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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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Harvey’s ‘Better’ Days

I was driving through my hometown
I was just kinda killin’ time
When I seen a face staring out of a black velvet painting
From the window of the five and dime
I couldn’t quite recall the name
But the pose looked familiar to me
So I asked the salesgirl,
“Who was that man between the Doberman and Bruce Lee?”
She said, “Just a local hero…
“Local hero,” she said with a smile
“Yeah, a local hero…
“He used to live here for a while”

Bruce Springsteen

 

The inevitable, as Steve Zabriskie might have been moved to observe, became reality Saturday night, as the Mets played a baseball game without winning it, halting their streak of victories at nine and limiting them to a record of 11-2, or their best thirteen-game start ever.

Yeah, they’re OK. Still in first place, still setting the pace, still the apple of our eye, even if they failed to raise the Apple or any hint of offense against the Brewers in the kind of lifeless 5-1 loss you could sort of see coming. I have no data to support this assertion, but when the Mets are on a roll the length of a loaf of Italian bread and attract an immense crowd anticipant of figurative fireworks (never mind the Grucciesque variety), something in the oven fails to rise to the occasion.

Enough metaphors for you? I may be projecting from some past letdown, but the feeling, even from watching at home, felt familiar. The Mets can’t lose! Gotta go see the Mets not lose! These seats are way up because we’re all here to see the Mets never lose again!

And they lose with minimal fuss.

It happens. It could happen in front of a smaller gathering in the midst of habitual losing with no more than the back of a disgruntled security guard’s hand as your premium for showing up, but this situation, wherein the “in” separates irreparably from the “vincible,” is an old chestnut that doesn’t come out to play that often, thus is stands out. This was the sixth nine-game winning streak the Mets have ever unfurled that failed to reach double digits. If double digits were that easy to attain, somebody would have invented a single digit for them.

The Mets did nothing against Milwaukee starter Chase Anderson and less against Milwaukee closer Josh Hader. There was a no-hitter in progress for a long while, three hits when nine innings were through, and only yeoman long relief from Paul Sewald to count as a positive. As little as the 2018 Mets have resembled the 2017 Mets, this was a typical Sunday afternoon game from Citi Field last year, except it occurred on a Saturday night. Maybe the Mets were simply getting a jump on today yesterday, the way some folks insist on picking up the first edition of the Sunday Times.

Might as well grab the one that doesn’t have Saturday’s Mets score. News is depressing enough lately.

Because the Mets were so wholly stymied at bat, we can, if we wish, dismiss Matt Harvey’s latest ineffective outing on the mound as relatively inconsequential. Only a starter who was truly “on” could have matched zeroes with Chase Anderson. The Matt Harvey of 2012 and 2013 could have done that. The Matt Harvey of 2018 hews closer to the Matt Harvey of 2017. We can be polite and note he threw five scoreless innings versus the Phillies in his first start and left with a lead against the Nationals in his second, but here in his third start, he left little wiggle room for interpretation of contemporary Harvey. He looked like the Harvey we’ve come to know and expect. He looked like a guy whose spot in the rotation is no given once the manager has six options to fill five spots.

Early cuts both ways. If it’s too early to make October reservations based on thirteen games, it’s too early to nudge aside a pitcher of portfolio who’s still trying to come back from all that’s ailed him. But, honestly, if Matt Harvey’s name were, I don’t know, Shaun Marcum, would we be expecting a full-blown renaissance and cling to the idealized notion that the Mets are dealing nothing but aces every evening? Directly after the game, a reporter asked Mickey Callaway if he’s thought about moving Harvey, as opposed to Zack Wheeler, out of the rotation whenever Jason Vargas returns. Callaway predictably and wisely sidestepped the question. Mickey hasn’t managed long, but he knows enough not to make personnel pronouncements to the media before he’s made them to his personnel.

That reporter couldn’t have been the only one curious about Matt’s fate. I was thinking Harvey may not be one of our five starters down the line, and I wasn’t all that convinced I was conclusion-jumping. Matt isn’t as depressing to watch this April as he was last September, but — and this doesn’t show up in the box score — he’s nearly as depressing to listen to after the game. One word has made more appearances in his answers than Jerry Blevins has made appearances in his starts:

Better.

As in “I have to be better,” “I have to do better,” “I need to make better pitches.” I swear I heard Harvey use the word “better” used in some form or fashion five separate times in less than five minutes of Q&A. None of it was in the context of warning Jonathan Villar or Jett Bandy that they’d “better” watch out after taking him deep. (I guess that’s more Thorspeak.) I remember hearing a lot of “better” out of Harvey late last season when he was pitching worse and worse. It may his safe word now, like “cripes” was for Terry Collins.

Give Matt a check mark for self-awareness. The Mets could shrug off a loss after nine straight wins. A pitcher who’s given up four runs on eight hits in five innings (on the heels of a start that measured four runs, nine hits and five innings), does need to do better, whatever his name, whatever his past. Harvey’s 2018 is a work in progress, and the Mets’ cushion in the standings allows both work and progress to continue.

That past, though. It doesn’t just linger in our collective subconscious. It has seats behind the plate in Excelsior. Back when the Mets as a whole lagged behind their emerging ace, we used to be the ones to vouch for Harvey being better. Better than Strasburg one magical Friday night. Better than Kershaw as an All-Star assignment approached. Better than any Mets starter in decades, we swore. “Harvey’s better.”

Remember that? Hard to forget. Hard not to strain to hear still.

6 comments to Harvey’s ‘Better’ Days

  • LeClerc

    A clear flash of brilliance from Sewald.

  • You have to wonder if Sewald was somehow in the doghouse based on how little he had been used. Hopefully, we’ll see more of him and more of the him we saw last night.

    As for Harvey, it’s really hard to root too hard for him at this point, even if he has dialed down his worst qualities.

  • Louis Verardo

    While the reality was that we were never going to be 161-1 for the season, it’s only one game, and I am trusting the manager to continue his handling of these athletes in the way he has already demonstrated. He has shown us that he is able to hold people accountable without denigrating them, and particularly by getting buy-in from the players he is addressing. The wishful-thinking part of my being a fan is being supplanted by the more realistic view that the season is long, and I have to be pretty happy with what I’ve seen so far. As for Matt Harvey’s use of the term “better”, I agree with what was written, and I think we’d all appreciate more doing than saying.

  • Daniel Hall

    Matt Harvey’s example shall warn us that all beauty in the world must inevitably wither and die.

    No, I have no positives to contribute, not about this game, nor the man.

  • Cleon Jones

    Great walk off win yesterday! Big series with the hated Nats starting tonight. We are already 7 games ahead of Nats. Watch out for Atlanta and Philly- young talent playing good baseball. Lets go Mets !! Keep it rolling! Just stay healthy!!

  • Cleon Jones

    My bad, we are 6 games ahead of the Nats.Lets go Mets !!!