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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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After the Fall

Welcome to A Met for All Seasons, a series in which we consider a given Met who played in a given season and…well, we’ll see.

Oh yeah
Life goes on
Long after the thrill
Of livin’ is gone

John Mellencamp

FLUSHING (FAF) — Matt Harvey, one of the towering New York Met figures of his time, may opt out of participating in the A Met for All Seasons series, Harvey’s agent Scott Boras says, due to the former superstar’s reluctance be profiled within the context of 2016.

“We see Matt as a 2012, 2013, 2015 kind of Met,” the ever lyrical Boras told reporters Friday, offering a three-ring binder laden with statistics and contemporary reporting in support of his assertion. “Matt is most definitely not a 2016 kind of Met and should not be consigned to the ash heap of history, not after igniting what Fitzgerald called the Valley of Ashes.”

Boras’s objections to Harvey’s assignment to the 2016 season in the A Met for All Seasons series stem from the lesser performance his client delivered during the year in question — a 4-10 won-lost record, a 4.86 earned run average and a campaign cut roughly in half by surgery to address the righthander’s thoracic outlet syndrome — as well as the tone the agent believes a 2016 profile would cast.

“Let me guess — ‘Matt Harvey was once great, had seen better days, was at a crossroads, what a shame,’” Boras said in a mocking fashion of how he believed the onetime Met ace would be framed if the A Met for All Seasons series goes ahead as planned. “Let’s make one thing clear. Matt Harvey is not a sad story, not a frustrating story, not a pitiable story. Matt Harvey is a triumphant story. He’s previously a major motion picture.”

The agent didn’t elaborate as to whether he was referring to the 2015 ESPN documentary Matt Harvey: The Dark Knight Rises, or the general Dark Knight persona adopted after Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci applied the nickname to the pitcher in a 2013 cover story when Harvey was rocketing to the height of his baseball fame. The Mets’ then-ace went so far as to have a Batman silhouette logo affixed to his bat handles.

Harvey riding high.

Sandy Alderson, Mets general manager for most of Harvey’s New York career and consultant to the A Met for All Season series, refuted Boras’s aversion regarding what year the 2013 National League All-Star Game starting pitcher’s ups and downs are filtered through. “This feels like the innings-limit controversy all over again,” Alderson said Friday, alluding to Boras’s threat to pull Harvey from the mound in 2015 ahead of that year’s postseason. Animus then arose from Boras’s concern that his client, one year removed from Tommy John surgery, was on track to exceed the previously mutually agreed-to 180 innings ceiling Harvey would work and possibly interfere with is future earnings potential. At the time, the Mets were headed for a division title and Boras’s pronouncement landed as a distraction in the middle of an otherwise unalloyed feelgood story.

“This agent has traditionally made a lot of noise,” Alderson said, reflecting on the September 2015 ruckus, “and that’s fine. That’s what agents do. But at the end of the day, the pitcher pitches for the team, and the team and the pitcher will get together and decide to do what is best for all concerned.” Bringing it back to the present, Alderson said that “in this case, the best is that Matt Harvey represents A Met for All Seasons for 2016, and our job is to support him as best we can to put him in a favorable light for himself and a realistic light for our readers.”

Other Harvey seasons, particularly the ones Boras singled out as more appropriate to the Harvey story, were ruled out as A Met for All Seasons candidates by Alderson, though he was vague on the reasons why.

“Look, the Mets are a franchise whose roster in any given season is comprised of 25 players at most times, sometimes more, depending on the time of the season,” Alderson explained. “I guess it’s 26 or 28 as of 2020. Anyway, would we, given the historical complexities of A Met for All Seasons, reconfigure our shall we say historical roster to perhaps place Matt in a position where he and his agent are more comfortable? That’s a question that can be asked but can’t necessarily be answered, and I’d argue doesn’t have to be answered.

“Matt Harvey was indeed a Met, which makes him eligible for A Met for All Seasons, and that includes the 2016 season. I’d expect Matt and his representatives to honor their obligation to Met history and go along with our plan.”

Alderson’s response was unsatisfactory to Boras, who noted that a simple swap might have solved Harvey’s misgivings. “Matt was the pitcher of the moment in 2013, probably the pitcher of the year until Tommy John caught up with him,” the agent said. “He embodied 2013 when no other Met could fit the uniform. No offense to the A Met for All Seasons occupying that slot, but trading the 2013 guy to 2016 and sending Matt back where he had the greatest chance to shine would have ameliorated all our misgivings. But that might have beyond the skill set of this general manager.”

Boras’s remarks seemed to be a dig at the trade Alderson attempted but couldn’t pull off in 2015, the one that would have sent Wilmer Flores — the 2013 A Met for All Seasons — to Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez. The trade was widely reported as a done deal but was then called off amid enormous public and media confusion.

“Wilmer Flores was an important part of the Mets when he came up in 2013,” Alderson said in defense of the choice. “And he continued to be an important part of the Mets in all the seasons he played, including 2016. But moving him to one year merely to accommodate a player who wants to be situated in another year is not how you build a winning team, which is what we did here in 2015. As somebody once said, sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you don’t make at all.”

Harvey entered 2016 retaining the informal title of ace of the defending National League champion Mets, selected by manager Terry Collins to start on Opening Night in Kansas City, which turned out to be a rematch of the previous fall’s World Series and a reminder of Harvey’s outsize role in it. After agreeing in September 2015 to set aside the predetermined 180-innings limit, Harvey pitched well for the Mets down the stretch, including in the clinching of the NL East title at Cincinnati. He also won the third game of the NLDS versus the Dodgers and Game One of the NLCS against the Cubs, both at a raucous Citi Field.

The Dark Knight’s autumn took a turn for the worse in the first game of the World Series, at Kaufman Stadium, where the Royals tagged Harvey for three runs over six innings, starting with a leadoff inside-the-park home run from Alcides Escobar, though the unorthodox four-bagger was enabled by sloppy outfield play from Mets center fielder Yoenis Cespedes, the slugger Alderson acquired once the Flores trade fell through. The Mets lost Game One of the World Series in extra innings and trailed three games to one heading into Harvey’s next start in Game Five.

This guy wasn’t going anywhere.

In Game Five, Harvey was magnificent for eight innings, again firing up the Citi Field crowd, this time to such an extent that the roars of nearly 45,000 in attendance, along with the pitcher’s nationally televised pleas to manager Terry Collins, seemed to earn Harvey the opportunity to complete a game he led, 2-0, despite his having thrown more than 100 pitches and closer Jeurys Familia being ready to enter from the bullpen.

With a tiring Harvey on the mound, Lorenzo Cain worked out a seven-pitch walk and stole second before Eric Hosmer doubled to left to put the Royals on the board. With Kansas City poised to tie the game, Collins removed Harvey. Soon, Familia and errant infield defense allowed the Royals their second run. Kansas City went on to win the game and the Series in twelve.

That Harvey was pitching and for a long time winning the decisive game of the World Series one year removed from his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery was testament to the righty’s talent and determination. Inactive from August 2013 until the beginning of 2015, Harvey played a major role in lifting the Mets from perennial also-rans to league champs, posting thirteen wins and an ERA of 2.71. Along with sophomore Jacob deGrom and rookies Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, Harvey was at the heart of a young, hard-throwing rotation that led the Mets to 90 regular-season wins and entry into the postseason.

It was quite a change of fortunes for the franchise from July 26, 2012, the date Harvey made his major league debut in Phoenix apparently fully formed. The six-foot, four-inch rookie joined a rotation helmed by veterans R.A. Dickey, enjoying his Cy Young year and Johan Santana, in the aftermath of his no-hitter, the Mets’ first. Santana, however, would soon be lost to injury and Dickey would be traded in the offseason. Come 2013, following his promising first two months — including eleven strikeouts in his first outing and a 2.73 ERA in ten starts — Mets fans anticipated a breakthrough first full year from the pitcher the club drafted with the seventh pick in the nation in 2010.

What they received in 2013 surpassed their fondest hopes. With each of the 24-year-old’s starts termed “Harvey Day,” the righthander broke from the gate in spectacular fashion. In his first outing, Harvey held the San Diego Padres to one hit in seven innings while striking out ten. In his next start, he thoroughly outpitched eventual Hall of Famer Roy Halladay; followed that with a no-hit bid in Minnesota; and culminated his burst upon the baseball scene by eliciting spontaneous chants of “HARVEY’S BETTER” when he beat Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals on April 19 at Citi Field. In May, he flirted with a perfect game even as his nose bled when the Chicago White Sox visited New York. Before the second month of the season was out, Harvey graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as “the Dark Knight of Gotham,” and Harvey Day was an entrenched element of every Mets fan’s calendar.

“And pitching for the National League…”

In the SI cover story, Verducci wrote Harvey favored “blunt, old-school hardball,” including a “97-MPH blowtorch of a fastball at the top of the strike zone, […] a roundhouse 1-to-7 curveball, a changeup that seems to float into the ether and a tight, hard slider that reaches 92.” With his entire arsenal clicking and his team hosting its first All-Star game since 1964, it was little wonder Harvey was named to start for the National League in July. It also made perfect sense for Mets fans to elevate the second-year pitcher into a pantheon that included the Mets’ two previous All-Star Game starting pitchers, Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden, and picture confidence-exuding Harvey as the natural heir to the legacy established by the franchise’s two previous great homegrown righthanded pitching aces. With Seaver delivering the ceremonial first pitch at the Midsummer Classic and Gooden looking on from a box seat, Harvey striding in from the bullpen to begin the game confirmed the perception of the trio as peers.

Harvey’s phenomenal 2013 season (9-5, 2.27 ERA, more than a strikeout per inning) screeched to a halt on August 26 when the Mets announced a partial UCL tear in Harvey’s right arm. Tommy John surgery and a year or more of rehabilitation seemed the obvious remedy, though Harvey — perhaps unwilling to easily let go of a season that had won him admiration and accolades — hesitated to agree to the procedure. It wasn’t the first time in 2013 that the righty was less than amenable with the news surrounding him. In July, when he could have chosen to bask in the glow of his All-Star aura, he lashed out at Men’s Journal for portraying him as someone as interested in living the high life as he was ringing up a high strikeout total. In the article, Harvey was quoted as saying, “I’m young, I’m single. I want to be in the mix,” and went on about his fondness for a good time. It seemed to mesh with his presence in the company of supermodel dates and didn’t interfere with his superstar pitching, so the image seemed to make him only more appealing. “The way I was portrayed is not who I am and not the person I am,” Harvey nonetheless protested.

Once Harvey crossed paths with off-the-field adversity, he seemed continually less grounded. He eventually consented to Tommy John surgery, though a hospital room photo of Harvey flipping the bird in preparation raised eyebrows. His rehab, scheduled to take place at the Mets’ facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., became a point of contention once Harvey expressed distaste for being away from New York and his teammates for an entire season. In September of 2014, on a night when the Mets were playing in Washington, Harvey was spotted in the stands at Yankee Stadium, watching the last game of Derek Jeter, his childhood idol and someone he pointed to as a role model in that Men’s Journal piece. Though his location on a given evening didn’t have any impact on his rehabilitation from surgery, it was perceived in some quarters as a bad look for the titular Mets ace.

While Harvey’s image entering 2015 might not have been as pristine as it was before he was forced to the sidelines in 2013, Mets fans welcomed him back warmly and surely enjoyed his output as the club’s renaissance year went along, at least until the innings limit story overshadowed the Mets’ final push toward their division flag. The team’s success and their pitcher’s role reduced it to a subplot as September progressed and it seemed all but forgotten until October. Harvey’s absence from a mandatory team workout similarly came and went as a headline.

This recounting of Harvey at perhaps a step or two down from his peak was cited by Boras as a reason he wishes to keep his client from being A Met for All Seasons subject for 2016. “They always seem to do something like this,” Boras said Friday. “They love to build up their players and then tear them down. ‘He was the Mets’ hope until he wasn’t. He was the greatest until he wasn’t.’ Look at Gooden 1985. Look at [Jason] Isringhausen 1995. They relish this kind of story so much they spread it on their Nathan’s frankfurters.” Boras’s reference was to two previous A Met for All Season entries in which two other Met pitchers enjoyed their best Met moments early and struggled to maintain their status. “At least,” the agent added, “those guys got to be spotlighted in their best years.”

Taste wasn’t everything.

Harvey in 2016 never found his footing. He lost on Opening Night in Kansas City, an outing itself preceded by another tabloid to-do involving a bladder infection that threatened to postpone his first outing. The Mets lost seven of Harvey’s first ten starts as the righty’s command abandoned him, his velocity diminished and his earned run average rose above six. it wasn’t until Memorial Day that he put together a start of a piece with the kind he threw regularly in 2012, 2013 and 2015, and he soon fell back from that 2016 pinnacle.

“I think you’re making the argument for us,” Boras said. “The years you’re referencing are the true Harvey Years. Yet you want to stick him in 2016, bring up the tasteless back pages with the stream of urination jokes, frame him as a fallen idol. This is not who Matt Harvey was or is or should be to the New York Mets.”

Alderson deflected the charges in a style familiar to those who observed the former GM in New York: “Matt had supermodel girlfriends. He had a superagent representative. He was, for a time, a superstar pitcher. He draped himself in a superhero persona. Well, sometimes even the superlatives that define us bump up against the more ordinary intervals of a career. I like Matt a lot. But I liked Matt a lot just as much when he wasn’t so super. That goes for 2016 as much as any of those other seasons of his.

“It’s not like Adam Wilk is the A Met for All Seasons for 2017,” Alderson added in a presumed wink to the Sunday the season after Harvey returned from his thoracic outlet syndrome surgery but didn’t show up at Citi Field for his scheduled start. The AWOL situation compelled the Mets to call up on little notice Wilk, a Triple-A righty who was demolished by the Miami Marlins in Harvey’s stead. What made the absence extra inflammatory was the lack of a straight answer regarding Harvey’s whereabouts.

“That was another season,” Alderson acknowledged, “and we don’t have to focus on another season, but I think the point here is ‘all seasons’ means all seasons, and telling Matt Harvey’s story eventually reins in all the highs and lows, if not the lowest of the lows. It wouldn’t be fair to make this about Matt missing a start and juggling his alibis in 2017. Would it be ideal to go back to 2013? Maybe. But that ship sailed. The way we mapped this out is it’s 2016 or nothing, and when you step back and consider A Met for All Seasons, Matt Harvey was not nothing. Matt Harvey was definitely something.”

Harvey lasted only until early July in 2016, missing the Mets’ second consecutive trip to the postseason. Perhaps overlooking the severity of recovering from the thoracic outlet condition — arising less than three years after Tommy John and involving the removal of a rib — the Mets counted on Harvey to join deGrom, Syndergaard and Matz in anchoring their 2017 rotation, but the results were hardly the same.

“There — there you go again,” Boras interjected. “‘It wasn’t the same.’ You guys and that trope. It wasn’t the same for Gooden after 1985. It wasn’t the same for Izzy after 1995. It wasn’t the same for Tug McGraw after 1973 or Ike Davis after 2010 or Pete Alonso even after one year because the second wasn’t record-setting. Next time I’ll have my client bring a note from home. ‘Please excuse Matt Harvey for being human, please excuse Matt Harvey for being physically fragile, please excuse Matt Harvey for donating his body not to science, but to the New York Mets so they could win a pennant for the first time in fifteen years.’”

The righthander, by then 28, endured another injury in 2017, this one a stress fracture in his scapula. He’d be gone from the middle of June to the beginning of September and pitch very poorly upon his return. The 2018 season got off similarly badly and the former ace was dispatched to the bullpen by new manager Mickey Callaway, a shift that didn’t agree with Harvey. In a matter of weeks, the Connecticut native was dealt to the Reds for catcher Devin Mesoraco, the Mets having completely moved on from the pitcher largely responsible for whatever success they enjoyed five years earlier. Meanwhile, deGrom, whom Harvey identified as his best friend on the Mets, fully blossomed as a superstar, ascending to the Seaver-Gooden level in Mets fans’ estimation, capturing the first of two consecutive Cy Young Awards and particularly thriving in 2018 with Mesoraco as his batterymate.

Since leaving New York, Harvey has struggled to recapture the form that captivated the Big Apple in the mid-2010s, bouncing from Cincinnati to Anaheim to Oakland’s minor league system to, in a touch of irony, Kansas City in 2020, where during the pandemic-shortened season he found little luck. The Dark Knight drifted in the span of a few seasons from a major storyline for the Mets to a suddenly faded piece of their history.

“A Met for All Seasons is right,” Boras insisted. “Matt Harvey as an outsize Met figure is right. But we know what seasons were the most right. The seasons that were less right we’d prefer he not be a part of.” Alderson countered, “Us neither. Sometimes, however, you play the ball where it lies, and sometimes you pitch the pitcher there, too.”

PREVIOUS METS FOR ALL SEASONS
1962: Richie Ashburn
1963: Ron Hunt
1964: Rod Kanehl
1965: Ron Swoboda
1966: Shaun Fitzmaurice
1967: Al Schmelz
1968: Cleon Jones
1969: Donn Clendenon
1970: Tommie Agee
1971: Tom Seaver
1972: Gary Gentry
1973: Willie Mays
1974: Tug McGraw
1975: Mike Vail
1976: Mike Phillips
1977: Lenny Randle
1978: Craig Swan
1981: Mookie Wilson
1982: Rusty Staub
1983: Darryl Strawberry
1985: Dwight Gooden
1986: Keith Hernandez
1987: Lenny Dykstra
1988: Gary Carter
1990: Gregg Jefferies
1991: Rich Sauveur
1992: Todd Hundley
1993: Joe Orsulak
1994: Rico Brogna
1995: Jason Isringhausen
1996: Rey Ordoñez
1997: Edgardo Alfonzo
1998: Todd Pratt
2000: Melvin Mora
2001: Mike Piazza
2002: Al Leiter
2003: David Cone
2004: Joe Hietpas
2005: Pedro Martinez
2007: Jose Reyes
2008: Johan Santana
2009: Angel Pagan
2010: Ike Davis
2011: David Wright
2012: R.A. Dickey
2013: Wilmer Flores
2014: Jacob deGrom
2015: Michael Conforto
2017: Paul Sewald
2019: Dom Smith
2020: Pete Alonso

8 comments to After the Fall

  • Nick Davis

    Brilliant. Utterly brilliant. And heart-breaking.

    What would have happened if only Tery Collins had responded to the temper tantrum in the dugout after the 8th inning by gripping his ace by the shoulders, looking into his eyes, and saying, “Matt, save it. I’m gonna need you in Game 7.”

  • So much hope. So much excitement. So much good. Such disappointment. Kinda reminds us of a pair of other stars who rose and fell quickly in the Queens night in the mid 80s . . . . Thanks for the memories (and laughs).

  • ljcmets

    “Sources report infighting among principals at FAFIF regarding placement of individual players in the Met for All Seasons lineup card. There was particular tension, as per usual, regarding how to use Matt Harvey. ‘Management is in two camps,’ an individual close to the situation commented. ‘Some say 2013, others 2015.’ There appears to be no sentiment for demoting R. A. Dickey from the 2012 slot, but as is typical with the Mets, the resolution agreed upon for Harvey- 2016- will satisfy no one and looks like what it undoubtedly is: Having earlier guaranteed individual players certain spots in the lineup, management had no other place to put Harvey. If 2016 belonged to anyone, it was Asdrubal Cabrera.

    Manager for All Seasons Gil Hodges should shuffle his lineup card and write Wilmer Flores into the 2015 position and Harvey into 2013, although Harvey could fit equally well into 2015. While Hodges is there, Michael Conforto should platoon with Dom Smith for 2020 (and we know Hodges is a master of the platoon) but 2019 belongs to Pete Alonso.

    Scott Boras will certainly bring this up when it comes time to work out Harvey’s next mention in FAFIF, but as far as Harvey is concerned, he’s only there to talk about Qualcom.

  • open the gates

    Boras should keep his mouth shut. After all, poor David Cone had his AMFAS year as 2003, for crying out loud, and Jerry Koosman didn’t have a year at all. Mr. Knight – sorry, Mr. Harvey – should count his blessings. As for Boras, it’s almost like he thinks a player agent like him could someday become a general manager. But nah, not even the Mets would be stupid enough to do that. Right?

  • Joeybaguhdonuts

    Imaginative!

  • Tim H

    I wouldn’t want today to pass without a nod towards that long-ago day when the formerly-lowly Mets reached the baseball summit. I was a 17-year-old vendor at Shea Stadium that day — October 16, 1969 — and my current wish is that all true Mets fans will, once again, have that amazin’ feeling! Let’s Go Mets!

  • eric1973

    Harvey and Boras are both TOOLS of the First Degree, and I hope Harvey continues to get shelled in every inning in which he pitches.

    Thank You.

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