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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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Matt’s Not All

The clot in his bladder. The load of innings in 2015. The lack of innings in Spring Training. The to-be-expected second year after Tommy John trajectory. The residual mental strain from trying to be The Man in the deciding game of the World Series and famously not succeeding. A general psychological breakdown. Something physically wrong they’re not telling us about. A reticence to come inside. An arm angle. A footing problem. An overall mechanical issue. Not loose enough. Needs to work harder. Needs to ease off. Needs a night on the town. Needs to miss a start. Needs to go down to the minors. Needs a less vocal agent. Could use a pinch between the cheek and gums. Restore the hubris. Embrace humility. Lose the nickname while you’re at it. Maybe a wee bit off the waistline, too.

No, I don’t know what’s wrong with Matt Harvey, but I do know he pitched dreadfully in a 9-1 loss to the Washington Nationals at Citi Field on Wednesday night, a big game that ceased to be a big game once Matt drowned in the third inning, the frame in which the Nats scored seven runs and inspired their superstar to utterances of mercy. Harvey was undermined by a couple of episodes of poor fielding (Asdrubal Cabrera blowing a transfer at short, Michael Conforto taking up jai-alai in left), but baserunners were everywhere on his account.

When Matt trudged away from the mound with two outs in the third, having just surrendered a two-run triple to a .123 hitter — thus burying the Mets eight feet under — with him went the last shred of reflexive confidence that he’ll figure it out, he’ll come around, he’ll be fine.

Matt Harvey is not fine. It’s absurd to believe he never will be again, but it’s not a given that he’s one start away. He’s filed nine outings in 2016. One was very good. A couple were good enough. Most have been not so shy of decent that you couldn’t talk yourself down from terribly alarmed to merely concerned. Last night’s was too brutal to dismiss as an aberration considering everything that preceded it.

Every nine innings he pitches, he gives up 5.77 earned runs, and he’s not packing any other metric that suggests there’s a hidden value the naked eye is missing. The naked eye observes a pitcher easily undressed by opposing hitters. “Body language” can be folly to translate, for it presumes a slouch isn’t just a slouch and minds can be easily read, but does Matt Harvey look like Matt Harvey to you?

And while we’re rhetorically asking pressing questions of the day, do the Mets look like anything? They were no help to their pitcher on Thursday, pooling six singles for a lone run. Stephen Strasburg may have been unhittable, but it’s hard to tell when the lineup he’s facing hasn’t been hitting. Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Max Scherzer and assorted National relievers limited the Mets to four runs in 26 innings. Their counterparts in Colorado, Los Angeles and San Diego were similarly effective. The Mets have scored 49 runs in their past 18 games. Even with the Greatest Rotation Ever pitching up to its advance notices, that’s a lot of non-support to overcome.

And the Greatest Rotation Ever hasn’t pitching up to its advance notices.

So little is clicking these days. Yoenis Cespedes is hitting the ball exceedingly hard. Everybody else is flying or striking out at alarming rates. When the prime highlight of two nights against your archrival is your bullpen keeping a 9-1 deficit 9-1, perhaps you’re mostly battling yourself — and losing.

Bring on the Brewers. Bring on the next 122 games. There’s three quarters of a season remaining and the Mets are still very much contenders. It only feels like the end is nigh.

43 comments to Matt’s Not All

  • Seth

    No mention of Daniel Murphy? Worst fears, etc? A franchise that has historically been weak on hitting lets their best hitter walk.

    I’m still hoping to underestimate the loss of Daniel Murphy, but it hasn’t happened yet.

  • Peter Alan Smith, the Midnight Golfer

    A dose of humility, from time to time, is a good thing. The Mets are a good team, they have good pitching and good hitting. But we are not as good as we think we are. The Gnats showed up with a plan on how to hit Colon and Harvey and executed. We executed as well … ourselves! I happened to be listening to a Mets v. Braves game on an Atlanta radio station. They had no idea what “The Dark Night” signified. At this moment it signifies a paper tiger. Hopefully Matt can learn and grow from this. I think he will.

  • I share your of concern re: Harvey, but perhaps not its strength.

    Last night was wretched, and that 5.77 ERA is alarming. However, I will take issue w/the contention that other metrics might not tell a brighter story. His K/9 is still a decent 8. His FIP (which is a 2.75 against a career ERA of 2.86) is at 3.66 thus far. Not great, but not shabby either. Likewise, the dreaded BABIP, which should be sitting around .299, is at .390.

    Individually, any one of these things might not mean much. But taking them all in conjunction w/each other, it’s reasonable to say there’s some hard luck here. And that he may not be as bad as that 5.77 would lead us to dread.

    • I’ll take any good sign. I had been encouraged by the decent amount of strikeouts, though I wonder if that’s reflective of the striking out all over the game.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Not to bore you, but as I warned last August: Scott Boras, though a douche, was right. Yes, you can say “you can’t be sure what’s wrong” but facts are stubborn things–Harvey shattered mark for most innings after TJ and studies show that ANY pitcher (let alone TJ survivors) are likely to fall of terrible the year after a big innings jump. Remember when the Nats were reviled for keeping Strasburg’s innings down his first year back? He’s been one of best pitchers since and–oh, the irony–he shut down Mets last night and is 7-0. So in the stadium last night I did not boo Harvey off the mound–but those who called him “gutless” for wishing to limit innings last year. And before you say “we wouldn’t have made it to playoffs without him” note that he won exactly 4 games in the 8-week Mets run which ended in an easy title over the Nats.

    • Matt in Woodside

      If you were a Nationals fan, though, wouldn’t you still be wondering “what if they had let Strasburg pitch in the playoffs in 2012?” He was fantastic that year, the team won 98 games during the regular season, and then they couldn’t even win the NLDS.

      It’s great that he’s pitching well four years later, and I guess good for him that the Nationals are now dropping dump trucks full of cash into his bank account. But as a fan, I prefer to think that the athletes I’m watching actually grew up with a dream of winning the World Series, rather than a dream of winning the Scott Boras arm lottery.

      The Mets had a really good shot in 2015. I hated the booing last night, and I still believe Harvey will get back to form at some point this year. I hope for his sake and the team’s that he’s physically OK. But I still think he made the right choice last season, and I still think the Nationals totally blew it in 2012 with Strasburg.

      • Greg Mitchell

        Mets might have gone just as far last year with Harvey shut down–as I noted, he won just 4 games in all of August and Sept. and even had 4.00+ era in his two playoff wins. You say Strasburg is good “four years later” but he has been good past 3 years, also, and I would trade what Harvey added to stretch run last year for 4 such good years from him, starting this year. That’s the point.

        • Matt in Woodside

          I would trade Harvey’s four starts in the playoffs last year for three hypothetical future seasons of dominance as well, but it’s not like that could be promised. Harvey could have been shut down last year and had the same early season struggles this year. He could have been shut down and the Mets could have imploded in the NLDS. He could have been shut down and started his first six games with 72 strikeouts this season.

          My point is that shots at a league championship and the World Series are a rare thing for any player’s career, and shutting him down would not have guaranteed anything. In 2012, the Nationals, when speaking to the press, seemed to have the attitude that they’d be playing deep into the playoffs every year for a while, so shutting Strasburg down was a decision made for future Octobers. That has not happened, and 2012 may have been their best shot.

          • Greg Mitchell

            Again: in 4 starts in postseason he had two non-decisions (Mets lost both games). He won vs. Cubs which they hardly needed since they swept. And the one game he won against the Dodgers he gave up 3 runs in 5 innings. I guarantee you the Nats owners, team and fans do not regret sitting Strasburg at end of that one season since 1) he’s pitched great since 2) he’s 7-0 this year 3) they signed him to long-term contract. Think Mets (or fans) would approve Harvey longterm contract now? And saying, “Hey, they could have shut him down and he might still be pitching just as had now” ignores all of the studies that suggest that his mistaken. Yes anything is possible. What we know is that “for some strange reason” Harvey’s falloff is among worst in recent years for a star pitcher: 65 hits in 48 innings.

          • Matt in Woodside

            Greg, my point is that he chose to keep pitching, and he pitched a great game in the World Series (despite that ninth inning). Lots and lots of great pitchers never have the opportunity to pitch in the World Series. None have the opportunity to do so when they are shut down in August. I think he made the right decision and I think the Mets made the right decision.

            What could have or might have happened is pure speculation on your part and on my part, but I would argue that you can’t just vanish his presence from the team in retrospect and say that the end result would have been the same with a totally different rotation. And again, as well as Strasburg has pitched during the past few seasons (good for him and his giant bank account), those long Octobers that the Nationals promised their fans in 2012 have not yet materialized.

            Also, all of this will be a moot point unless Harvey never gets his groove back. And I don’t see that happening. It may be this summer or it may be next season, but he was always a smart pitcher, and his velocity is still there.

        • Dennis

          Greg, you say he only won 4 games in August & September, but you also need to look at the starts where he received a no decision or lost. In those starts (from August 31 against the Nats to the end of the season) and not including those 4 wins, he was 0-1, but threw 36 innings, gave up 27 hits and had a ERA of 2.25. So even though he won only 4 games, he pitched great in those starts.

          • Greg Mitchell

            You actually make my point. Mets did not win most of those 3 games, and did not need to.

          • Dennis

            Good points Greg, and I’ll give you credit for being one of the few to say shut him down last year.

  • Paul from Brooklyn

    I was there and when the Nats sat most of their starters EXCEPT Murphy late in the game it was more than a slap in the face. How can anyone boo Murphy or Harvey? Hopefully Matt will come around and the Met bats will too. Lagares looked good coming off of the bench and his catch the night before was outstanding.

    • DAK442

      Sadly, it appears the price we pay for Met success is a markedly more stupid fan base. The collective IQ in Citifield has gone down measurably over the past year. Booing Harvey or Murphy is appalling.

      • Made in the Shea-de

        Yup. Exactly.

      • Eric from BK

        I absolutely agree with you. As much as it hurts that not only did Murphy go to our nemesis and he seems to be a huge piece of their playoff hopes, it makes me even sadder to see the fans turn on our own team (especially Wright and Harvey) so fast. Harvey really tried to do what was best to help the team when it came down to it last year and now we are treating him like crap while he deals with his issues. Fans that turn on him this quick are not real fans and clearly joined the bandwagon last year. I hope it doesn’t exasperate his problems and I hope these fans get a little class or at least stop coming to the games if this is how we are going to behave.

        Sheesh, what a depressing week for our beloved Mets. Us true fans will always stick with them but this has been a painful week that wounded our optimism for finishing the job this year. At least the beauty of baseball is that we get to start righting the ship tonight (hopefully). And Murphy can’t bat like this forever right? right?!

  • DAK442

    The highly-touted pitching is faltering. The streaky lineup is in one of its frequent doldrums. Our beloved Captain is in the late-career Mattingly stage these days. Our only scary hitter is going to have a monster year and then leave for millions elsewhere.

    2015 was a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to reading a book about it from everyone’s favorite Met hagiographer on vacation this summer. Otherwise, hope I’m still around for the next scheduled Met World Series appearance in 2031.

  • Chip

    1. A lot of guys coming off surgery (shoulder/elbow) have a valley in year 2. Some of have suggested it is the healing process. Some have suggested that it is because they are not rehabbing, they don’t get the same level on conditioning in. Call it the “back to normal syndrome”.

    2. Harvey looks like he is going through an extended “dead arm” period.

    3. The entire staff seems to have lost the idea that being wild inside from time to time is a good thing.

    The Mets real problem is their old school Baltimore/Oakland offense. Walks & 3 run home runs, and tons of strikeouts doesn’t win the majority of time against quality pitching.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    As far as I know, of the millions of words that have been written or spoken about Matt Harvey in the past 24 hours, there’s two words that I have not seen or heard:

    Steve Blass.

  • Dave

    The window that opens and gives a team a chance to win the World Series opens infrequently and doesn’t stay open for very long. OK, the Mets fell short last year. But at least they fell short going all in. Had they sat their at least titular ace down for the postseason while he was otherwise healthy – is “Strasburging” a verb? – would have been unforgiveable. As Ron Darling points out frequently in his excellent new book (Greg, my apologies for plugging a book that you didn’t author), the dominant, team for the ages 1986 Mets found out that there often is no next year.

    Who knows what’s wrong with Harvey, but one thing I think I do know, and that’s that the treatment given to pitchers is not helping them any. Seaver pitched 270+ innings in 1969 at the age of 24, pitched in the NLCS and Series, came back and pitched 290 in 1970 and won 18 games. And yeah, OK, I’m cherry picking Tom Seaver, but the human specimen was not different in 1970. Now with all this money invested in starting pitchers they treat them like they’re made out of antique porcelain, and the result is that they’re just as likely to get hurt, just as likely to be ineffective, just as likely to see a career take a bad turn. I can just imagine Red Schoendeinst walking out to the mound and telling Bob Gibson he had reached his pitch count.

    And boy, are we seeing the “nothing” part of the “all or nothing” offense.

  • Lenny65

    Murphy could have chosen to accept the Mets offer. He did not. You can’t break the bank to pay a guy for a few months of excellence and fact is that IMO their offer was certainly fair when you measure his entire career and not just his unreal heroics last season. He’ll come back down to earth, I’ve seen this show before.

    With Harvey though, it’s gotten frightening. He’s no Blass or Ankiel, he can get the ball over the plate just fine, it’s that he has nothing. It’s too late to fret about what anyone should have done last season, the question now is what next? Do they shuttle him off to AAA to work it out? Do they DL him? Is this a “rough patch” or something else? It’s bizarre and something I haven’t seen since it became obvious that Doc had peaked already, although Gooden had a longer run as the ace than Matt has.

    The lineup reminds me of one of those Yorkie dogs. They’re either running around going full throttle or they’re utterly unconscious on the sofa, no middle ground. The thought that last year WAS the glorious run we’ve been waiting for is sickening to consider. Too early to bury them but the odds on another post-All Star break rampage seem kind of slim IMO.

  • Jacobs27

    That was the worst game. On every level. Just awful. For the first time since Cespedes’ pinch-hit shot, I have more fear than faith in this year. And on a personal level, it’s hard to watch what Wright and Harvey are going through. Nevermind the whole all or nothing line up.

  • Daniel Hall

    So, due to being shifted six times zones away from Citi Field, and with the West Coast road trip, and now night games … I think I’ve seen one game (the Big Bart game) and scraps of two more over the last two weeks. Usually I watch the highlights in the morning before heading to work. Recently there haven’t been any. The box scores become more appalling every day. Stat-wise the pitching looks mostly okay (give or take an ailing ace or two), but the feast-or-famine lineup looks like it could use a warm soup to keep it from starving… Ah, I’m sad.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I should be past the point of being surprised at the knee jerk over the top negative reactions of Mets fans, but somehow I’m not. Fans booing Harvey? The guy that JUST pitched his heart out in the do or die game of the World Series. Chicken Little’s proclaiming the sky is falling because of a slightly rough 2 weeks? Folks, this is a damn good team and a damn long season. Do you folks have backbones? Do you not remember one year ago when the offense was UTTERLY non existent and we were running out a AAA lineup most nights? That season turned out pretty well. Conforto will hit. Walker will hit. Granderson will walk and hit home runs. Duda will have bad days but will also go on home run binges. Our bullpen has been amazing, and our starters will only get better. Are there question marks surrounding Harvey, Wright, d’Arnaud? Sure. But show me a team without question marks. And try growing a spine while you’re at it.

    • Eric from BK

      Absolutely right. I absolutely hate that a lot of the newly Met fans are booing Harvey. It’s absolutely awful. Maybe this will help us weed out some of the front runners who make Mets fans look like assholes

  • Jacobs27

    I think you’re mixing apples and oranges, Matt from Richmond. Of course, booing Harvey is embarassing and regrettable. And of course it’s a long season, etc. But there was a magic ya gotta believe good things are in store feel about this team for their run last year and for a while this year. And now… it’s not that the sky is falling, but that the realization that “it’s a long season” are not always hopeful words. That maybe it means a long, uncomfortable look at baseball mortality.

  • Regarding the booing, sometimes a boo is no more than a grumble of circumstantial disgruntlement. Doesn’t make it aesthetically forgivable, but it also doesn’t mean a mass turn of backs on a given player.

    The beautiful thing to do would be proffer an ovation of encouragement after an awful outing, but at 9-1, can’t blame anyone for being in a less than beautiful mood.

  • Gil

    With an ailing captain at 3rd, it sure would be nice to have Murph in there as the….. starter.

    Fear not, though. Young Matz will ease the pain this evening.

  • Matt in Richmond

    All I’ll tell you Jacobs27 is that I constantly was debating “fans” last year that had the same doom and gloom attitudes. Even down the stretch, after all the toughness and resilience that this team had displayed. There were fans wringing their hands over us not winning the division, much angst over the return of Wright, and you don’t need me to remind you of the absolute tizzy over the Harvey/Boras situation. There is a streak in this fan base that is prone to hyper pessimism. It’s more than glass half full/ half empty. Some might find it charming, but I do not. I’m not proclaiming this team a mortal lock for post season glory, but I would argue that there is ample empirical evidence that they will likely be a contender. And history has repeatedly shown us that May 20 at 22-18 is a ridiculous time to panic.

    • Dennis

      Excellent post Matt! Myself, along with you and others who post here were on the “Faith” side of the Mets last season, even when some had the old “woe is me” attitude.

      • Matt in Richmond

        Thanks Dennis! Yeah, I definitely remember you as one of the more positive voices on here. Looking forward to another exciting season!

  • Jacobs27

    A boo of frustration. That’s fair. The best is still the ironic cheer, in my book.

    • Matt in Woodside

      I thought the same thing. I never boo the Mets at the park, but I did boo at my television last night. There was Harvey getting lit up, Cabrera making an uncharacteristic bobble instead of a double play. Conforto clanking that line drive. Harvey was not good, but that third inning was just such a disaster in so many other ways. And all of that after walking the entire planet the night before. I don’t doubt that there were fans who had some choice words for Harvey, but from my vantage on the couch, I assumed that all of the boos weren’t specifically directed at him.

  • Jacobs27

    I see what you’re saying, Matt.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    At some point, Harvey is going to figure it out. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure the offense will figure it out. I’m afraid that tonight the Mets will turn Wily Peralta and his 7+ ERA into Sandy Koufax.

  • Dave

    If the Mets had been losing a meaningless game by a lopsided score, maybe to the Padres or the Twins, and the pitcher was Rafael Montero or somebody, the fan reaction would be “you up for Shake Shack?” instead of raspberries. But Harvey pitching against the Nats while we’re chasing them in the standings, Murph’s return as an opponent…not a meaningless game. Frustration will be vented, however rude it may sound, and it is not a sign of disloyalty. Had I been there my reaction probably would have been more along the lines of burying my face in my palms, but I can understand the boos.

  • Rob E.

    1) Other “aces” are struggling, you know….Zack Greinke is at 5.08. David Price is at 5.57. Harvey has some things to fix for sure, but the Mets play awful behind him. He’s not as bad as the numbers look. It is a short sample…take it with a grain of salt.

    2) If you have a chance to win, you take it. The Nationals were wrong to sit Strasburg. This is really not a debatable point. Either they screwed up by shutting him down at the end, or they screwed up by mismanaging him the rest of the season. But THEY SCREWED UP SOMEWHERE. If you’re not trying to win, what’s the point of playing?!?!?! Ask a Nationals fan what THEY think about that.

    3) Everybody looks to place blame when a guy struggles….it’s all BS. Greinke and Price are struggling and they have never had surgery (and they definitely didn’t pitch in the World Series last year). The Yankees were in the World Series four years in a row and no one ever complained about THEIR pitchers throwing extra innings. These are human beings that go through all the ups and downs of being human beings.

  • Jacobs27

    Perhaps tonight the Mets will collectively remember they’re capable of greatness, worrisome cases aside. Maybe we’ll even see a little situational hitting! (I mean from Matz. Let’s not get crazy, here!)

  • Jeff Y

    Seth, c’mon, the Mets didn’t let Murphy walk. They made him a more than fair offer and he chose not to accept so they moved on. While he may have been the best pure hitter, he was also a loose cannon in the field and on the bases sir you’ll recall. Everything has ups and downs.

  • […] spontaneous chant of “Har-vey’s bet-ter.” Strasburg was better at Citi last week, by a decent measure, and Tuesday night, alas, was no antimatter affair: Strasburg was better […]