- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Those Days Are Gone Forever

The Mets were teasing me again Friday night. For the second time this week, I went to see them, and for the second time this week, they got me revved up in the bottom of the ninth after spending eight-and-a-half innings essentially disengaged from the competition at hand. I was a willing passenger on their herky-jerky, ultimately ill-fated thrill ride in spite of my technically correct assessment of their impending fortunes. I fully understood their roar back from Zack Wheeler-fueled deficits of 5-0 and 8-2 would inevitably let me down [1], but I decided to let them and the silly hope they episodically engender [2] have a go at me. The weather was sublime, the company (2015 National League champion spirit animal David “Skid” Rowe [3], in from California for the weekend) was even better and the whole point of being a Mets fan is to believe, no matter that deep down you are staunchly incredulous.

As the ninth pretended to provide a legitimate chance to crumble the Rockies — our hitters hitting, our runners running and all of us noisy — I allowed myself a glance toward the Mets dugout and pondered who wasn’t in there. Matt Harvey [4], I thought, is missing quite the scene in Flushing.

Matt Harvey, of course, used to be quite the scene in Flushing. Not so much lately, but go back a half-decade, and the only instances for which we generated measurably voluble noise were the days Matt pitched. Those were the days, my friend. Harvey Days. You remember Harvey Days, don’t you? They were an event unto themselves, an every-fifth-game season within a season [5], a square peg of winning demeanor jammed into a round hole of stubborn losing culture.

Those days are gone forever. The Mets just let them go.

Harvey the recently reluctant reliever was offered a trip to the minors by his employers. When Matt was a kid in Connecticut, bona fide major league starting pitchers Bobby Jones and Steve Trachsel, each of them an erstwhile All-Star, accepted demotions from the Mets to the Norfolk Tides when they could have contractually refused. But both (Jones in 2000, Trachsel in 2001) were struggling and both needed to find answers. They determined themselves not too big to go down to Triple-A. They returned to pitch and pitch well in New York.

Perhaps that road map to potential recovery struck the Dark Knight as too mundane a route to theoretically follow back to his perch atop Gotham. Matt said no. The Mets said bye, designating this erstwhile All-Star for assignment. Maybe Harvey will find his answers elsewhere. He won’t find them as a Met — not in Las Vegas, not in St. Lucie, not at Citi Field. He might not have found them before his contract ran out anyway. His body’s been through a lot; transplanting it to a less harsh environment wasn’t guaranteed to help his repertoire regain its snap. But he wasn’t getting anywhere here, so you’d figure he’d be willing to give another readily accessible path a try.

As the ninth-inning rally ensued, I turned toward the Mets dugout once more and remembered Harvey in his pomp. I remembered the physically imposing rookie who dropped and drove into our consciousness in the summer of 2012. I remembered the first hint that young, home-nurtured pitching was about to renew itself as a Met trademark. I remembered a neophyte’s self-assured insistence that he was never supposed to lose, let alone give up runs. I remembered four wins in four starts to kick off his first April. I remembered no losses until June. I remembered so many flirtations with no-hitters that one could be forgiven for suggesting they and Harvey get a room. I remembered Terry Collins smoothing out his rotation just enough so that Matt Harvey would be available to start at Citi on July 16, 2013. His opponents would be the best hitters in the American League. Like just about everybody else to that point that year, they couldn’t score off him either.

To dwell on more about Matt Harvey’s Mets career in the bottom of the ninth on Friday night seemed impolite to him. I preferred to leave him where we admired him, at the peak of his pomp, in the midst of his Days. It was also impolite to be distracted from the team he used to pitch for. They were busy rallying versus the Rockies as best as they could. I turned my attention away from who wasn’t in the dugout, jumped back into the present and made noise for those who were present. These were the Mets who fell behind by five before they batted, the Mets who edged to within one before they ended. These, for better and worse, were the Mets of Cabrera and Cespedes, Nimmo and Rosario, Frazier and Bruce, Conforto and Wheeler and so on.

There was no sign of Harvey among them. Really, there hadn’t been for ages.