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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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One of Those Guys

The primary bus scene in Bull Durham, the one in which wise, older Crash Davis informs young, wild Nuke LaLoosh that nobody gets woolly, rushed across the strike zone of the mind Friday morning, specifically the line, “You could be one of those guys.” One of the realest-life Nuke LaLooshes to have toed a rubber in the Show since the realest-seeming baseball movie ever made was released had just announced his retirement. That pitcher, the real one, was born slightly nine months after that film opened in theaters. It was as if Matt Harvey’s parents came home from the cinema and decided to create a baby toward whom the gods would reach down and turn his right arm into a thunderbolt.

Make no mistake about it: Matt Harvey was One of Those Guys. In the Show, nobody could hit Matt Harvey’s fastball. Nor could they touch his ungodly breaking stuff, let alone his exploding slider. That mastery and mystification of major league hitters didn’t last forever, but at its peak — a span measuring what felt like the greatest 27 days of our life, spread out roughly every five days over the course of one early April to one late August (26 in the regular season, one in an exhibition that lived up to its billing as the Midsummer Classic) — Citi Field was a cathedral. In 2013, now suddenly a full decade ago, anywhere Matt Harvey pitched approached holy site status.

There’d be more pitching beyond 2013, the year of Harvey Days. Some of it proved quite sublime. One night of it we either wish could have lasted a tad longer or, maybe, been cut off a batter or two before it went awry. Matt Harvey pitched us to the 2015 World Series. He had company and he had help, but it doesn’t feel wrong to credit Matt as the driving force. The World Series was a destination that was difficult to imagine in the summer of 2012 when the Mets were in the midst of a meandering bus trip to nowhere, but it may have begun to come ever so slightly into imagination’s view when the rookie righty made his major league debut in Arizona and blew Diamondback after Diamondback away.

The taste he gave us across ten starts in ’12 whetted our appetites for ’13. The Mets were still driving in circles in ’13, but you could begin to discern an off ramp. Just pull over to the right shoulder so we can get a sense of where we’re going. Y’know what, can we just let Matt drive us? We would, in fact, ride the homegrown highway of pitching to an October that suddenly burst onto our GPS. Matt Harvey was the first exit to a most rewarding trip. We’d pick up speed when we’d pick up other arms to aid and abet him, but the starting started with Harvey.

Those were the Harvey Days, my friend. Even with hindsight, we thought they’d never end.

There’s a statue of Tom Seaver outside Citi Field since 2022. There could have been a statue of Tom Seaver outside Citi Field since 2009. There could have been a statue of Tom Seaver outside Shea Stadium while Tom Seaver was pitching inside Shea Stadium. When you start talking Met starting pitchers, particularly righthanders who led the way to better days, you start with a high bar. Seaver wasn’t just One of Those Guys. He was the guy where we were concerned. Still is. After Seaver stopped pitching for us in 1983, only one righthander neared and occasionally cleared that bar: Dwight Gooden, who came along in 1984. Gooden had Friday nights in particular and a couple of years when every day he pitched was Friday night. If he didn’t maintain a Seaverian peak quite as long as Tom did, Doc’s right arm resided in the same league long enough. He was a Show unto himself.

Gooden’s last Met pitch was thrown in 1994. Doc wasn’t quite Doc by 1994, but you could watch him and remember. The Mets developed some quality righthanded pitchers over the quarter-century that followed Doc’s mid-’80s apex, but for the most part, they generated as much electricity as a hamster wheel. If you wanted to light up Shea, you signed a free agent like Pedro Martinez. Actually, there wasn’t anybody else like Pedro Martinez, and even the great Pedro could be fully like Pedro for not much more than a veritable blip once he accepted our friend invitation.

No, you want to develop your own righties. Lefties, too, but since Seaver, we’ve led with our right arms. It’s a Met thing. Or it was. From the denouement of Doc to the post-Pedro period, we came up with what righty starters from our minors? The cream of the crop included Bobby Jones, Jae Seo, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee. Good guys, but none among them One of Those Guys. Paul Wilson could have been had injury not befallen him way too early. Jason Isringhausen sure looked like he was gonna be One of Those Guys, but injury rerouted him to relief and success elsewhere.

Matt Harvey comes up in 2012, two years after the Mets drafted him in the first round in 2010, and by 2013, there’s no doubt he’s One of Those Guys. Three more guys who you deem in the same vicinity as Matt follow in rapid succession: Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. With a rotation like that, our bus could really start rolling. It’s not quite as neat as all that in practice, because by 2014, while Wheeler, plucked young from the Giants, is still learning command; and deGrom is convincing the brass he’s not here to merely soak up innings while Rafael Montero gets his big break; and ex-Jay farmhand Syndergaard wonders why nobody’s calling him in Las Vegas, Harvey is sidelined altogether, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. That’s why 2013’s span of best days of our life ends in late August. The last time we see Matt is on a sunny, shadowy Saturday at Citi. He’s facing the Detroit Tigers. Max Scherzer is pitching for them. They’d both pitched in the All-Star Game in the same park the previous month. Everything is unprecedented about this matchup, especially how not quite right our righty looks on the hill. The Tigers, who are playoff-bound, keep hitting Matt. Matt scatters as many as he can, but something is off. It’s his elbow. It will need to be repaired.

We’d miss Harvey Day like a phantom limb in 2014. We’d get Matt back in 2015 and still talk up Harvey Day, and there’d be some splendid numbers and performances, but the One of Those Guys era ended that August afternoon in 2013. Matt could do no wrong to that moment. Or if he did wrong, we didn’t sweat it. He evoked Seaver and Gooden. They were our big three. A dominant righthander of our very own is what we came for roughly every generation. We had to skip a generation from the mid-1990s to the early 2010s. Harvey brought it back to us all at once.

Then the gods took it away from him and us, bit by bit. Again, heckuva year in ’15. Matt clinched the division title in Cincinnati. He settled down after a bumpy second inning to go five and notch the win the first time a postseason alighted at Citi Field, Game Three of the NLDS versus the Dodgers. He quashed the Cubs in the opener of the NLCS that followed. Of course he was given the honor of starting the World Series for the first Met pennant-winner in fifteen years. Of course he didn’t want to leave the last Met World Series game the Mets have played since then, eight years ago, when he’d shut out the Royals for eight innings. Terry Collins had a different idea. Matt Harvey changed his manager’s mind.

He couldn’t change history, though. You thought he might. He’d been One of Those Guys so effectively that you wanted to see him do it a little more. He couldn’t. He never would again. Damn.

Matt Harvey’s Met career ended in the bullpen in May of 2018, and not as a reborn closer. He was excess pitching inventory at the unseemly end. It had been over between him and us for going on three seasons. None of really wanted to admit it. Matt’s big league career continued a few more years with a few other teams. He last pitched in the majors in 2021. It’s 2023, the year Matt Harvey, 34, announced his retirement. He’d been through a lot. He gave us his best. His best was frigging phenomenal. We should remember that.

In the first game the Mets played after Harvey confirmed he was done, the Mets looked alive. A righthander pitched. This righty, a rookie (but not really), doesn’t mind flashing a logo advertising a personal brand on his gear. In Kodai Senga’s case, it’s a ghost, for his signature pitch the ghost fork. It’s all in good fun. The Dark Knight imagery Matt took up was fun for a spell, too. The Mets very much needed an outstanding start from Senga after Scherzer imploded on Wednesday night and Justin Verlander needed an inning to get right on Thursday afternoon. The Mets had lost four in a row. Kodai wasn’t imported from Japan to be the stopper, but on Friday night at Citi Field, he had to be at least an approximation of One of Those Guys.

And he was. Senga went six innings and permitted no runs. Walked four, but no base on balls became a Rockie run, so no problem. Kodai gave up only two hits and had all his pitches, not just the animated one, working. Like many of the fine righties who have preceded him as Met starters, Senga went largely unsupported by his offense. But not wholly unsupported, as Brandon Nimmo, the goat rather than GOAT of Thursday’s ninth inning, went deep in the fourth inning to provide his pitcher a 1-0 lead. Nobody else in the Met lineup did anything nearly as useful, but that’s why you pay for pitching. No runs given up by Senga over six; no runs given up by Drew Smith in the seventh, David Robertson in the eighth or Adam Ottavino in the ninth. Colorado seemed poised to close in those last couple of innings, but our bullpen corps stiffened. I was a little worried when I saw 2015 Royal Mike Moustakas come out to pinch-hit for the Rockies. Moustakas was the batter coming to the plate when Collins finally pulled Harvey from the mound in Game Five. The 2-0 lead had been trimmed to 2-1. Versus Jeurys Familia, Moustakas grounded to first, advancing Eric Hosmer to third. A blink later, it would be 2-2. Matt Harvey, who’d striven to the point of resistance of authority to complete a World Series shutout, got a no-decision.

Back in the present, Moustakas struck out versus Ottavino for the second, unproductive out of the ninth, and Charlie Blackmon lined to Starling Marte to end the game with the potential tying run on third. Four Mets pitchers had shut out the Rockies, 1-0. I shunted aside the regret-laden memory of Moustakas and Hosmer and all those dratted Royals and replaced it with the recollection that I was in the park to watch Matt Harvey shut out Colorado all by himself on one of those Harvey Days in 2013. It was the first shutout of our ace’s career. Blackmon singled with two out in the ninth that August night for the Rockies, but the 24-year-old Met righty popped up Troy Tulowitzki to successfully finish what he’d so brilliantly started. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was Harvey’s final win of 2013. We also didn’t know and couldn’t have guessed it would turn out to be the only shutout of Matt’s career, postseason included.

We expected more, but it was just one of those things.

National League Town licked its wounds after a band of Tigers scratched and clawed the Mets. Listen to what that sounds like here.

4 comments to One of Those Guys

  • Bill Woolis

    Phenomenal writing, a worthy farewell and spot on celebration of a blazing Mets comet that flamed out far too soon. Dark Knight we hardly knew ye

  • Seth

    A great tribute. He really was our new Seaver/Gooden-like ace. It’s just a bad break for him, and this must have been a difficult decision. We will always remember Harvey Days…

  • ljcmets

    Matt Harvey…(sigh). I wasn’t paying any attention in 2012, but WOW did I see him in 2013. To me, he was the closest thing to Seaver (incredibly handsome, ebullient, loved NY, very intelligent and man did he have great stuff) the Mets had yet produced, but For Those of Us of a Certain Age, no one will ever be Seaver. (I finally understand why my father was so impressed by Tom when he arrived in the majors, and I’m now more than double my father’s age in those days.”Pay attention,” he told me, “ you may never see anything like him again.” Indeed I have not, and I’ve been watching baseball for well over half a century now).

    But Matt had that potential. At that pivotal moment in Game 5, had he but succeeded in retiring the Royals and completing that shutout, I almost think he might have had a Seaver-like, at least, career. But I do remember being scared for him that it didn’t happen that way, in a way I never worried about Tom. Of course 46 years had passed by then, and a 57-year old fan is very different from an 11-year old. I almost expected the resulting tailspin (but not the TOS) and it made me a little sad that I couldn’t Believe in Matt Harvey the way I always did in Tom Seaver. Tom always had perfect timing, even after the Trade. Pitch a no- hitter one year and one day after being exiled? Take a bow at the first All-Star game in New York in years? Somehow wind up winning # 300 at a Yankee Stadium invaded by fans chanting”Let’s Go Mets” and in the process completely overshadow Phil Rizzuto Day? Check, check, check. No matter where he went, or played, or lived, Tom Seaver was Always a Met.

    Fate didn’t grant that grace to Matt Harvey. We all know what happened. No tears were shed by Harvey or Mets fans when Matt was exiled to Cincinnati. No no-hitter, no broadcasting career, no number 33 hanging in the rafters, no Hall of Fame, and a denouement that was tragic rather than triumphant. Tom was beloved his entire life in New York; Harvey was forgotten if not worse.

    And yet….in some funhouse mirror way, Matt Harvey will Always Be a Met, too. We know it; he knows it. He returned to the CitiField mound and admitted to fear that he would be booed, and instead he was showered with cheers. In announcing his retirement, what photo did he post except himself in a Mets uniform? What city did he talk about? And which fans did he thank as eloquently as Tom ever did? You Know Who. I think more than a few tears, including my own, flowed last night. Matt’s come all the way around, and his baseball home will always be where the Mets – and the Mets fans- are.

  • JerseyJack

    Nicely said , ljcmets !!