The same day that Jeremy Hefner loses his ninth consecutive start, this may not seem like a welcome post. In fact, on a day where the Mets did everything that they could have possibly done wrong, nothing is probably less welcome than a post about being positive and happy. But somehow, it’s going to happen. Maybe that’s the real magic of Matt Harvey.
Matt Harvey is 5-0. That’s a fact. The Mets will go for a series win tomorrow against the Cubs. That’s also a fact. Rick Ankiel is quickly becoming a fan favorite. That’s also a somewhat depressing fact. The real fact is, even for teams as bad as these Mets, there will not always be a six game losing streak. Any team, the Mets included, or perhaps for example, can go out and win on any given day. It doesn’t even have to be a Matt Harvey start. Any team, whether the center fielder is Mike Trout or Mike Baxter, can win on any day. Bad teams will lose – that can’t be avoided. But even if you have a bad team, your team will always win now and then. When Matt Harvey pitches? Yeah, they’re definitely more likely to win, as long as Harvey’s hitting too. But the reason that Mets fans, year after year, do not give up hope, is the same as the reason that deep into this summer, which is sure to be a long one, we will still come out to the park to watch Harvey, Wright, Wheeler, (God willing) d’Arnaud, Rafael Montero, and god knows who else. Yankees fans don’t do that. Yankees fans don’t get excited about prospects because inevitably, they will be flipped for rapidly aging middle relievers or corner outfielders. But as a Mets fan, and a proud one at that, I can say for certain that although the Mets may be bad, they are not facing an eternal losing streak, and regardless of the final record, every season will have some wins, whether they matter or not.
David Wright. Lucas Duda. Mike Baxter. Matt Harvey.
Everyone else on the Mets roster has, somehow, managed to disappoint me in the last four days.
It’s amazing. Honestly, I’m amazed at the level of shit that the Mets have reached.
Matt Harvey? He had a 2.57 E.R.A. during that outing.
David Wright? He hit the ball hard a few times, he walked, he played the field well.
Baxter? He scored a run, didn’t he? How many other guys can say that right now?
Duda? You can’t complain about a home run, and if that grounder in the 8th doesn’t hit the base, the Mets probably win.
Everyone else? You absolutely sucked today. And you weren’t exactly made better by Terry Collins’ bevy of bad decisions.
Not pinch hitting for Ike (multiple times)? Bad decision.
Using three pitchers in the eighth inning? Bad decision.
Putting Ike in the clean-up spot? Bad decision.
Not bunting once into a Pirates’ defense that overshifted for every batter? Bad decision.
Never squeeze-bunting, hit-and-running, or doing anything that real managers use to create runs? Bad decision.
But never mind the bad decisions. Even making every decision in the game wrong, no team should ever look the way the Mets look right now. Words and phrases like “completely inadequate,” “absolutely awful,” and “My god, it’s like the late ’70s,” come to mind. How many times did the Mets get a man on base today? And how many times did they drive that same guy in? Two? Yeah, that would suck, but try again. Duda, the omnipresent Duda, hit a home run. So during these agonizingly long nine innings, the Mets drove in exactly one man who had earlier reached base. One.
You can make your rationalizations, make your justifications, make something else that makes me sound like Walt Clyde Frazier, but in the end, there can be no justification for this kind of play. Terry got a break last year because it was in the second half – and the year before as well. But now, we’re 34 games in, the Mets are playing like they’re just killing time until the end of the season, and the blame lies with the manager.
I don’t care how great Terry has done. He hasn’t, but that’s a different argument. Terry’s “success” has been based on players, like R.A. Dickey and Scott Hairston, overperforming. I will admit, I was excited for this season – Matt Harvey, Travis d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler – what could go wrong? Now I realize that I, not the pessimists, was the one who was biased, and that Shannon Shark, of the incomparable metspolice.com, was closer to the truth when he predicted, as the Mets win total and Opening Day ticket price, “$63 for 63.”
So what? Are we just going to sit here until Brandon Nimmo shows up in four years and disappoints us all? No, we’re not. Because we won’t wait until Terry’s gone and Wally’s here. We will not be content with a lineup that is nothing short of terrible. And we will not watch Shaun Marcum pitch when Zack Wheeler is waiting, making great start after great start, in AAA. Eventually, the Mets will come to their senses, they will realize that rebuilding doesn’t usually involve leaving your prospects in the minors, and they will act, but until then, we’ll need to be content with watching Jordany Valdespin craft his inevitable doom, watching Mike Baxter make his hometown happy, and, of course, watching Matt Harvey just being great.
I know Matt Harvey deserved a win, you know Matt Harvey deserved a win, whatever. That’s what happens when you’ve got a team with an offense about as consistent as Armando Benitez, but again, whatever. Really, and I’m not just saying that. Whatever. Harvey’s on my fantasy team, I would have loved a perfect game and a win (78 points compared to 41), but still. Whatever.
When Matt Harvey delivers a pitching performance that is, in all probability, in the top five in your franchise’s history, and doesn’t get a win for whatever reason, what the hell can you say? Oh man! Too bad! Better luck next time! Really? What can we possibly say about Harvey that will do justice to the absolutely brilliant job that he did on the mound? I’ll tell you what. Whatever.
I, for one, can always tell when Harvey is about to take a no-hitter deep into a game. You can tell the first few times through the lineup that he has it, or he doesn’t have it, and that he usually does have it. Tonight, he had it. He had it to the tune of 12 strikeouts and 12 fewer walks and 12 fewer quality hits and 11 fewer scored hits. But honestly, when giving up a hit depends on the acrobatic ability of Ruben Tejada, aren’t we just splitting hairs? When Alex Rios’ infield single is the worst moment of your day, what does it really matter? Would I have loved a perfect game? Of course! Should the Mets have scored a run for their one great pitcher? Of course! Am I writing in the style of Francesa right now? I think so!
Honestly, whatever. Who cares that Harvey didn’t get the win, that Rios beat it by that much, that Bobby Parnell can pretty much make a living closing out Harvey’s games. Who cares? A win is a win, a great win is a great win, and a win that could be one of the top 5 wins in the history of the franchise, pitching wise, is also a great win. If you want to gripe about the offense, well, go ahead, but your time would be better spent being happy about how we barely need an offense when Harvey’s on the mound. You want to talk about how Ruben Tejada needs to make that play? Wouldn’t you rather talk about how Ruben Tejada only had to make one tough play the entire game?
Harvey didn’t get the win, and he gave up a hit. So what, whatever, and so long to you. It’s still a win, and a great one at that.
It didn’t look good for the Mets.
I’ll pause while you make a joke about whether it’s ever looked good for the Mets.
It looked, in fact, particularly bad for the Mets, down 1 run in the top of the ninth, facing Craig Kimbrel, who throws four times as hard as his age.
Yeah, it looked really bad.
Daniel Murphy was up. #Imwith28.
He struck out. I was #embarrassedtobewith28.
David Wright was up.
In other words, the captain was up.
The captain of the Mets, the captain of America.
The count went to 2-2.
The next pitch went a long way.
464 feet, to be exact.
An absolute bomb off of Gary-proclaimed “Unhittable Craig Kimbrel.”
A game tying homer.
A blast from the captain.
Oh, and the Mets won.
A friend asked me a question today. I didn’t know how to answer it.
“What happens first?” he asked. “A, Terry Collins get fired/resigns, B, Wheeler gets called up, or C, May 15th.”
I had not been surprised by the first two options, but the second one put a wrench in the question that I had not anticipated. I pondered my answer.
My friend could not wait through my pondering. “Two days ago, I would have said C, but now, I think it could be both A and B,” he said. “In fact, A and B could happen simultaneously.”
Interesting, I thought. I reconsidered what I had been about to say, took a moment to collect myself, and then responded.
“Yeah, it does seem like that could happen.”
I was completely serious. I had considered the evidence, looked at each and every option, and come to a decision. Terry would be gone.
Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that. We spend the next 10-15 minutes debating somewhat heatedly on the merits of Wally Backman, calling up Wheeler, having a AAA team for an organization whose backbone is pitching in Las Vegas, and whether Wally would manage Wheeler’s debut or Wheeler would pitch in Wally’s debut. When we finally finished, we both agreed – the new era was coming.
Bryan Adams said it best: “But when I look back now, that summer seemed to last forever, but if I had the choice, I know I’d always want to be there.” Waiting for the transition to a new era often takes longer than everyone, myself included, would like, and is, sometimes, almost as enjoyable as the era itself. The excitement of young talent, resurgent veterans, and electrifying fireballers is a thrill matched by few others. That’s why the NFL draft is so big every year – the majority of teams that make a pick are completely guaranteed to have a young player to be excited about next season. That is not usually the case in the MLB draft. Almost never, in fact. But even with the excitement, my friend and I, being Mets fans, had to wonder: was this really the best thing for the team?
The answer? A resounding yes.
When twitter explodes with rumors and complaints, and beat reporters have to take it upon themselves to quell the uprisings being plotted, it means one of three things – the thing the fans want will come within the next few weeks, the thing the fans want will come at the end of the season, but that’s not soon enough for the fans, or the team will turn around and the thing the fans want will be obsolete. I hate to say it, because I have, for the most part, supported the reign of Terry Collins, but in this case, it seems like the first option is the most likely. When reporters and experts are pretty much yelling at the rest of Mets twitter that Terry will not be fired, the next step, 9 out of 10 times, is Terry being fired. History repeats itself, as any idiot who calls himself a history teacher will be kind enough to tell you.
But still, the question remains if this is really the best thing for the team. But I ask you, how could it not be?! The point of a baseball team is to win baseball games. Baseball games are won by two things: superior managing and superior playing. As exhibits A and B, I submit Zack Wheeler, whose 3 point something ERA at Vegas would be a 1 point something anywhere else, and Wally Backman, who would provide the spark that Greg Prince cannot for the life of him find. Rebuilding has to end sometime, and unless I’m wrong, rebuilding a team is not supposed to take as long as building the stadium that the team plays in did. Sandy Alderson needs to know that an 11th pick that may or may not be lost is not as valuable as an outfielder who can play great defense and steal bases for relatively cheap. Sandy has to know that leaving a prospect in the minors until they become too old to be a prospect is not the same as “seasoning.” And the entire organization has to know that just because rebuilding is cheap does not mean that it should be allowed to last forever.
Bring me Wally and Wheeler, but don’t think you’re getting off that easy. You bring me Wally and Wheeler, and then we’ll talk about next year’s free agent outfield class. Because that’s what teams do. They sign players to get better. And that, Sandy, is what you have to do. You can’t be Oakland forever.
Yes, it was intentional, and no, I’m not lazy. Thanks for asking.
Since Matt Harvey defeated Stephen Strasburg a week and a half ago, I have not written in between Harvey starts. No, it’s not because I lost concentration, don’t have enough time, or anything like that. If I wanted to, I could churn out two posts a day. But when Matt Harvey pitches one day, and then someone else pitches the next day, what is there to say about the next guy? All conversations will inevitably end like this:
“Hey, Hefner looked pretty good yesterday.”
“Whatever, he’s just a stopgap. Harvey, he’s the real deal.”
Or like this:
“I think Dillon Gee finally has his changeup working”
“Yeah. Maybe he’s finally learned something from Harvey.”
The point is, when Matt Harvey is surrounded by the roster that he is, in fact, surrounded by, anything not involving Matt Harvey is not that interesting. I could have written about LaTroy Hawkins, and how he named one of his cattle after Jay Horwitz. In fact, I probably would have, if this had been April 2012 instead of April 2013. But when I sat down to write about something that I can barely even remember, I found that I simply could not.
Imagine that you work at a pizza parlor. You make just enough to live on, and your life is steady, if a little unfulfilling. But one day, a man in a cloak approaches you. He offers you a prize for your loyal lifetime: once every five days, you get to go to a secret room filled with money and grab as much as you want. You can take home a million dollars every five days if you so choose. Unlimited, free money, as much as you want every five days.
“I’m not going to leave the pizza parlor,” you say to yourself. “I’ve got so many friends there – Justin, Ike, Scott, John… I couldn’t just leave them.” You try to be a good friend. You go back to the pizza parlor the next day. But inevitably, you find that when you have unlimited money and enough time to do whatever you want with it, you can’t be satisfied with a friendship based on someone occasionally being great, or having great hair, of looking 70 years old…whatever. Now, you’ve got the real deal. Once you’ve been exposed to the taste of free money and free time, you cannot go back to the rat race. You can try, certainly. You can tell yourself that even though your free money is great, everyone else is great in a different way. You can convince yourself that your friend Ike, who you barely talk to, is really important. You can insist that the people who close the pizza parlor at the end of the day are a big part of your life. But deep inside, you know that they’re not. You know that while you’re telling yourself that you’re having fun working at the pizza parlor, you’re just waiting for that next free money day.
Hey guys, let’s go get Matt some runs! He’s pitching his tail off out there!
Actually John, we were thinking that maybe Ronald Belisario kind of deserves to get us out.
Well, can we at least get him off the hook for this loss which he does not deserve?
No, again, giving Belisario a good outing is really important to us.
What’s so special about Fatty Belisario?
He reminds us of Frankie, just a little bit fatter. A lot fatter. Kind of like an egg shaped Frankie.
So? Frankie’s gone, and Matt here is the future of this team. Can we get him a win please?
No, we don’t want to expend too much energy on this game. We’d rather score seven runs tomorrow, because Hefner will really need it.
Can we at least get some hits?
No, we’re playing a very specific strategy, which clearly does not involve getting hits against Belisario.
Why wasn’t I told about this strategy?
John, the truth is, you care too much about this team to understand what we’re trying to do here. If we told you that we couldn’t get any hits against fatty Belisario, you wouldn’t have listened.
But why can’t we get any hits against Belisario?
If we get any hits against him, the fans will get excited, so just in case we don’t score at all, we don’t want to give the fans a sense of lost opportunity. We have to make him look really good so the fans don’t get their hopes up.
I still don’t see why we can’t try and get our boy Matt a win. He’d be 5-0, he’d lead the league in wins, he’d be the biggest story in the sports world, and we’d be above .500. Why can’t we just do our best?
Honestly John, you haven’t been doing so great yourself lately.
What is this, a propaganda campaign? Are you preparing to trade me by trying to soil my name?
No, but I think Belisario may have just soiled himself. What was I saying again?
I asked you why we couldn’t hit for Matt.
I told you already. If the fans get too excited, be it one game or one season, we’ll have to spend money, and inevitably, we’ll lose eventually, and the fans will hate us. It’s easier to just coast forward and put out some vague ideas about the future and hope the fans will buy them. At least, that’s what the office says. In other words, it’s more financially feasible to be bad with promise than to be good with downside. We can’t get too good, or we’ll end up disappointing everyone and spending money that backfires. We don’t want the fans to get too excited, and 4-1 or even 4-0 is definitely less exciting than 5-0.
I was not one of the however many thousand people in attendance on friday, April 19th, 2013, a day that will most definitely be remembered as a turning point for Matt Harvey and the Mets. Had I been able to attend, I would have, but other less important (to me) obligations were forced to take precedence, and I was confined to listening to Howie and Josh on a transistor radio for the first three innings, before finally reaching a TV. At that point, it was still somewhat of a duel. The Mets had scored two unearned runs, Strasburg was trying to fight back, Harvey didn’t have anything to fight through…blah blah blah. Strasburg was finished the second that the amazing John Buck lined a single to left field to drive in his 20th run of the season. Strasburg was finished the moment that Ian Desmond, who has the glove of a great defensive shortstop but uses it like a bad defensive shortstop, confused Jordany Valdespin with Jose Reyes and made the kind of error that, with Reyes, used to be routine. Strasburg was finished the second his curve broke a little too much, eluded Kurt Suzuki, went to the backstop (which isn’t saying much in the layout of Citi Field), and allowed Valdespin to score from third, although the play was perhaps a little closer than it should have been.
Strasburg was finished because his opponent was Matt Harvey, and when Matt Harvey pitches, he does not give back a gift like two unearned runs (and a few more earned ones later), and the bullpen does not give it up for him. I knew as surely as Matt himself did that Roger Bernadina, one of those players that always seem to inexplicably torment the Mets, would not get on, because Matt Harvey is too strong a pitcher to fall victim to those little curses that have affected the likes of Patt Misch, Elmer Dessens, Chris Schwinden, and Miguel Batista. The dreaded Greg Dobbs? I don’t want him at the plate, but if Harvey’s on the mound, let’s go right at him! Shane Victorino, who did the Mets more than he could know by agreeing to play for the Red Sox? Harvey won’t let him on! Much like R.A. Dickey was last year (but seems not to be like this year), Harvey, I assure you, will pitch well and will make sure every fan in the building knows that he is pitching well, regardless of the mess that the rest of the pitching staff, bullpen, and suddenly error-prone shortstop make of it. In the style of Mike Francesa: Will he have his bad starts? Sure. Will I always want him out there? Probably, probably. Is he the best pitcher on the Mets right now? It seems like it. Will he be the best pitcher on the Mets in five years? Probably, probably.
Only the Mets. Only the Mets fail to score in five consecutive innings at Coors Field. Only the Mets have the worst defensive player on the field at shortstop. Only the Mets consider Greg Burke a “Viable option.” And only the Mets willingly go back to one of the worst seasons in their entire history.
We all knew what was going to happen. When the Mets came out onto the field, severely delayed, in light snow, coming off a typical Mets loss, wearing the now forever infamous swoosh uniforms, we knew that this wouldn’t end well. How could it? Bret Saberhagen, the bleach thrower, on the mound? Bobby Bonilla, the self declared eternal smiler, in the outfield? This was a loss in the making. More, this was a disaster, this was the worst kind of loss possible, in the making. And it didn’t disappoint.
Hey, remember when the Red Sox decided to wear 2011 uniforms for no reason? Maybe because their opponent wanted to do something? How about when the Yankees all had a “2004 ALCS” patch sowed to their jersey and put a big one up on the scoreboard? The fans appreciated that, didn’t they?
Maybe they did, I don’t know. But I think that they didn’t, and here’s why. ALL OF THOSE MOMENTS WERE BAD. And you know what else was bad? You know what else was not even bad, was more than bad, was awful, terrible, horrible, nauseating, and completely sickening? Nineteen Ninety Bleeping Three! I thought the Mets were done with the practice of making willingly stupid decisions, like the circus in the parking lot and the Amway at the field. But apparently, I was wrong. When a baseball team puts on the uniform of one of the worst statistical, and probably the worst emotional season in team history just to commemorate an anniversary of a team that we all hate, you know there is a problem. When Aaron Laffable is pitching yet again when a perfectly good Zack Wheeler is waiting eagerly in Vegas, there is definitely a problem. When a team that is supposed to be young and energetic comes out like they’ve been playing since 1993, there is a problem. But most importantly, there is a problem when team management so obviously makes a stupid decision for a stupid reason. Stupid. It’s a word that’s been used a lot to describe the Wilpons in the past, and suddenly, it’s being used again. The swoosh uniforms? Stupid. Aaron Laffey? Stupid. Travis d’Arnaud still in the minors? Stupid, although admittedly the return has been rather larger than expected. This team, that’s “rebuilding” (which was supposed to be over already), is wearing the uniforms of the worst period in team history, is putting out sorry excuses for pitchers on the mound, and is leaving its prospects in the minors for far longer than is necessary.
When does Harvey pitch again?
It means so much and so little. When the Mets official twitter account coined this phrase following Matt Harvey’s sparkling performance on april 13th (no hitter through 6 and 2/3 innings, ended up going 8 scoreless), few people took notice. Shannon Shark of metspolice, who has oft criticized the more questionable Mets player slogans, was silent. No one said a word.
So little and so much. It meant so little because it was just a word, a word, in fact, that wouldn’t even qualify as a faux-word under most circumstances. Clearly, “Matt” doesn’t fit into “fantastic.” It’s just a word, a word that the Mets came up with because they couldn’t come up with anything else and they needed to come up with something. But also, it meant so much.
Matt Harvey’s performance in that particular start, and his two previous starts, was completely indescribable. He is unhittable, untouchable, immortal, unbelievable, and overall, indescribable, because none of those words even goes close to truthfully describing Harvey’s performance. The Mets could not have known, with the tweet of such an unimportant and meaningless phrase, that they would be describing Harvey’s performance perfectly. Harvey’s performance was not meaningless, nor was it unimportant, but with “MATT-Tastic,” the Mets effectively admitted that Harvey’s performance could not be described. All of those severely underpaid, severely overworked interns working the Mets twitter account could not for the life of them come up with an adjective to describe Matt Harvey.
Amazin’? No, too commonplace.
Magical? No, he’s real, and he’s spectacular.
Because the truth is, there are no words that would do Matt Harvey the justice of a true expression of just how great he has been in his first three starts of 2013. And because he was not amazin’, or magical, but MATT-Tastic, the Mets are telling us what we are telling ourselves that we already knew. That Matt Harvey, for the moment, cannot be expressed by an adjective that currently exists. The invention of a new one – MATT-Tastic – is the only solution.