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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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That Harvey

Throughout my childhood and into my adolescence, if I had to see the dentist, I was dragged from Long Beach to some deteriorating section of Brooklyn. We stayed loyal to our family dentist even though our family had left that deteriorating section of Brooklyn six months before I was born (later I’d find out that my mother dated the dentist before she met my father, which might explain the endless drives she was willing to endure to continue these appointments). Probably the last time I visited the dentist in question, it was the spring of 1978. I was 15, close to finishing ninth grade. While sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, I picked up a copy of Esquire, then known as Esquire Fortnightly. Flipping through, I found an article about the Olympic figure skater Dorothy Hamill. I was never terribly interested in Dorothy Hamill, figure skating or the Olympics, but something about the article — or how I recall it — stayed with me.

The headline was, “The Exploitation of Dorothy Hamill,” and it suggested, two years after she won her 1976 gold medal, that the innocence was gone. America’s winter sweetheart was now, according to reporter Philip Taubman, “a lonely frightened figure, lost on the road to fame and fortune.” Those who handled her squeezed her into unflattering costumes and disregarded her true skating talent in service to the showbizzy routines of the Ice Capades. It wasn’t a happy fit.

Dorothy was making a nice living from the arrangement, but it just wasn’t what it once was. She was an athlete, first and foremost, but to her sponsors, she represented a corporate bonanza. The shift in priorities didn’t make for a smooth transition. “Sure, it seemed so wonderful at first,” she reflected in 1979, a year after the Esquire piece came out. “I was famous. I was going to be rich. But then the lawyers came rushing in, telling me what I ought to do and with whom. I was depressed, confused. I ended up in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer within a year.”

I’ve been thinking about the state of post-Olympic Dorothy Hamill, not just this weekend but really the whole season. I’ve thought of her when I’ve watched Matt Harvey being Matt Harvey away from the mound. I think back to the Matt Harvey with whom we all fell in baseball love. I think of those first starts in 2012, when if he gave up two runs, he’d berate himself because the Mets scored only one, and one should have been enough for him. If the Mets scored no runs, then he insisted his job was to keep them in the game by putting up zeroes. It was unrealistic, but it was endearing.

No pitcher could put that much pressure on himself and succeed across the long term, but when 2012 became 2013, we got the sense that Matt Harvey could do anything he set his mind and his right arm to. He put up zeroes almost exclusively. He allowed his team every chance to win, and for a while the Mets never lost when he pitched. He threw an almost perfect game while his nose bled. It was revealed he stared down a bully of a veteran teammate. When he needed a run, he drove it in himself. We created a cause around him and we rallied to it.

That Matt Harvey was one of the most awesome Mets I ever rooted for. I adored that Matt Harvey. I miss that Matt Harvey.

If you saw ESPN’s documentary profiling Harvey’s comeback, you’ll realize that an easy, Hamillesque narrative — it was all so simple when it was just Matt and a baseball, before there was money to be made off him — doesn’t quite click here. One of the most compelling segments of The Dark Knight Rises was how Harvey, a high school kid, wouldn’t sign with the Angels, the club that first drafted him, unless they met his price. It was almost heroic the way he didn’t take a lot of money because he thought he was worth a whole lot more money.

Heartwarming, eh?

It worked to our benefit because Matt went to college, was drafted by the Mets, signed with them and we benefited. We’re still benefiting. No matter the explanations he seemed to ship to Guantanamo Bay for enhanced interrogation, he’s been a terrific pitcher for our first-place New York Mets all year. You couldn’t fill your palm with the number of bad starts he’s made.

But even before he expressed poorly timed concern for his future self’s earning ability, this Harvey wasn’t that Harvey, the one from late in 2012 and early in 2013. Frayed invincibility on the field is one thing. We all get that. Nobody’s elbow is repaired and rehabilitated and expected to come back as good as was right away. In that regard, Harvey appears to be a medical miracle. If he hasn’t been invincible, he’s been close enough.

What I miss is his belief that he’s supposed to be invincible, his not accepting setbacks as inevitable. It was ridiculous that he thought he shouldn’t ever give up a run, but I swooned at that kind of talk. After a generation of pitchers excusing their shortcomings on the altar of having done all they could and being satisfied with wherever the chips fell, Harvey didn’t take “no decision” for an answer.

Maybe he couldn’t go on like that. What am I saying? Of course he couldn’t go on like that. But even a wiser, more mature, literally scarred Matt Harvey could have given us the impression that nothing mattered to him but him and the baseball and the winning. I liked that he acted the part of the privileged character. I liked the defiant tone he set, informing us he planned to operate and succeed on a higher level. I liked that he stood out from his talented peers. Let deGrom and Syndergaard and Matz be amiable and amicable. Let Wheeler camp out in St. Lucie for a lost season. I wanted Harvey to stare down everything that was brought at him…including innings limits.

That aura was altered over the course of 2015. The Matt Harvey who said whatever occurred to him now spoke in bland platitudes, as if Dorothy Hamill’s old lawyers came rushing in, telling him what he ought to do and with whom. The Matt Harvey who you figured was His Own Man seemed to have gone through some (rather ineffective) media training. The Matt Harvey who would give up a start only if you pried it from his cold, dead fingers, gladly stepped aside for Logan Verrett a couple of weeks ago.

It was the sophisticated way to be, not rocking the division-leading boat, being on board with management, maybe keeping an eye on a workload that lurked in the back of our minds, so it probably lurked a lot closer to Harvey’s frontal lobe. But I have to admit, I was a little disappointed that Matt didn’t raise a fuss when he was bypassed in Colorado and agreed to cool his heels for an extra five days. That wasn’t the Harvey I developed a Met crush on. It may have been a saner, safer Harvey, but it wasn’t that Harvey.

I didn’t dwell on it, but deep down, I think I suspected something was awry — though I surely didn’t imagine the Dark Knight voluntarily receding.

Not my arm. Not my payday. I keep reminding myself of that. Matt Harvey’s life intersects with mine only in that I began rooting for the enterprise that employs him two decades before he was born. Sure I want him to strike out the moon. Sure I want him to shut up and pitch for me. But it’s not my arm and it’s not my payday.

It’s his life.

But it’s our team. There’s an implied provision in the fan-team covenant that says we care about your well-being if you perform for us. Even if you don’t perform all that well for us, we’ll probably be decent to you, provided we’ve gotten the chance to feel we know you. We make exceptions, but we’ll usually remember you’re human. We sort of get that you can’t be the best every time we watch you. We just want you in there trying.

Or trying to try. Or insisting you’ll try if only you were physically able. There’s nothing shameful about being physically unable. Most of us are physically unable to throw a baseball hard enough for our elbows to notice our exertion. Major League pitchers have very different anatomies from us. We’re surprisingly perceptive on that count. If you’re Harvey and something’s bothering your arm — if something’s making you literally sore — speak up (softly, so the Nationals can’t hear you on the eve of a major series). A diminished version of yourself yields diminishing returns. I think back ten years ago to Braden Looper hiding some kind of injury for six months, preferring to pitch through the pain to help the team. It didn’t help the team. It did the opposite. That’s the kind of thing that makes me feel indecent toward you.

If Matt Harvey is aching, then cater to the ache. Work to soothe it, to heal it, to possibly function with it. If a limb is about to fall off, take it back in for repair and get Verrett up in the pen. Proceed with utmost caution.

If Matt Harvey is thinking that nothing aches unusually now but you can’t be too careful, the winter of 2018-19 is practically around the corner, I wish he’d think about something else.

Not my arm. Not my payday. But it is our passion. Don’t you or your agent go out of your way to screw with that. And for your own good, consider what you signed up for. This is the business you’ve chosen, the business of pursuing championships (the riches tend to follow). When I’ve been in the presence of champions or just heard or read them talking about what being a champion meant and still means to them, they rarely if ever mention the check that accompanied the ring.

I haven’t been asked to pitch since I played tee ball, and if you know tee ball, you can infer what kind of pitching ability I was blessed with, so don’t listen to me. Maybe somebody who won a Cy Young Award and a world championship knows the subject better. Maybe Dwight Gooden, who has said, in essence, take the ball and pitch, Matt. Maybe T#m Gl@v!ne, who has said, in essence, the exact same thing. Hell, take somebody like Shaun Marcum, a former Met attached to no trophies and no jewelry. He went through Tommy John surgery. We haven’t seen him up close since 2013, but he’s still trying to catch on and hang on. He’s just one pitcher, but like Gooden and like Gl@vine, he lands on the side of “sacrific[ing] the long term to try to get to the World Series.” Another former Harvey teammate currently at liberty, the recently DFA’d David Aardsma, threw in his veiled two cents as well: “I’ll pitch…just saying.”

Just saying isn’t the same as just doing. Harvey, in his attempt to Qualcomm a question that had only one answer appropriate for mass consumption, finessed it to a crisp and got rightly burned. It sounded so out of character to hear him say anything other than a slight variation on “give me the ball, I’m here to win.” Finesse is for changing speeds, not derailing Septembers. Agents are for negotiations, not surrenders. Call off your mouthpiece, Matt. Let Scott Boras blow hard on your behalf behind the scenes. Him hinting you wouldn’t pitch come hypothetical October, and you kinda, sorta confirming it without actually saying so, was neither a good look nor sound.

Nevertheless, so what? New York has long been graced by marquee players who were just saying things that played very badly in the moment. Reggie Jackson insulted the captain of his team during his first Spring Training in pinstripes. Darryl Strawberry advised us Los Angeles sure looked like a nice place for him to play full-time on the eve of a playoff showdown with Los Angeles. They were more accomplished than Matt when Matt deferred all relevant questions in the same manner Wimpy promised to pay Popeye for his hamburger: to “Tuesday,” the date of his next scheduled start (sporting of him to concede he’d keep his appointment). Reggie and Darryl shook off whatever heat they took for aggravating their teams and fans by coming up big when it mattered. That’s all that matters. But to come up big, you have to show up big.

You have to show up in October if October presents itself. You don’t fool around with that. If you can’t make it, we’ll worry about it then. But don’t give us the idea it’s of secondary importance to you a month in advance. Don’t break our covenant.

Harvey, having failed the oral portion of his exam on Saturday, took to his handy Players Tribune perch Sunday and announced in headline form, “I Will Pitch in the Playoffs.” Since he’s the New York City Bureau Chief, I assume he writes his own headlines. He can write his own ticket by helping ensure there are playoffs for him and his less controversial colleagues to pitch in. The Mets encountered another Martin Prado-shaped speed bump on their way out of Miami, so they can use all the help they can get.

Our overly branded young man has enough formal advisers on the business end and medical side, but I’ll extend a second opinion nobody requested. Matt: Talk like you pitch; don’t pitch like you talk.

31 comments to That Harvey

  • Art

    Greg, once again you reflect the thoughts of Mets fans. The mystique of Harvey Day is forever gone. Matt is no longer “one of us” the way Wilmer Flores has become and unfortunately the wound is self-inflicted.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I agree with the sentiment of your column, & Matt would have done well to put more thought into what he was going to say. That being said, I’m a little fed up with the over the top outrage on display from too many Mets fans, many of them adults who should be capable of nuance. It’s totally unfair to question his integrity, toughness, competitiveness, or desire to win based on these peculiar events. After what he’s already given us? Why the light speed rush to judgement? Let’s see how things play out from here. If you want to hate Boras though, that’s fine by me. ;)

    • James Allen

      Boras works for Harvey, not the other way around, therefore Boras is Harvey’s mouthpiece. You cannot divorce what Boras said from Harvey unless Harvey directly repudiates him (which he didn’t) or fires him.

      And why the “rush to judgement” cliche? Harvey is not on trial for murder. His agent and he have made direct statements that aren’t exactly hard to parse.

  • eric1973

    Not unfair to question his integrity at all. That is what is fueling all this outrage toward him. He has shown a total lack of integrity, and it was all this vitriol toward him from everybody that made him change his mind.

  • Steve D

    What Harvey posted today should have been posted the first mention of this and there would have been no problem. I am going to apportion my blame to mostly Boras. I am exactly 2 days younger than Dwight Gooden, so imagine how he was my hero in 1984-5. In 1986, younger fans may not realize, he was already on the downslide. April 1987 and on forever changed how I assess heroes. Harvey is a bit clumsy, but for me, pitch well in the playoffs and all is forgiven. He is not my hero and what he says cannot really change my life…what he does on the field can make a lifetime memory and it appears he is going to try to do that, as well he should.

  • Lou from Brazil

    Greg, thanks for the calm and reasoned recap after a crazy couple of days. I too had my pitchfork ready like many Mets fans. It’s not that we don’t all know Harvey’s motivations- he wears them on his sleeve. He wants money, fame, models, and NYC in the palm of his hand. But I question his methods. I asked this before but ask again, would the Yankees even want him? They may have been his childhood team but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be the highest bidder when the time comes, nor is it clear that they would want someone who has just said he doesn’t want to risk his future doing his job. He’s young, he’s been told how great he is for the last few years and surely it’s gone to his head. But regardless of how alpha he is or his health, there’s no guarantee he doesn’t become the next David Aardsma just because. He ought to treat the Mets with a bit more respect- they let him have his way throughout his rehab and have done a good job protecting his health. This is MLB. They aren’t just handing out starts to people.

  • dmg

    yes, it’s fair to call this matt harvey’s “disappointed but not devastated” moment.

    i’m glad he recanted, but this will stick unless he plays a significant role in this season’s october baseball. and even then, we won’t forget it. perhaps you’ve noticed: fans have a long memory.

  • Daniel Hall

    Since yesterday’s bitter loss, I have that feeling of inevitable, unavoidable, impending doom, especially with what’s on our plate after this serving of undercooked fish, which makes Harvey’s assurance that he will pitch in the playoffs a moot point.

  • Bunker

    I always err on the side of Labor. Matt’s arm, not mine. I can’t demand anything from him.

  • ljcmets

    Greg,
    This is the most thoughtful piece I have read all weekend on this ridiculous, didn’t-need-to-happen imbroglio.

    I have to say when I first heard of it, my response was the exact opposite of most Mets fans: that the Mets were once again not coming clean with the fanbase about the severity of an injury or the amount of time it would take for a player to be 100% healed ( or in this case, the plan going forward to keep an injury from recurring ). They have , to be charitable, appeared lost and unsure in how they have handled player injuries; or, to be uncharitable, they have appeared short-sighted or even worse, flat- out untruthful with the fans, the media and even the player himself (David Wright, anyone? Ryan Church? ). A few good trades will not earn this front office the benefit of the doubt from me on this issue, not after the woeful track record of the past decade. (Just this weekend, the sight of Daniel Murphy practically limping to first base was appalling. What was he even doing in the game, with the Nats series coming up, risking further injury to a quad muscle that had already cost him at least a month of the season?)

    Given that, it was entirely conceivable to me that the Mets had been ignoring the urgency of this issue since Matt reached 140 innings, and that Boras going public was a last-ditch effort to make them wake up and see reason. The over-the-top language that the Mets might actually be putting Harvey’s career in peril supports that interpretation.

    Given what we know of the agent here, it was also entirely consistent with past behavior that this was indeed some kind of power play on the part of Boras to use the innings limit as a way of turning this situation to his client’s favor. After knowing all season that the limit was 180 or so innings, what better way to create sympathy – and deflect criticism if his client was not going to pitch in the ( please G-d) playoffs than to imply it was the Mets who had bungled yet again?

    These two scenarios are not mutually exclusive, and it was also entirely possible that both were in play. Neither is flattering to the principals involved.

    After Sandy’s furious reaction, and especially his very uncharacteristic public comments, I began to lean more heavily toward the second scenario, i.e., Boras off on his own on an ill-advised PR move. Matt’s public comments and especially his deer-in-the-headlights interview Saturday has me convinced that Boras is responsible for this dust-up, and that his client knew little to nothing of his plans.

    Given Matt’s public statements all season, and even more his very public behavior, it is obvious to me that he has every intention of pitching in October, should the Mets get there.

    Unlike most Mets fans, I am taking no umbrage at his comments on Saturday, and they were certainly not a “betrayal” of any kind. They were truthful, and entirely consistent with reality. Boras is supposed to be handling the business side of things, and Dr. Andrews is supposed to be the medical authority. Matt is supposed to pitch. That is why an athlete or any great talent hires agents – to represent their interests financially and otherwise- and Matt, to my eye, was clearly trying to express his confidence in Boras while not looking or sounding confident at all. He seemed bewildered and I believe he did not authorize Boras to go public with whatever conversations were going on behind the scenes and certainly not to call out the Mets in such stinging terms.

    By doing so, Boras acted beyond his authority and created a terrible situation for his client, and Matt is now trying to defuse this powder keg to the extent possible. It’s entirely possible that we may see him quietly change agents in the off-season, but he’s certainly not going to fire him now and make this even more of a spectacle. And the Mets are not trading Matt Harvey if they have any sense, even if his agent is difficult to work with.

    As for Matt himself, I totally agree with you that he has seemed different all season. He is no longer the charming if a little full of himself pitcher we saw in 2013. Being knocked around by life a little will make you guarded, and his injury, which has the potential to halt his career in his tracks, has clearly convinced him he is not invincible. Coupled with some silly PR misfires (Qualcomm, anyone) and unjustified criticism (athletes can go on vacation to Thailand and even tweet that they’re enjoying it, and it’s not a personal insult to the fans) it has turned his personality somewhat cautious and his answers to reporters’ questions into “Bull Durham”- like platitudes. But that process was inevitable, anyway, as you have so eloquently stated, Greg. It’s called growing up, and as painful as it may be, it allows us to achieve a richer and more successful life. I believe that Matt Harvey’s best is ahead of us, and that come October, should we be so lucky, we may see it in full flower.

    • otb

      This seems to me to be an extremely thoughtful response to Greg’s thoughtful entry. Being older than most of the readers of FAFIF (I grew up rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers), I’m probably not as emotionally invested in the Mets as some (although yesterday’s loss sticks in my craw), and I haven’t been following Matt Harvey’s public statements and tweets and whatever as closely as most. I also have not been especially infatuated with him (I actually find Jacob deGrom a more interesting personality, maybe because of the abundance of hair, of which I have an extreme shortage). Anyway, the series with the Nats starting today is crucial whether Harvey pitches tomorrow or not. Let’s hope Harvey gets the opportunity to pitch in the post season this year.

  • Dennis

    The bottom line with this mess is that if Boras and Harvey had known about this 180 innings limit, then that should have been communicated to the Mets before spring training started, and then they could have planned accordingly…..plain and simple. I have no problem with a young pitcher wanting to preserve the longevity of his career. This just wasn’t the smart way to go about it.

    • Matt in Richmond

      That is correct. It wasn’t smart. He made an error in judgement. That doesn’t make him evil, or a traitor, or a Yankee.

  • Parth

    My issue with Saturday’s pointless presser was not what Harvey said- he was clearly unprepared, and straddled the middle ground not to expose his agent as he was trying to gather the facts behind Boras’ outburst. It was the absence of the word “Mets” throughout the 8 minutes that will live in infamy that infuriates the fanbase.

  • sturock

    This, too, shall pass. I am much more concerned about today’s game and the rest of this series. Please, let the wheels stay on this bus of ours!

  • Ryan (not Nolan)

    Let’s ease up on the guy. He’s coming back from a major injury and would be stupid to not be thinking about his long-term health. When Johan told Terry he wasn’t going to lose a chance at the Mets first no-hitter, he’d already had several exceptional seasons and had pitched in the playoffs. He wasn’t in his second season like Harvey. Harvey’s clearly and understandably been confused but he said/wrote the right thing yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, I hate all the pitch count talk and wish Boras would stay far away from Citi Field, but let’s not vilify a guy who’s been nothing but a gamer since he stepped on the mound for us. Until he gives us a Glavine post-game response, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt!

  • eric1973

    Maybe all this distraction takes the pressure off Niese and he socks it to ’em today. These 3 games have a playoff atmosphere! LGM!

    #allborasfault

  • ExileInLA

    Any time I hear a baseball player claim his need to protect his family and his future, I look to see if they signed a Niese-type contract; if they didn’t give up some upside to lock in enough money for life, I ignore their phony plea.

    The Mets would eagerly sign Harvey to a deal that keeps him even for 2019, I’m sure; 4 years for $36mm (4/7/10/15) would be a bargain for the Mets, and would allow Matt to have $10mm (after taxes and Boras, and a very nice lifestyle) in the bank at age 30.

  • Michael G.

    If we were 15 games up on the Nats, this Harvey pitching-in-the-playoffs stuff would be a lot more relevant. We’ve gotta make the playoffs first before worrying about whether he can pitch in it. Meanwhile, he’s got at least two more starts in him before hitting the so-called limit. Let’s win those two (especially tomorrow), then see where we are. With Matz back, we should be able to rest Harv to some degree this month.

    • Steve D

      Good point…I bet the Nats were pissed off and said, these guys think they have the playoffs locked up. They are into our bullpen in the 4th and this is scary. Harvey will have a LOT of pressure on him tomorrow it appears.

  • Eric

    Harvey’s assurance that he’ll pitch in the play-offs answers one pressing question, although it confuses more on the question of whether Harvey has a hard innings cap or not. Are play-off innings somehow less taxing than regular-season innings?

    Of course, the Mets have to get there first against a hot Nationals team.

    An interesting aspect is that the difference wasn’t big to begin with.

    2 more starts, including on Tuesday, projects Harvey to 180 innings.

    The Mets had already planned on a six-man rotation and to skip a 2nd start for Harvey. Including his start on Tuesday, a six-man rotation with no more skipped starts meant 5 more starts for Harvey, including the last game of the season against the Nationals. Subtract the 2nd skipped start – that’s 4 remaining starts planned for Harvey before Boras publicly objected to the Mets’ plan.

    Right now, it appears the compromise is a 3rd skipped start so Harvey will have 3 more starts or about 187 innings projected. Even allowing for Harvey to change his mind late about the Mets’ plan for 4 more starts, skipping a 3rd start couldn’t have been worked out with Alderson and Collins behind the scenes?

    And again, does Harvey have a hard cap on innings or not? If it’s a soft limit, the original plan for the regular season and play-offs makes more sense. If it’s a hard cap, it’s odd that Harvey is stingy about 180+ regular-season innings but assures he’ll be available for possibly many more innings in the play-offs.

    • ExileInLA

      It’s too much to plan the whole month — a lot depends on how the lead holds out.
      After Harvey & deGrom vs WAS, the schedule – and MY proposed starters for the next 2 weeks – looks like this:
      ATL (Sept 10-13, road): Colon – Verrett (regular rest) – Niese – Matz
      MIA (Sept 14-16, home): Thor – deGrom – Colon
      Sept 17 – off day
      NYY (Sept 18-20, home): Harvey (2 inning tuneup) relieved by Niese – Matz – Thor
      ATL (Sept 21-23, home): deGrom – Colon – Niese
      CIN (Sept 24-27, road):
      Sept 28 – off day
      PHL (Sept 29-Oct 1, home):
      WAS (Oct 2-4, home):
      Oct 5 playoff game:
      Oct 6 wild card game:

  • Steven

    Can you please talk a lot about Niese always pitching like you did with Carlos Torres and get Niese hurt please?

    • Eric

      That’s now 4 straight starts where Niese has been raked over after a just-okay quality start against the Pirates in which he contained the damage.

      There’s nothing to be done for it except for Niese to auto-correct, unfortunately, more so with Harvey’s situation. No such thing as too much pitching depth.

  • Ed Rising

    I was more concerned with how the Mets did not control that press conference with Harvey. He was left out there too long with the media asking him the same questions over and over again. Where was Jay Horowitz or Sandy Alderson or even Terry Collins to intercept these questions and end it? Harvey may come across as arrogant but he is still just a kid who is in only his 3rd season (Second full) season in big leagues. He is coming back from a major surgery and as much as I want him to be able to perform for the Mets in September and in postseason ((f we get there), I want him to be around for many postseasons down the road. Keep in mind he will be much stronger next year. Another thing that I think a lot of fans are forgetting – 2015 was suppose to be sort of a dress rehearsal to being contenders and playoff team. I want to win but not so bad that we cannot appreciate the huge step this team has taken in 2015.

    • DK

      TC said today that he advised Harvey to not speak to the media in Miami and wishes he ordered him not to speak. So may not have been possible for Mets officials to play an intermediate role if Harvey was determined to speak.