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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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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, but I decided to let them and the silly hope they episodically engender have a go at me. The weather was sublime, the company (2015 National League champion spirit animal David “Skid” Rowe, 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, 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, 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.

25 comments to Those Days Are Gone Forever

  • An appropriate farewell. Good job.

  • Dave

    One of my initial reactions to the news was that I was looking forward to the FAFIF take on our farewell to the no-longer Dark former Knight. Good job, Greg.

    This could be a lot more than simply (well, it’s not so simple, is it…we’re not exactly talking about DFA’ing Travis Taijeron here) ending the Mets career of just one player. There’s a message here to Wheeler, to Matz, to Vargas…we don’t have all season. Your job is to get enough hitters out that the team’s chance of winning that game is optimized. Whether it’s for 6 or 7 innings or for one batter, starting or coming out of the pen. If you can’t, we have no choice but to find someone who can. Sorry, but that’s baseball. Consider yourselves on notice.

    • LeClerc

      Right you are.

      Wheeler, Matz, Vargas, Conforto, etc.

      The mission is to win ball games. Not to coddle egos. After Wheeler’s pathetic performance last night, the Mets were still in position to win in the bottom of the 9th. But Conforto was a deer in the headlights facing Wade Davis. Why in the world is he not in Las Vegas learning how to hit again?

      Tonight’s the time for Matz to bear down and bring it.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    If we really are in the Accountability Calloway Era, maybe it’s time to send Conforto down (up?) to Binghamton for some Spring Training at bats. It is Spring now in Binghamton, right?

    Some bad team in need of innings will surely pick up Harvey. As the saying goes, It don’t cost nothin’. And if he can get to the point where he can get thru 6 innings without fully imploding they can flip him to a contender for a B level prospect or two.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I think I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that this was probably inevitable and in the best interests of both Matt and the Mets. While many will take glee in his fall and departure I feel only a sadness for what might have been and gratitude for what was. I never cared much about the off the field noise, what mattered to me was the dominance and excitement that he brought to the field in ways that very few can. Shame it couldn’t last longer.

  • Michael in CT

    “Those days are gone forever, over a long time ago, oh yeah.” Fitting lines from Steely Dan’s “Pretzel Logic,” a title that describes the tortuous arc of Harvey’s career since the halcyon days of 2013. Also from that song (my favorite from the Dan): “Yes, I’m dying to be a star.” “Cause he looks so fine upon that hill; they tell me he was lonely, he’s lonely still.”

    • I was hearing “those days are gone forever, I should just let ’em go,” from Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer,” but I like your version as well.

      • ljcmets

        That’s where my mind went too, Greg…not only to the Henley song (one of my favorites) but also Roger Kahn’s book “The Boys of Summer” about the Brooklyn Dodgers as well as the original poem by Dylan Thomas. The phrase has so many layers upon layers that resonate in this particular situation.

        (That said, it’s easy to tell the age/cohort of the readers of this blog by all the references to 70’s bands and songs! Myself included…)

        I’ve been thinking about the Harvey situation for a while, and I think it’s evident that Met fandom will probably be permanently divided on the subject of Harvey….you either see him as a wistful, almost tragic figure ( a “Boy of Summer” if you will) who gave everything he had to the Mets and ruined his chances for a big contract (and immortality) for us – or an ungrateful, boorish, unsympathetic ingrate who we should be happy to see the last of. The truth of course is somewhere between these two poles – I tend to lean toward the former – and a lot of this will be colored by what happens to Harvey and the Mets from this point forward.

        I have to say that I am somewhat concerned that there may be an even more difficult ending to this saga. Harvey’s behavior over the last several weeks has all the trappings to me of a man who has stopped caring and given up. I fear that his self-defeating behavior may soon become self-destructive, and for that reason alone, as well as others, I hope he is picked up by some club and is able to salvage his career.

        I’ve been a Mets fan for almost a half-century, and I’ve only seen a handful of home-grown Mets set New York and the rest of the majors on fire as Harvey did. I would say Seaver (of course), Gooden (ditto) and Harvey as starters (maybe Nolan Ryan but truth be told he didn’t have that kind of impact in New York), Tug McGraw as a reliever, and Strawberry, Reyes and Wright as everyday players. I’m sure I’ve left some out and others might not make everyone’s list, but look at those names for a while and what I see is a huge sense of loss and “what might have been.”

        Every one of those pitchers was traded away and didn’t finish his career with the Mets. Of course Seaver made it to the Hall and is one of the all-time greats but somehow the Mets managed to lose a player twice who clearly wanted to be with the Mets. Gooden and Strawberry each could have been a Hall of Famer but have barely managed to keep their lives in order. Tug’s end was even more tragic.

        The last act has yet to be written for Reyes and Wright but obviously there will be regrets over Wright’s injury-plagued ending and ambiguity at best, if not outright anger, over Jose’s off-field conduct. Now Harvey…and that almost feels more sad than some of the others (perhaps it’s recency bias). Why can’t the Mets have an unambiguously all-out happy ending with a homegrown superstar? Where is our Jeter, our Bernie Williams, our Mariano; why do we seem doomed to repeat the same pattern over and over?

        I just entered my seventh decade a few weeks ago, and it occurred to me that I may not see someone burst upon the scene like Harvey again, and I wish that the ending, which was probably inevitable, could have been different. “The Boys of Summer” have gone, indeed…

    • Pat

      Steely Dan’s second verse is about Napoleon, but it fits Matt Harvey pretty well, too:

      “Cause he looked so fine, up on that hill.
      They tell me he was lonely, he’s lonely still.
      Those days are gone forever —
      Over a long time ago, oh yeah.”

  • Daniel Hall

    Well, Harvey Days gave me a lot of joy in ’12, ’13 when I didn’t have much else to feel joyous about. The next three years were a lot of up and down, and then it was just down, down, down with Harvey. I hated seeing him getting whooped by the most pathetic of teams and batters, it tugged me inside when the Mets sent him to the pen, and when the Barves barfed five on him on Thursday, it was just the worst. (Or second-worst, depening on how you rate Vargas’ grand theft of $16m)

    But when you pitch like arse for over a year and your team kindly inquires whether you’d mind relocating to a calmer environment to get this and that thing worked out, like, maybe throw a strike from time to time, well, eh… I’m (reluctantly) with the Mets here.

    That being said, I am dead certain that some backwoods team already in the doldrums and with no meaningful pitching of their own might take a $540k wager (or whatever the minimum is these days) to take a closer gander at him. Preferrably in a pitcher’s park. Oddly, the Royals come to mind. I would like seeing him get shit back straight and become serviceable again.

  • 9th string catcher

    I predict Yankees. Nothing to lose, much to gain including rubbing it in if it works.

    Let’s face it – Harvey had to help the team win now, since he was never coming back. The leash was short. No need to wait any longer. And Harvey made the right decision – this organization is absolutely no good for him. If he’s going to end up in the minors, it might as well be for another team.

    I have zero animosity towards Harvey. For a short period, he was one of the best pitchers we ever had. He’s dealt with physical and addition issues without a whole lot of sympathy. I think he will rebound and wish him the best.

  • Pete In Iowa

    I am all for allowing a guy to work his way out of a slump, but the body language (frustration) I was seeing from Conforto in his first three at bats last night was concerning. Based upon that, I think it was also concerning that Callaway thought it best to allow him to hit against a lefthander in the eighth (Lagares seemed to be the better option) and I was even more dismayed that Gonzalez wasn’t used for him the ninth.
    Just as with Harvey, there can be no egos here. Put the guy in who gives you the best shot to win. Based upon what I saw last night, I didn’t think Conforto was the best option with the game on the line in the ninth last night. A veteran such as Gonzalez seemed a much better choice in that spot.

  • sturock

    I read that Conforto will be sitting today, which I hope turns out to be the case. He definitely needs a mental health day or two, though a trip to the DL or the minors may be warranted. I don’t think he’s fully recovered from shoulder surgery and he’s going to need more time to get into shape.

    As for Matt, it was time. He just wasn’t helping the team and a change of scenery is called for. And yes, it does send a message. The 2018 Mets are in the business of winning games, the last couple of weeks notwithstanding. Those who aren’t helping need to move on. Matt Harvey sure was great once upon a time, though.

    Thanks for saying it so well, Greg!

  • Greg Mitchell

    Very true on not pinch-hitting for Conforto both times. So much for all the Mickey Don’t Coddle claims.

    They also let Conforto and Vargas both come back too soon.

    The Mets’ fatal mistake was to pull all their marbles in the young starting pitching basket just as much of the rest of baseball figured out you could win titles with far, far, less risky young position players and patched together starting rotations. To be really depressed consider:

    Noah, Harvey, Matz, Wheeler, DeGromm.

    Judge, Sanchez, Didi, Glaybar T., Andujar.

  • Ed Risng

    I was at the game last night and I apparently in time for Rockies batting practice. It is deflating to be behind by 5 before our turn at bat. Given the consistent problem of our pitchers performance in recent days, I wonder it there is a communication issue or adjustment with the staff working with 2 new catchers? I will give credit to Wheeler for working fhfough some tough innings, sprinkling 3 more runs to the Rockies until Seth ‘Mr. Everyday’ Lugo relieves him in the 7th. The Mets proved resiliant mounting a near comeback.

    In regards to Harvey, I am extremely disappointed in the shortsightedness of the Mets organization. The list of pitchers who have struggled either as they age or returning from injury, or both is long. There must have been alternative to releasing him. I agree a trip to the minors would be the best route, however when the guy (Vargas) who took his spot gave up an avalanche of runs. 2 starts, and considering the possible doom of our startin rotation, I would have given Matt more time to find himself. This is the advantage of our early hot start which has slipped into the oblivion of our memories.

    Matt Harvey will catch on with another team and return to prominance, though a reinvented version of himselfmuch to the dismay of the Mets and their fans. Meanwhile the same press who have been calling for Harvey’s head, will be raking the Mets over the coals for acting so abruptly.

    One last thing, all of this super hero bullshit contributes to unreasonable expectations of a fan base. These are men, and the only superpower they have is strength speed, and the gifts and abilities to play baseball. No flying, or fighting crime is required. Sometimes you just can’t get rid of a bomb.

    • Steve D

      I agree with much of what you said. There are a lot of name pitchers (Tillman, Sonny Gray, Archer, Darvish, Duffy…) struggling big time, not to even mention Vargas and Wheeler. Harvey still has enough stuff to warrant the great pitching minds of Callaway and Eiland to try to work him through this at the big league level. It’s not like there are a lot of alternatives out there. The Yankees may have more young talent they developed or traded for very young on their current team than the Mets have had in all their 56 years.

      The marketing of the Dark Knight somehow reminds me of how the Knicks marketed Linsanity. I was hooked big time. When they let him walk that summer, after 40 years of suffering, my heart said enough. I have never cared about the Knicks again after that and have not regretted my decision one minute. I am not at that point with the Mets, but it is getting harder to care all the time. As I have said before, this is the worst franchise in baseball history at developing hitters. I am tired of it and there is nothing on the horizon.

      • Steve D

        My Yankee statement refers to hitters…should have placed that after second paragraph.

      • Matt in Woodside

        For a while, I thought Harvey just couldn’t wrap his mind around being a number 3 or number 5 starter. Just was unwilling to reinvent himself. But after hearing about him going to that party in LA while the team was in San Diego, I couldn’t help thinking of that line from Spinal Tap. “As long as there’s sex and drugs, you know, I can do without the rock and roll.” If anyone could help him reinvent himself, Callaway and Eiland have the track records. But instead he’s taking his 7.0 ERA on a five or six hour round trip to go to a celebrity restaurant opening while his team is on the road. This is a depressing ending to his story with the Mets, for sure, but I really don’t think he left the team any other choice.

  • JoeyC

    This is on Mr. Harvey. Some athletes have just that many good seasons and some come back from injury reinvented. He’ll determine which route he takes. So long, old sport.

    I agree that this should put Mssrs. Wheeler, Vargas and Matz on notice. If you can’t straighten out with the big club, you’d better show willingness to work it out in Vegas. Leave the hubris in the parking lot, too, or suffer your own Harvey Day.

  • Lenny65

    And suddenly there’s Jacob (fingers crossed) and Thor (somewhat less than dominant but (hopefully) it’ll come) and a whole lot of nothing. Wheeler ranges from halfway decent to abysmal, Matz is locked in his eternal hellish struggle and this Vargas guy is making us yearn for Tyler Pill and Adam Wilk. Meanwhile Conforto appears to be adrift, Jay Bruce is a cardboard cut-out, Ces is launching a few dingers in between strikeouts, Gonzales and Reyes are still gunking up the roster and this once-sort of promising young season is downright depressing to watch. Wish I had an answer.

    I’d like to see Harvey “re-invent” himself but that was just never going to happen here. Of all the Mets flameouts his was IMO the toughest one to watch.

  • greggofboken

    For your enjoyment, some doggerel to mark the occasion….

    O Most Unhappy Harvey Day!
    There shall be no parade.
    The Sand-man hath seen quite enough.
    Thou hast been DFA’d.

    Thy alpha-dogness barks no more,
    In thy day, thou wast Da Bomb!
    Thy fickle focus fixed thy foul fate
    (‘Tis not all about QuallComm.)

    Was it thy thinking that did most undo thee?
    Thy psyche’s just a mess.
    Or wast waylaid by Hippocrates?
    O woe! O TOS!

    Perhaps it was the appetite
    Of one who loved too much his kicks.
    Does redemption rest in Tampa Bay
    Where they ain’t got no Page Six?

    We knew ecstasy in Thirteen
    When first the Dark Knight rose.
    But rumors were twasn’t ecstacy
    That caused that bloody nose.

    In Fifteen we did cheer like mad
    Your travails and majestic toils
    And we fault not thee, but Terry C.
    Who let thee face too many Royals.

    Mickey pushed the ‘51’s.
    “You’ll come back” but did not say when.
    “Dost thou not know who I think I am?
    This is bull! And so’s the pen!”

    With Boras as thy Sancho
    You’ll leave Gotham for La Mancha.
    Tilting windmills with all of MLB
    Trying to find teams that’ll wantcha.

    A home we know thou soon shall find
    Though thou mayest not find thy pitches.
    With rue we bid adieu Dark Knight
    Grown too big for thy britches.

  • Curt

    Harvey needs to quit pitching like he still has outstanding stuff and learn to pitch like he has mediocre stuff. You can deliver a 96-mph fastball with movement over the heart of the plate. You can’t deliver a flat 92-mph, or even a flat 95-mph ball down the middle. Plus the breaking stuff left him.

    Conforto is completely perplexing. The swing looks good but I’m no coach – maybe there’s a hole in it?

    Nice exciting game last night. You never feel happy after a loss but there were about 15 minutes of fun in there.

    My Harvey lyrics go back to, “Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end . . .” latest by Mary Hopkins. Not nearly the music of Steely Dan or Hensley but it was what came to mind due to the sappy hopefulness most of us had that he’d find a way to rediscover his form.

    • Left Coast Jerry

      Thanks, Curt. Now I have a Mary Hopkin ear worm. So here goes:
      Once upon a time there was a pitcher
      Out in Flushing Queens he used to play
      We’d watch as he would blow away the hitters
      The time that it was known as Harvey Day

      Those were the days my friend
      We thought they’d never end
      We’d cheer and yell each time we saw him play
      We needed no excuse
      We thought he never lose
      On Harvey Day
      Oh yes, those were the days

      I leave it to minds better than mine to come up with additional verses.

      In the meantime, Harvey has been replaced on the roster by Hansel Robles, who is like the unwelcome relative that you just can get to leave.

  • greensleeves

    In the end this is not Tom Seaver leaving us.
    ‘They will never forget you till somebody new comes along.’

  • Curt

    Jerry – nice!