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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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The Never-Boring Life of Matt Harvey

For a guy who’s just turned 28, Matt Harvey‘s had quite a life.

He arrived with klieg lights, billed as a phenom and a savior and welcoming both labels. The right arm reminded you of a hallowed Metsian name indeed — and so did the mean streak. Then he was shot from the sky by the failure of the tiniest band of connective tissue, like so many young fireballers are. He went away, came back and kept the Mets alive on the biggest stage of all under the brightest lights possible … only to have it all fall apart with shocking cruelty, transformed from hero to footnote in a few minutes.

And then, in a very strange year even by his standards, Harvey became two things no one could have imagined: a second banana and a question mark.

He’s had nights of glory and weeks of frustration, often accompanied by wrong-way 2-1 and 3-2 scores. He’s suffered self-inflicted wounds, grimly filibustering for the cameras about innings limits and the merits of Qualcomm, and been targeted by talk radio’s professionally cynical hyenas. (BREAKING: HANDSOME YOUNG ATHLETE TAKES MODEL TO SPORTING EVENT!)

And despite all his otherworldly talent, he’s been eclipsed on his own stage. Utter the words “Mets ace” and 100 out of 100 fans will answer, “Noah Syndergaard.” The kid who was a Lansing Lugnut when Harvey arrived has turned out to be both a faster gunslinger and a more natural pitchman, serenely in on the joke while Harvey tries harder and looks unhappier.

The guy all that has happened to is just 28? It feels more like he’s 56, doesn’t it?

Which brings us to tonight, and Harvey’s debut as unknown quantity.

Thoracic outlet surgery, let’s be clear, is no joke: the surgeon removes a rib to create more space for the brachial plexus, a bundle of nerves running from the neck to the arm — nerves that can get pinched in their passage through the space between rib and collarbone. Depending on your profession, the symptoms can include pins and needles in the fingers, numbness, or a loss of feel for breaking pitches.

If a doctor sawed a rib out of me, I’d spend at least the next 18 months on the couch with a bell and a deep reservoir of self-pity. Harvey healed up and got back to work despite knowing the odds — among pitchers who’ve had this surgery, brownouts and farewells outnumber successes.

Tonight, happily, was a success. Harvey mixed his pitches ably, dialing up his fastball to 94 and showing good command of his slider and change-up. His night was marred only by the presence of Matt Kemp, who absolutely destroyed two defenseless baseballs. Meanwhile, the Mets eventually caught up with Jaime Garcia — a fellow returnee from thoracic outlet syndrome — giving Harvey an atypical level of run support.

There were no outfield misadventures. Instead you got a couple of nifty plays by Wilmer Flores, Wilmer’s Fiskian mirror-image homer around the foul pole, and a two-run double from Travis d’Arnaud, who donned the postgame crown without apparently suffering a spontaneous skull fracture, a severe allergic reaction to Chinese spray paint or some other injury that would leave you slack-jawed if it happened to any other player.

Really, it was all one could have hoped for.

I should stop there. But maybe, just maybe, we saw the start of something else out there at Citi Field.

From the day of his arrival, Harvey has never hid his ferocious drive or his naked ambition, barreling over everyone from enemy batters to managers with pitch counts and dickhead teammates looking to haze somebody. Those qualities undoubtedly helped get him to this stage — but when bad luck and ill health arrived, those same qualities seemed to get in his way, leaving him looking like a young man who’d added himself to the enemies list.

Harvey’s no longer a savior, a phenom, or even an ace. He’s a No. 3 starter. That role comes with a lot less wattage, but when you’re down a ligament and a rib before your 30th birthday that might not be a bad thing. Let the big blond beast show off comic-book bobbleheads and baseball-card internships and answer a billion questions after every start. That’ll leave the No. 3 starter with space — or as much as you get in New York — to figure out what a reconfigured body and an older, wiser brain can produce.

And then he’ll see where the road leads. Because if Matt Harvey’s learned anything from all this recent everything, it’s that your destination is uncertain.

13 comments to The Never-Boring Life of Matt Harvey

  • Scott M.

    Wow. Matt Harvey has become the Frank Sinatra of Mets pitchers. He’s been up and down and over and out but he’s doing it his way. Here’s to a happy ending as he rides a summer wind to a championship as New York, New York plays in the background.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Ha! Well said Scott M.

  • Eric

    Good answers so far from the Mets starting pitching. I’m looking forward to Wheeler back on the mound tonight.

    I was also pleased the Nationals lost in extra innings the day after the Mets lost in extra innings. No one’s running out ahead with the division yet.

  • Dennis

    It might be good that he can fly under the radar and instead of being the “Dark Knight” he can just be “Matt Harvey” and have a career as a terrific starting pitcher on several championship Mets teams.

  • LeClerc

    Leaner, cleaner, stronger Harvey. Three consecutive demonstrations of excellence from Mets starters. Looking forward to Wheeler’s return tonight.

    Wilmer batting clean-up behind Cespedes against left-handers is a good step towards offensive effectiveness throughout the 2017 season.

  • Gil

    As much as anyone can say from watching a guy on TV and following him in the papers, I think he’s been humbled by the worlds most humbling game.In the post game presser he even joked a bit about the 800 feet of homeruns he gave up to Kemp. That being said, I do hope that he gets a little of his “nasty” back. He’s our bulldog.

    2 of 3 is a nice start. Really excited to see Wheeler back on the bump.

  • Dave

    If Harvey is a cat, he still has another 6 lives left, so I think there’s reason for optimism. Last night’s performance was very encouraging, and if he becomes more economical and can get through games with lower K rates but much lower pitch counts, I’m real good with that.

    And you’re right, even though he’s only 28, I feel as though he’s an old-timer. An awful lot has happened since we first heard his name and eagerly awaited his arrival.

  • Pete In Iowa

    Really masterful job by Harvey, joining the club of our starters who dominated in their opening starts. Here’s to Wheeler and G’s joining the crew.
    In my mind, the game came down to the double by TDA. While I am certainly no fan of his, that double — with one down and Harvey on deck — was a game-changer deserving of the crown. If he doesn’t come through in that spot, we’ve got 1st and 2nd, two down, and Harvey at the plate. Likely would have ended the frame down 1-0, instead of with a momentum-changing 2-1 lead.

  • Gil

    one more thing I was thinking about: Why do the braves throw to first base every time Cepsy gets on?

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Man I love our starting staff. I really hope Harvey keeps it up, I love rooting for him.

  • Lenny65

    No can ever accuse Matt Harvey of not having testes to burn, the guy has a serious will to succeed. IMO it was really encouraging to watch him pitch…not hurl, but pitch…last night. In control, not wasting his bullets, fantastic demeanor, like I said, encouraging to see. I think if he stays healthy he’s going to catapult himself back into the “best pitcher the NL has to offer” conversation by the time 2017 is done. After everything he’s suffered through it’s a real joy to have him back and in charge again.

    Ditto Mr. Wheeler, cannot wait to cheer him on tonight. Talk about a bumpy ride, on any other team Matt Harvey would be the “hard luck” injury story for the ages. Seems like a lifetime ago when we last saw him take the mound, the sheer tenacity it takes to work his way back to this point is awe-inspiring.

  • eric1973

    Harvey had become number 3 on the mound, and at least number 6 or 7 in our hearts, due to always shooting himself in the foot. However, I always think of this incredible stat, where for his first 50 games, he gave up only one or no runs in half of them.

    Welcome Back to him, and looking forward to welcoming back Wheeler tonight!