In discussing my kid and his flickering hopes for the future, I left out one other new Met he’s excited about. It’s the same Met you went into last night excited about. Which means this morning we’re all giddy with a chance of liftoff.
And rightly so.
Matt Harvey was … well, words fail even this word-obsessed blog.
Spectacular. Filthy. Ridiculous. Unhittable. Majestic. Remarkable.
Let’s start there.
When Everth Cabrera mercifully singled, banishing the specter of a precious arm laboring far above 100 pitches for a shot at immortality, Harvey just looked briefly perturbed. Then he picked Cabrera off and went back to eviscerating hapless Padres with a buzzsaw slider, precisely placed off-speed stuff and above all else that seething fastball. San Diego had no chance, which is no insult to them — when a power pitcher of that caliber is executing at that level, no baseball nine has a chance beyond praying its tormentor will go away.
You could hear it in the frozen crowd, whose yips and yowls had the added benefit of keeping their throats from icing over. It was a special sound, one that went way beyond root, root, rooting for the home team. This was an audience of diehards in full appreciation of what they were seeing. Harvey’s champions started off exulting in each strike three, but when that proved insufficient they began to coronate strike twos with anticipatory acclaim, and finally first strikes were earning delighted huzzahs.
Harvey was so good that I didn’t waste time resisting the potentially heretical thoughts: He looked Seaverian out there. He was Goodenesque.
I saw the Seaver part last year — it’s not just the classic arsenal and the way Harvey uses his butt and legs as its engine, but also his attitude on the mound and in the clubhouse. He is his own taskmaster, expecting the best out of himself and proving surly and stern when it isn’t achieved. Once shorn of the rookie fuzz of being seen and not heard, you know his teammates will take heed of that insistence on being better, staying on their toes for every pitch and working counts in less-than-crucial at-bats, then mumbling to reporters that something about Harvey demands playing hard from start to finish. From the beginning of his tenure, Tom Seaver made it clear that he was better than the mess around him, and would not be held back by the mistakes and misfortune people tried to tell him he’d inherited. You’ve had that same vibe from Harvey ever since Arizona.
It was the Gooden parallels, though, that made me float off to a happier place. Listening to a few thousand sound like many more, I remembered the frenzy that greeted a young, electric and apparently immortal Doc, several baseball generations ago in a now-dismantled stadium. You heard an echo of that last night, and I began to wonder.
What would this sound like with a full house on a summer night with something to play for?
It no longer seems quite the stuff of fantasy, for Harvey wasn’t alone — Lucas Duda socked a home run halfway up the Pepsi Porch and even smiled, John Buck cracked a liner over the fence and Ike Davis squelched early talk of a Vegas visit by checking in on the Shea Bridge instead. The Mets aren’t going to go 162-0, of course — for one thing, an excess of balls snuck through the infield late in the proceedings — but if you were dreaming that our bright future isn’t as far-off as we thought during the dark winter, you’re excused. Because you might be right.
And because as my thoughts turned to hoping Terry Collins would excuse Harvey and his thunderous arm from further exposure to the cold, I remembered something else — and began to grin.
My God, they say Wheeler’s even better.