It could have been more perfect, I guess. There could have been a little less hole for Alex Rios’s seventh-inning two-out grounder to edge into. Ruben Tejada could have been overcome by a pre-emptive vision that shifted him just a touch more to his right. First base could have been planted 91 or 92 feet from home plate. Mark Carlson could have contracted a staggering case of the Tim McClellands and made the wrong call. The runner could have moved less like Rios and more like Adam Dunn.
Yet other than that slightest of infield-hit mustaches on the Matthew Lisa, the nine innings of pitching was flawproof. Matt Harvey did nothing wrong and everything right Tuesday night. It’s not often you can say that and mean it. But Matt Harvey defies hyperbole. There is no elevatory fact about Matt Harvey that isn’t true or doesn’t at least seem probable.
• Only David Cone’s 19-strikeout performance on the final day of 1991 produced a higher nine-inning game score — Bill James’s metric for measuring pitching dominance — among Mets starters than Harvey’s 12-K, one-hit bonanza. (That’s true; Cone’s was 99, Harvey’s was 97.)
• According to Elias, nobody in the past century besides Harvey has piled up at least 125 strikeouts while permitting 25 or fewer earned runs in the first 17 starts of his career. (That’s also true.)
• Iron Man was spotted at a local multiplex coming out of an early showing of Matt Harvey 3. (Maybe not true, but we could start a very credible urban legend and, really, who’d dispute us?)
It’s a shame Rios’s ground ball was just a little too wayward for Tejada to handle in time to throw him out at first. It’s a shame the Mets succumbed to coonskin-cap coiffed Hector Santiago in the same essential fashion the White Sox succumbed to Harvey and therefore had to hand a 0-0 tie to Bobby Parnell. There is no shame in winning 1-0 in 10 on Mike Baxter’s Whitestone Wondrous pinch-single, but it’s shameful that all Matt has to show for making the mound run red with the blood of White Sox outs is our undying admiration and continuing awe. A perfect game would have been, of course, perfect. A win for the starter would have been perfect justice.
Actually, what would have ratcheted up the perfection quotient a notch or two by my reckoning was my being at Citi Field to see Harvey awarded his W, and I don’t mean that at mere face value or even because I had a ticket for this game I didn’t get to use. See, long before it was known that Tuesday was going to be Harvey Night, it was supposed to be the day I stepped right up to greet one particular Mets fan.
Late last season, I shared with you excerpts of an e-mail I received from a Floridian named Ed Witty, someone who was born to be a Mets fan the way Matt Harvey was born to be a Mets ace. Ed, a contemporary of mine, read my memoir and reached out to tell me it helped awaken in him a latent sense of Metsdom, an allegiance traceable to his late father having been a Mets fan. His dad died when he was very young and, subsequently, sports weren’t part of his life growing up. Then the Mets came roaring back from the depths of his subconscious to his everyday thoughts. A Brooklynite by birth, Ed went to see the Mets visit Miami. He went to see the Mets train in St. Lucie. His next and biggest goal was to come home and see the Mets play at Citi Field.
My goal was to be the Mets fan who went with him. After a bit of back-and-forth over potentially ideal dates, we chose one that looked good: May 7 (when the White Sox would also finally be taking in their very first Mets home game). Ed planned to fly into LaGuardia and stay at a nearby hotel. I planned to meet him in the lobby and guide us on an expedition of our native terrain. Ed wanted to see “the big globe,” so I mapped out our route to the Unisphere. Ed wanted to see where Shea stood, and I was salivating to present it to him. And Ed wanted a Mets game where the Mets play for real, an experience I’ve enjoyed and occasionally endured hundreds of times.
Ed got all that Tuesday night, but not with me. Oh, I followed through on my end of our plans. I scoped out exactly the tickets I wanted and purchased them. I had it down to the half-hour which train I’d take and close to the minute when we’d shake hands. I did my due diligence.
But ultimately there was an unavoidable circumstance, and the game I was so focused on attending with the person I’d been so eager to meet became something I simply couldn’t make. I sent the tickets on ahead, wrapped in regrets and apologies. Ed, however, was totally cool about it. “You know what they say,” he reminded me. “Man plans and G-d laughs. I am not sure why that is, but maybe to remind us that we are not in charge.”
In my absence, Ed enlisted his wife (who was already in the on-deck circle for Wednesday night’s game) and he made the rounds around and inside Citi Field, now and then multimedia-texting to me to express the excitement only a Mets fan can feel — a Mets fan at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.
There was Ed, adorned in blue cap and pinstriped jersey, standing in front of the big globe.
“You look very much at home,” I observed of the first of the pictures he forwarded.
“I feel like I am,” he responded.
Then came Ed and his wife with Citi Field in the background.
“This is the MECCA!!!!” he raved. (And Ed, mind you, is an Orthodox Jew.)
One image later, Ed and wife were sitting in 326, perhaps my favorite section of the ballpark.
“This place is unbelievable! Love the seats! Great view!”
And at the conclusion of ten victorious innings which came a couple of decelerated footsteps from going down as the first perfect game in New York Mets history, “Whoop hooo!!! What an experience!!!” It was “a shame Harvey gets bubkis in the win column,” Ed acknowledged, but a walkless, error-free Harvey-Parnell one-hitter would do quite nicely for a personal Flushing debut…though I imagine a happier homecoming for Robin Ventura, Joe McEwing and young Santiago — the Newark-bred Mets fan who picked the wrong night to try to craft a great pitching story of his own — wouldn’t have palpably dampened Ed’s enthusiasm.
“Yes it is worth coming up here for a few days just to see the Mets at home,” reported our expatriate. “There is nothing like it.” Marlins Park is fine by “Florida standards,” Ed allowed, “but it is nothing like the real thing at Citi. LGM!!!!
“And we get to do it all again tomorrow!”
In the opinion of the unofficial scorer, Ed Witty had himself a perfect game.