Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
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No, sending Matt Harvey to the minors for an extended period is not a great idea

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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.

 

Doug Fister close to signing. No clue how much he’ll fetch.

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that free agent pitcher Doug Fister is close to signing with an unknown team. Joel Sherman of the New York Post says that, contrary to a lot of recent speculation, it is not the New York Mets.

Heyman says the Angels are a contender, but that an NL club is more likely. No idea on what sort of deal Fister might fetch.

Fister last pitched for Houston. Last season he posted a career-worst 4.64 ERA over 180.1 innings with the club. Woof.

How are the Red Sox going to enforce a lifetime ban anyway?

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Last week the Red Sox made news by issuing a lifetime ban to a fan who used racial slurs at Fenway Park. The most common question I’ve heard about asking about that is how, exactly, does a baseball team enforce a lifetime ban?

Teams don’t check IDs at the gate. There are facial recognition systems and cameras in place at some sporting events around the world, but that technology is (a) in its infancy; and (b) primarily aimed at dealing with criminal and terrorist threats, not individual fan bans over relatively mundane matters like general jackwagonry. In light of that, is a lifetime ban more of a symbolic gesture than anything?

Alex Reimer of WEEI.com spoke to the club about that. There’s a bit more to it than merely hoping someone rats out the guy who got banned if he shows up, but not much more to it. They’ve flagged his credit card so he can’t purchase tickets directly from the Red Sox with that card, but he could use StubHub or have a friend buy him tickets, so it’s not exactly airtight.

Mostly it’s just the honor system and the threat of a trespassing beef if he’s caught in Fenway. The spokesman:

“We know this isn’t a perfect or infallible system. And we recognize that enforcing it will be a difficult thing to do. But if the person is willing to take a risk and come back to the ballpark, there are actions that can be taken if they’re caught.”

Not much else you can do, really. But then again, my view of this is that the idea here isn’t specifically about keeping this one fan out of Fenway Park. It’s about the organization signaling to fans what it considers to be inappropriate behavior at the ballpark and using this guy’s ban as an example. Even if it lacks the sharpest teeth, I suspect people will be a bit more careful about displaying their jackwagonry while taking in a Sox game.