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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.

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The Wilkman’s Matinee

By now Mets fans know who Adam Wilk is. Prior to Sunday afternoon’s game at Citi Field, and not very long prior, the erstwhile Las Vegas 51 was a literal mystery. At the top of the Rotunda staircase, where nine Topps cards are arranged daily to represented the home team’s lineup, there were eight familiar images and one blank vertical rectangle. Not even a Mets logo was up in place of a player whose arrival wasn’t publicly forecast three hours before first pitch. There was no Adam Wilk on the radar, none. There was no card, no picture, no wisp of Wilk among the gamegoing populace unless they stumbled into the news. Some of us checked Twitter on the way to the ballpark and discovered who would be pitching (and who would not). Others passed through the turnstiles with literally no idea.

When, at 12:10 PM, Alex Anthony announced the identities of the competing starting pitchers slated to toe the rubber sixty minutes hence, there was this reaction from somewhere behind me in Section 515 regarding the identity of the Met entry:

“Adam What?”

No, Adam Wilk. Lefthander. Journeyman lefty acquired in the offseason, I could have informed the mystified; I remembered that from a passing transaction note during the winter when the Mets were busy signing next to nobody, which I guess could also describe Adam Wilk. Wears number…actually, I didn’t know that much. As if to obscure the truth from their customers, the Mets didn’t post a batting order on the scoreboard until they absolutely had to. Maybe there was a computer glitch that wouldn’t allow an unfamiliar sequence like W-I-L-K to register. Maybe Adam’s jersey wasn’t yet back from Stitches of Whitestone and nobody in Flushing yet knew his number was going to be 35. Those were digits that graced the uniforms of pitchers whose effectiveness while dressed as Mets few saw coming when they were first listed as probable pitchers. Rick Reed. Dillon Gee. Logan Verrett. Each alighted with more warning than Wilk. Each acquitted himself successfully on the occasion of his first start. They were improbable pitchers, but their task wasn’t impossible. They weren’t pinged all about the continental United States before being handed a baseball and instructed to face real, live batters. They didn’t materialize out of the not terribly clear blue never mind murky orange as Wilk did on Sunday.

There’s a reason for the phrase “probable pitchers”. Definite is best reserved for that which is past or present. Nothing is any more than probable in advance of occurrence. When I left the house en route to Citi Field Sunday morning, the Mets’ probable pitcher matched the identity — name and numerical — on the back of the t-shirt I decided to don, the t-shirt I bought with little hesitation in September of 2012. It couldn’t be seen underneath my hoodie and jacket in the stubborn chill and eventual drizzle of Promenade, but I was wearing HARVEY 33.

Nobody else was. Not even HARVEY 33 himself. As Wilk prepared for his first major league start in five years, Matt Harvey was yesterday’s news. In truth, he turned into what was very much today’s news, but not for pitching. That was the one thing we definitely knew he wouldn’t be doing on Sunday. We didn’t know much more about what Matt was up to beyond he was suspended by the Mets for violating what the Mets called team rules. That was relayed by Sandy Alderson and disseminated through the media. That fact, like the lineup, wasn’t posted on the scoreboard. All we saw of Harvey at Citi Field was his fleeting presence in the pregame historical montage that is aired on the video screen between sponsorship announcements. Matt Harvey starting the 2013 All-Star Game. Matt Harvey shouting after completing an inning. Matt Harvey blending into the past.

At 1:10 WILK 35 took the mound. It couldn’t have been 1:20 before Giancarlo Stanton took him into the Left Field Landing or whatever it’s called now. Two runners were on. Three Marlins scored. Four batters in, the competitive portion of Adam Wilk’s day was done. Same for the Mets. Wilk would throw eighty pitches. Another would be whacked by Stanton to distant precincts. Yet another met a similar fate from the bat of Adeiny Hechavarria. By the time Wilk threw his eightieth pitch, his earned run average was 12.27, the score was Marlins 6 Mets 0 and the only mysteries remaining were:

1) Might the drizzle turn into full-blown rain and transform the three Marlin blasts into uncountable urban legend the way precipitation drowned Jay Bruce’s home run in Atlanta last Thursday night?

2) Would the Mets register as many as one hit against Marlin starter Jose Urena, who, by the way, hadn’t given up any yet?

3) What the fudge was going on with Harvey?

The answers were, in order: no, but it did keep drizzling throughout what became a 7-0 defeat, making a miserable afternoon that much more intolerable; yes, a René Rivera single, which stood alone under the Mets hit column at day’s end; and who the fudge knows?

Adam Wilk did the best he could under the circumstances, which were on a par with the weather and score. Wilk shouldn’t have wound up (or been working from the stretch) on Citi Field’s mound Sunday. That was Harvey’s assignment. Harvey, in our own historical montage, wants the ball, takes the ball, throws the ball past batters and we roar with approval. Hard to cue up that image lately. Matt was battered in his previous start against the Braves. Said he was encouraged by how good the ball felt coming out of his hand. I used to be encouraged by how good my pencil felt as I filled in the wrong answers on junior high math tests, but it didn’t mean the results added up. Matt’s was such a wan response compared to how he visibly burned to vanquish every hitter in sight when he debuted in 2012, when he insisted he should never give up anything when the ball came out of his hand, when he inspired t-shirt sales and the renaming of days in his honor.

The boilerplate Matt spouted about the ball coming out of his hand well after he gave up six runs in five-and-a-third innings reminded me of the diagnosis delivered to the titular characters by Dr. Robert Doback (Richard Jenkins) in one of my favorite movies, Step Brothers, at a juncture of the story when Doback’s son and stepson are no longer colorfully destroying his world. He should be happy at their feints toward maturity but he realizes something is missing:

“It just kills me to see you so crushed and normal.”

Of course John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell as Dale Doback and Brennan Huff weren’t coming off thoracic outlet surgery, so perhaps holding Matt Harvey to the standard set by dopey fictional characters was no more fair than continuing to cast him as the Dark Knight of Gotham. Calculating what standard to measure Harvey against has been difficult from the moment he showed he was different from other pitchers. Harvey has seemed determined to demonstrate how different he is. When he was striking out batters, it was admirable. When he’s not showing up and putting on his uniform as he didn’t Saturday — the team rule he violated in deference to a post-golf migraine, it was titillatingly reported before Sunday was over — his nonconformity isn’t easily written off as a lovable quirk. Or to quote from another movie I enjoy citing regarding the distinction between bush and big league behavior…

“Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You’ll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you’ll be classy. Win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press’ll think you’re colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it only means you are a slob.”

I don’t care what’s on Matt Harvey’s shoes, who designed them, how much he paid for them or in which supermodel’s company he was wearing them as he canoodled. I used to think he’d win 20 or, more importantly, that the Mets would prevail whenever he pitched regardless of who got the decision. Matt Harvey has pitched to an ERA of 5.14 this season a year and a rib after pitching to an ERA of 4.86. I barely passed geometry, but even I know that’s good only when compared to a recently deplaned Adam Wilk.

Larger than life and an All-Star at 24; squirming at staying on the same page as management at 25 and 26; crushed and normal and a little too AWOL at 28. I still have HARVEY 33. It’s probable I’ll wear it again when next I’m supposed to see him pitch, whenever that will be. What the hell, the shirt still fits.

35 comments to The Wilkman’s Matinee

  • Gil

    Pepe Le Pew in the first two! I really like TJ. If he gets daily at-bats he’s going to be a really nice player for us. Maybe one day the Mets will be offering “TJ Rivera batting glove day”, and when kids show up to the park, they can actually say when they receive them, “This guy can hit!”

    If the news that Lugo and Matz could be back by the end of the month is somewhere near the bullseye, we just have to hold the ship for a month with a ragged battery.

    Harvey has become as disappointing as a trip to the doctor when you learn you have VD. I’ve seen enough. And I’ve definitely had enough of comic book nicknames for ball players. The Dark Knight…. GOTHAM IS BEING RAVAGED WHILE BATMAN TAKES THE DAY OFF AFTER A GOLF OUTING.

  • sturock

    What is going on with this team? Why can’t Matt Harvey just call somebody and say he won’t be coming to work tomorrow? What is his problem? (Oh yeah, he thinks he’s still The Dark Knight…)

    Meanwhile, the Mets have won six out of the last nine and will finally get to play teams outside the division.

    And I agree with Gil: TJ must play!

  • LeClerc

    Harvey will never be a man of Granderson’s or Wright’s stature. Nor does he have the empathy and working man’s ethic that Asdrubal Cabrera and Rene Rivera possess.

    He doesn’t come from the no running water poverty that Yoenis experienced (the memory of which must serve as inspiration to continued excellence for Cespedes).

    Harvey is a gifted athlete who just happens to value super-models, cigars and champagne over the respect of his peers. Maybe he’ll eventually help the Mets win a World Series. Maybe he’ll get traded to a down-market, beer and pretzels type of franchise. He’s making his own bed – one way or the other.

    Adam Wilk probably did his best under the circumstances. So did Giancarlo Stanton.

    Two cheers for Paul Sewald for admirable mop-up duty.

    • Greg Mitchell

      Possible abuse warning: Sewald tosses 59 pitches–a few hours after hurling two full innings Sat. night.

  • Harvey Poris

    The Magnificent Seven starting pitching staff from spring training is now reminding me of Generation K of days of yore.

  • open the gates

    It’s still early in the process, but I’d say tentatively that Alderson is handling the Harvey situation just right. With the constant onslaught of injuries the past few years, the only way the Mets have battled their way to the top has been by awesome efforts by the able-bodied. We’ve seen guys like Cabrera, Walker and Cespedes killing themselves to get on the field and produce. You have Zack Wheeler pushing himself for two years to get back to the majors. There’s no room for the sulking malingerer that Harvey has become, and his production no longer earns him a free pass. He needs to suck it up, apologize to his teammates and fans, and grow the hell up. Alderson should stick to his guns. He’s sending the right message, and I think his other players appreciate it.

    • Dennis

      I agree. Grow up and be responsible to the team that is paying you.

      He was described early on as almost Seaver-like, but he’s so far removed from him, especially with Seaver’s work ethic and dedication to his craft and team. Not that any player should get away with things, but a 31-30 career record certainly doesn’t give him carte blanche to bend the rules either.

    • Matt in Woodside

      Agreed. Wherever Harvey was, there’s not too many jobs out there where you can just skip a day, not call in, and then make up some lame excuse after the fact.

      And “I was playing golf but I got a headache and went home” has to be the lamest excuse in the history of lame excuses.

      • Lenny65

        And when someone with a “regular” job falls ill and has to miss work, it’s on them to make sure management knows what’s up and it’s on them to deal with the fallout too.

  • Will in Central NJ

    I hereby declare Adam Wilk as the Jack Egbert of the 2017 NY Mets.

  • Matt in Richmond

    No excuse for ditching the team and glad he was punished. However, before we all bury the guy it shouldn’t be forgotten all he has done for this team, particularly in 2015. After being advised to cap his innings he said screw it and carried us all the way through to the division title, NLCS and WS, capped off with that magnificent effort in Game 5 where he shut the Royals out for 8 innings.

    I’ve been seeing comparisons with Generation K on various websites and it needs to stop. Forget that there is every reason to believe that this group has much success ahead of it, they have ALREADY far surpassed that group with what they’ve done the last few years. Perspective people, perspective.

    • Matt Harvey

      I appreciate it, Matt. I think people make too big a deal over me appearing in the body issue of ESPN, dating supermodels, tangling with the Mets over where to do my rehab assignment, tweeting out a picture of me giving the middle finger before my arm surgery, attending Jeter’s final game, listening to my agent and telling the team I wont pitch past 180 innings, saying “I’m a Met, for now” when asked about weather I’d prefer to play for the Mets or Yankees, missing mandatory workouts in the playoffs, demanding the ball in the late innings of the biggest game of my life and proceeding to give up a walk and a double before exiting and eventually losing the game, telling the world on a talk show that off season that I’ve had a threesome on a baseball field, refusing to speak to reporters after my blood clot, refusing to speak to reporters after losses, appearing more on page 6 than the win column lately, and just recently, having a “headache” after I golfed all morning and not telling the team that I wasn’t coming to work, and then filing a grievance against the team and not manning up and apologizing to my organization, my teammates, the staff, and every fan that came to see me pitch that day.

  • Lenny65

    First of all, I feel bad for Adam Wilk. Sure, he was lousy and all but from what I’ve read he traveled from New Mexico to LA to NYC overnight then arrived a few hours before an early afternoon start AND he walked into a clubhouse that was all abuzz and confused, it’s a minor miracle that he didn’t get hit even harder than he did.

    Harvey is a MLB veteran who surely understands team protocol for dealing with a crisis, illness or emergency and it’s 100% on him to follow that protocol when he can’t be where he’s supposed to be at a given time. IMO at this point in his flagging career he should be doing everything possible to avoid getting into a situation where he’s blowing off his team responsibilities and if that means cutting back on his outside activities than so be it. As a migraine sufferer I sympathize, however the Mets can’t allow him or anyone else to flout team rules.

    Again just my opinion but I think he should forget his “grievance”, suck it up and offer an apology (to Wilk too), then get back to work. Right now he’s not very good and while he has a totally valid excuse for not being the Matt Harvey of old, there’s no way that ever changes if he’s embroiled in ridiculous dramatics and not focusing squarely on working his way back into form…if he can, that is. Thanks to whatever he was doing on Saturday night the Mets are plastered all over the back pages again for all the wrong reasons. That’s on him and it needs to stop.

  • Seth

    One thing that’s missing from this story is actually hearing Harvey’s explanation. I hesitate to jump to conclusions without giving him a chance to defend himself.

    • Eric

      Or any explanation, really. As far as I know, the only thing that’s known outside the team is that Harvey was suspended for 3 days, which included 1 start, without pay for violating team rules.

      We can guess the infraction was important enough, either on its own or as the tipping point of an accumulation, to make a snap decision to suspend Harvey that required a last-second emergency starter. But we don’t know the details.

      It is disappointing. In 2012, Harvey was supposed to be the first, the captain, of the staff of aces coming up. The status implied peer leadership as well as performance on the field. Whatever he did, the suspension is not a good sign about his leadership.

      The hope was Harvey would make it back from the thoracic outlet surgery as strong as he came back from his Tommy John surgery. But the 2nd surgery is it’s own surgery and recovery. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Harvey struggled physically this time around.

      I wonder whether Harvey has psychologically recovered from failing in the 9th inning of World Series Game 5. That was his Bumgarner moment and Harvey didn’t measure up. He hasn’t been ‘Happy Harvey Day’ Harvey since then – or maybe it’s just the rib problem.

    • Seth

      We were given some explanation — that he didn’t show up at the park on Saturday, which is against team policy — so he was suspended. But there were circumstances surrounding this no-show that I’d like to hear more about.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    I love the analogy to the Junior High School Pencil.

    The only Met who seems to have been quoted criticizing Harvey was Jose Reyes, saying something about we’re all employees and everyone knows the rules. Funny, because I seem to recall something about Jose Reyes not knowing the rule about not smacking one’s wife around. Now he’s the authority on How a Met Should Behave.

  • Daniel Hall

    I’ll just plainly state that I am filled to the brim with terrible sadness because of this terrible clown troupe of a team…

  • JoeG

    I agree that, assuming what we’ve heard is accurate, punishment was in order.
    However, IMO management took a “cut off your own nose to spite your face” approach.
    Why not just fine him? Or suspend him without pay for an upcoming start?

    By suspending him yesterday they:
    -Made the disastrous starting rotation situation even worse.
    -Created more drama & negative publicity, of which there has been plenty. And just when they had a reasonably good week.
    -Drastically reduced the possibility of getting a much needed sweep to help turn the tide.
    (Of course, with them being one-hit ultimately the outcome likely wouldn’t have changed.)

    I understand suspending him yesterday demonstrated a firmer, no-nonsense stance, and sent a message to the rest of the team. But it is also clear that this was the culmination of a longstanding problem. Was this really the moment to finally take that stand?

    • Matt in Woodside

      Jon Heyman published more details this afternoon. It sounds like they called up Wilk for the emergency start, but they didn’t make the final decision to suspend Harvey until talking to him on Sunday morning, and that he might have still pitched if he had a better explanation or had shown a bit of contrition. Guessing that talk didn’t go so well?

      https://www.fanragsports.com/mlb/mets/heyman-shedding-light-matt-harvey-situation/

      IMHO, at some point Collins and Alderson have to do something beyond a fine. Otherwise it’s going to affect the morale of other players if they see him get a slap on the wrist for just totally ditching out on home game, not calling anyone (the team found out he was “sick” after Warthen texted him to find out where he was), and then turning his phone off.

  • Dave

    Back to my grumpy old guy mode…there sure is a lot of shit going on with this team lately that Gil Hodges would not have tolerated. Not one bit.

  • Lenny65

    Perhaps they’ll prove me wrong YET AGAIN but this time I can’t really fault the Mets all that much. Sure, they essentially “punted” the game away by starting an ill-prepared (and probably exhausted) substitute pitcher (although that doesn’t explain or excuse away the ONE hit they managed to eke out) but again, the rules are the rules and at this stage of his MLB career Harvey knows the deal. I can forgive his on-field struggles, as a) he’s attempting to come back from TWO medical issues that surely would have felled many lesser men and b) he’s demonstrated what he’s capable of and merits the opportunity and the benefit of the doubt in that regard.

    But you let him start (or continue to) slough off his baseball responsibilities and next thing you know the Mets clown car is on the side of the road in flames. If he has a beef with the organization, go out there, become a hot commodity again, go somewhere else at the first opportunity and throw it back in their faces. But the stuff about being ill, falling asleep and failing to communicate properly is bush league, he’s been doing this long enough to know where and when he’s supposed to be the day before a start. The fact that they suspended him as they did would seem to indicate this was not an isolated incident, either.

  • Matt in Richmond

    IMHO most people are making way too much of thls. Particularly galling is the sanctimonious and sentimental longing for the “good old days” where nonsense like this supposedly didn’t happen. Please. Guys showed up to the ballpark drunk from the night before, smoked during games, did uppers like crazy, and engaged in more nonsense than I could begin to enumerate here. He made a mistake. He paid the price. Let’s move on. When outsiders try to decide who the good guys and the bad guys are they are just setting themselves up to be made fools of.

    • Matt in Woodside

      It was a tough call for sure. And I’m not discounting Harvey’s past heroics on the mound. I don’t think anyone here is. What was Alderson/Collins supposed to do here, though? If he’s so sick the night before a day game start that he can’t make it to the park the day before, then he absolutely has to get in touch with the team. Proactively. Apparently he didn’t do that. That’s seriously messed up. “I’m stuck in bed with a debilitating migraine but don’t worry about making any roster moves or calling anyone up because I’m sure I’ll feel great by 1pm tomorrow so I’m shutting my phone off” doesn’t really cut it. The team can’t let that stand.

  • eric1973

    We already know from his response upthread (very creative and very accurate) that Harvey is a major-league asshole. He has embarrassed himself and the organization enough times, and it has indeed become cumulative, deserving of the suspension.

    Sometimes, winning a single game takes a backseat to winning the season. Unfortunately, it will turn into two games if Milone gets shelled as well.

    Even more ironic than Reyes calling out Harvey, which was phenomenal, is Harvey being accused BY THE METS of miscommunication.

    The Grand Ole Truth is, he was probably watching the NY Rangers and did not want to leave the TV. If he cannot cut it on the field, that is fine, due to injury, but you cannot keep behaving like an immature idiot.

    Also, this makes TC and the organization look really bad, and it shouldn’t, because TC is a very decent guy who shouldn’t have to be subjected to this. He re-made himself after team mutinies in LA and Houston, and he cannot afford to lose this team as well.

    • Dennis

      Great post eric! I think teams can be tolerant with some of these players up to a point given how immature they can be at times, but the is a 28 year old and enough is enough. Be a responsible man and cut the bullshit.

  • eric1973

    And BTW, so far this pitching rotation hasn’t done shit, except for deGrom. All the others rate ‘incomplete’ due to injury.

  • Steve D

    The mention of Gil Hodges above struck a nerve with me. As I said before, I live in the past with this franchise. The present is almost always too painful. I don’t really remember 1969 first hand, but certainly know it through all the stories over the years. Glad I got to see 1986, but what I know about some of those players tarnished it for me. In my mind it is going to be the early 70s, Jane Jarvis, Shea with the blue and orange panels, helmet day, doubleheaders, etc. I expect nothing from this current franchise and that is a shame. The World Series two years ago was nice, but that happens once every other decade around here.

  • Matt in Richmond

    To say this rotation hasn’t done shit is to rewrite history. Harvey was instrumental in carrying us to the WS in 2015. Regular season 189 innings 2.71 era and 1.019 WHIP. Postseason he made 4 starts went 2-0 with 3.04 ERA and 1.088 WHIP. All Noah did in our playoff game last year was go 7 innings 2 hits 0 runs and 10Ks. This after a regular season where he won 14 games with a 2.60 ERA. Of course their story is incomplete but they’ve already accomplished more than most can even dream of.

  • eric1973

    And Dennis, then the Diva Knight has the absolute gall to file a grievance???

    Matt, all these guys have shown flashes of brilliance, some for even a whole season before getting injured, but so far they are more similar to Generation K than to Seaver, Koosman, and Matlack/Gentry.

  • Lenny65

    Nah, “Generation K” never really accomplished anything with the Mets, nothing like what deGrom, Harvey, Syndergaard and Matz have. It reminds me more of the Gooden/Darling/Sid/Ojeda days of the late 80s where you couldn’t shake the feeling that it was all being squandered somehow, not that I’m comparing the current staff to that one. Just a similar feeling is all.

    The weird thing is that between bouts of clown-shoes antics and in spite of poor pitching, a taxed bullpen and a slew of walking wounded they’re actually winning some games. They’re sort of clumsy wins but I’ll take them.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I’m sorry, but postseason success, taking a team to the World Series, All-Star appearances, finishing near the top in Cy Young etc is more than “flashes”. Do we all want more? Of course, and there’s plenty of room to hope for more. But, if they all never threw another pitch there’d still be no comparison to be had with Generation K. The memories of the last few years will last a lifetime.

  • I’m declaring this horse dead. Basta, as my Italian boss used to say.

  • […] at Citi Field Saturday, which led to his three-game suspension and a journey-weary journeyman taking and losing what was supposed to have been his start Sunday. “I’ve apologized to my teammates, I’ve apologized to the coaches, and I’m doing everything […]