Getty Images

No, sending Matt Harvey to the minors for an extended period is not a great idea

21 Comments

Let us stipulate that Matt Harvey appears to have made some bad choices.

Let us further stipulate that, however badly the P.R. of it has been handled, the Mets are justified in being angry with him and punishing him to the extent they’re allowed to under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Let us further stipulate that, yes, one of those options could be to send him to the minors for a time to give him a wakeup call or whatever. In stipulating this, let us forget for a moment that the Mets’ Triple-A team is in Las Vegas and that sending a guy to Las Vegas as punishment for missing games because he’s out too late partying may not be the wisest thing ever. Just let that one go.

With all of that said, can we agree that this column from Buster Olney, talking about possibly sending Harvey to the minors is . . . messed up?

Making such a dramatic move could accelerate the team and the player toward a divorce that seems inevitable at this point, but on the other hand, the Mets might feel it’s their best chance at producing the change in Harvey they want, and need. It would be a dramatic wake-up call that would certainly get his attention because it would have the potential of altering the timeline by which he would become a free agent.

As it stands, Harvey is on track to accumulate the requisite time in the big leagues to hit the open market in fall 2018, but if the Mets hold him in the minors, they could back that up by a year, at least. If the Mets sent him to Triple- or Double-A for the rest of 2017, he might not reach free agency until he’s 30, rather than 29 — and that could make a difference in the perception around his potential . . . The Mets could fully justify a minor league assignment by saying Harvey needs more time to come back from his injury, with the corollary message to the pitcher: Get back to doing what’s needed to be in the best possible position to pitch — which includes showing up to the ballpark.

On first read this sounds like “hey, here’s a way the Mets could save millions of dollars via manipulating a guy’s service time with the excuse that it’s performance and/or behavior related.” At the very least it sounds like a disproportionate response to an act that, while certainly not good, was by no means mortal sin. I can’t recall anyone arguing that the Mets’ complement of domestic violence offenders should be sent down like this, let alone that doing so might present a lucrative opportunity for the team.

More significantly, I’m struck by how much the player here is being seen as a child or a toy or something and how thoroughly this matter is being viewed through the lens of the Mets’ best interests. I don’t know what Matt Harvey’s deal is, but there are suggestions that this is not an isolated incident. Is it not possible that he has issues with alcohol? Would it not be possible that one of the tools in the box to deal with that is, you know, to get the guy help or treatment or to otherwise try to get him into a place where he’s making better decisions and taking better care of himself rather than see how shrewdly the Mets can play this?

I’m not suggesting that Matt Harvey is a good guy or not at fault here. I’m not suggesting that the Mets have tons of good options to deal with the situation he’s put them in. Heck, I’m not even suggesting that a brief stint in the minors, treated as a splash of cold water to the face, would necessarily be a bad thing.

I just don’t know how one’s first reaction to all of this goes to matters of service time, free agency and how the club can best exploit a player’s contractual vulnerabilities as opposed to the health and well being of a guy who obviously has some stuff he needs to deal with and address.

 

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

Elsa/Getty Images
8 Comments

Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.