Matt Harvey has had a rough go of it to start his 2019 season.
After signing a 1 year, $11 million contract late last year with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, a lot of people thought it would be a chance for Harvey to revamp his career, especially after his ugly divorce from the Mets during the 2018 season. Instead, throughout his first four starts, he is 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA, 14 strikeouts, 8 walks, and a 1.821 WHIP through 18.2 innings.
His first start was very impressive, giving up two runs and five hits through a six inning no decision against the Oakland A’s on March 29. However, it has been a rough slog for Harvey ever since that start.
In truth, it’s been a rough few years for the “Dark Knight”. Thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in 2016, behavioral and injury issues in 2017, and being designated for assignment and traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 2018 has completely derailed his seemingly unlimitless growth from years prior. It’s completely unbelievable to see, especially as a guy who’s followed Harvey’s career from his days in the Mets minor league system.
What has led Matt Harvey to this point of his career? Why has this happened? Is it the ill effects of his 2013 Tommy John Surgery and being overworked during the Mets 2015 World Series run? Is it the thoracic outlet syndrome surgery effects? Could it possibly be his refusal to change his style of hard throwing and not becoming more of a finesse pitcher?
It could be any of those things. But, in my opinion, there is one moment in time that completely changed the course of Harvey’s career. In my opinion, as a fan, this one particular instant completely stunted the rise of his trajectory, and it was 100% a psychological thing, in my opinion.
The date: November 1, 2015. The place: Citi Field. The time period: Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, 9th inning.
The moment: walking Lorenzo Cain on a 3-2 slider in the top of the ninth inning.
To understand the moment, especially as a die-hard fan in this situation, Game 5 was absolutely electric. “The Dark Knight” was at the top of his powers. Nine strikeouts through eight innings. Hitting on all cylinders. The fans chanting his name. Citi Field never rocked harder, with 44,859 people into every pitch and sequence.
With the Mets up 2-0 in the bottom of the eighth, Jeurys Familia was warming up in the bullpen, prepping to come in and close the ninth. When pitching coach Dan Warthen informed Harvey he was coming out, after 102 pitches, Harvey immediately pleaded his case with manager Terry Collins to stay in. The fans, on their feet, were chanting “WE WANT HARVEY!”, knowing that there was a good chance he was coming out. Collins went with his heart and not his gut.
He allowed Harvey to go out for the top of the ninth.
With a sprint from the dugout, Harvey ran out to the mound like a bullet. Lorenzo Cain led off the inning. After a ball up and in, Harvey threw two straight strikes, bringing the count to 1-2. Harvey then went upstairs with gas for Ball 2. Cain then fouled off a ball down the first base line, keeping the count at 2-2. Harvey then hit 96 MPH with a fastball, high and away, for ball 3. With a full count, Harvey went for his shot.
Slider. 86 MPH. Low. Cain walked.
From that moment, the beginning of the end seemingly started the unraveling of Matt Harvey. Two pitches later, Eric Hosmer hit a double to left field over the head of Michael Conforto, making it a 2-1 Mets lead. Collins left the dugout and pulled Harvey, who left to a raucous ovation. But it was the moment caught on camera that really piqued me.
Crossing over the foul line, Harvey was looking down, defeated, punching his glove. It was the first time I truly ever saw a dejected “Dark Knight”. He looked completely distraught.
We all know what happened next: Duda throws off line to home, tying game, Reed and Bartolo give up 5 runs in the 12th, Mets lose. It’s standard folklore now in Mets history.
But from that point on, Matt Harvey was never the same.
And that is where the downturn began. A 16-26 record with a 5.63 ERA in 358 ⅓ innings since that day. A suspension for 3 games because he was hungover and previously dumped by Adriana Lima. A DFA, major surgery with losing a rib, and a multitude of struggles from a pitching perspective. A sad fall from grace for one of New York’s brightest stars at one time.
As a guy who watched Matt Harvey starts during the rise in the early to mid 2010s, I can only hope that one day, “the Dark Knight” could get a second chance at dominance. At the very least, a successful re-emergence as a solid starter. Until that day comes, I will always pull for the man. But Game 5 of the World Series might have been his plateau. And that is something that is tough to digest.