to help this team win games. Of course, he hit a long home run in his first AB back.
Baseball is full of players who play hurt or take chances for a shot at the brass ring. It’s the nature of the game, it’s the nature of sports.
Harvey, his agent, his doctors and even the Mets front office might understand the need to limit his innings post Tommy John surgery, but the fans certainly don’t and we will find out how his teammates feel about it in the coming weeks.
To remove Harvey in a 1-0 game against of all teams, the Yankees, was s dagger to the heart of Mets fans – no matter how much they support Harvey. If the Mets and Harvey’s representatives really insisted on limiting Harvey’s innings down the stretch, why not hold Harvey for Monday night against the Braves? Why not use Jon Niese, who last pitched 8 days ago, to start one of the most important games of the season (at least to the fans)? You just can’t play an important game like Sunday night, on National TV, like it’s a spring training game and take your pitcher out regardless of the situation.
Harvey has embraced his “Dark Knight” persona, but he’s no Batman in the eyes of the fans anymore. Batman would never have let the Joker get away just because he might pull a hammy running after him. I think he would risk pulling that hamstring.
His teammates will say all the right things and Terry Collins will say he has the heart of a lion and a lot of other masculine things about him. But his teammates, the fans and the media, all saw a healthy pitcher allow himself to be taken out of a game, during a pennant race, against the nastiest of rivals, in a 1-0 game that he was cruising in.
And why? To protect his arm for his future earnings potential? That’s what it comes down to, you can’t sugarcoat it any other way. Harvey put himself ahead of the team and in any sport, that could be considered a mortal sin.
How do you look Wright in the face anymore when you know what he went through and, more importantly, what he is risking every time he steps onto that field behind you?
If Hansel Robles gets a 1-2-3 sixth inning last night, turning it over cleanly to Addison Reed (7th), Tyler Clippard (8th) and Jeurys Familia (9th) and the Mets win 2-0 or 3-1, maybe we’re not having a Matt Harvey conversation at all.
Instead, we invoke the sacred saying in baseball, “The name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back of the jersey.” Maybe we finally understand why the Yankees have never put their player’s names on their jerseys – home or away. There is nothing more important than the team. And the Yankees, as much as Mets fans may loathe them, have understood that from day one.
It’s a hard lesson that Matt Harvey may never get the chance to learn.