Craig Calcaterra

New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey watches from the dugout in the ninth inning of the Mets' 11-2 loss to the New York Yankees in a baseball game in New York, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Quit freaking out about Matt Harvey

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Maybe it was because of how quickly the Mets went to hell after Matt Harvey left last night’s game. Maybe it’s because it was a Mets-Yankees game and everything seems bigger in a Mets Yankees game due to the media focus. Maybe it’s because, to be fair, the Mets have a history that makes their fans fear the worst. I don’t know, but whatever is causing the Matt Harvey hysteria this morning, it’s overblown.

As you may have noticed, Matt Harvey pitched for the Mets last night. He was excellent. He had held the Yankees scoreless through five innings, allowing one hit and striking out seven. Then he was lifted because he is now at 176 innings on the year, either he, his agent, his doctors or some combination of all three think he needs to be on some sort of hard innings limit and in order to both respect that and to keep him available for the playoffs, he needs to have shorter outings. The Mets are obliging this so, after the fifth inning, it was the bullpen’s turn.

And the bullpen — with a healthy assist from the Mets defense — allowed 11 runs (7 earned) on eight hits and walked six dudes in the game’s final four innings, falling to the Yankees last night. Overnight and this morning I have seen no shortage of Mets fans and New York media folk wringing their hands and/or freaking out about this, worrying that the innings limit — or whatever you want to call it — is going to ruin the Mets season. Some have even gone so far as to say it will cost the Mets the division.

First, let’s make two observations about how, yes, this is actually pretty bad:

  • To the extent this is Harvey or Boras forcing this on the Mets, they haven’t forced it with much grace, style or attention to public relations. I think they’ve handed it pretty poorly, actually, and I think most folks would agree with that. They planted the notion of a Harvey innings limit with CBS’ Jon Heyman, who reported it and it became a big story as everyone involved should have expected it would be. That put the Mets on the defensive and made it appear as if they have no plan or control and that’s the reason folks are freaking. So, no matter what else can be said here, I hope we can agree that Harvey and Boras have handled this poorly from a public relations perspective; and
  • Moreover, when Harvey was asked about it last night, he said he wished he was in the game. And others on the Mets said, yeah, they wished he was in the game too. I hope we can also all agree that, if Harvey and Boras (who works for Harvey) truly are forcing this issue, and it appears that they are, self-serving and disingenuous comments like that aren’t helpful and probably displease folks with the Mets.

Now, let’s make two observations about how, despite all of that, people need to chill the heck out:

  • The Mets have a six game lead in the NL East with 13 games to go. That’s a big lead with so few games and, while it’s obviously mathematically possible for them to blow it, it’s not particularly likely. If you go by those playoff probability calculations, the Mets have a 97.8% chance of holding on to that lead over the Nationals. No matter what else has happened in Mets history, I would take those odds. Wouldn’t you?
  • If the Mets do blow that lead, it ain’t gonna be because of Matt Harvey. Sure, it would’ve been nice for him to stick around a couple more innings last night, but the Mets got stymied by CC Sabathia of all people, and he’s basically mostly dead. And the Mets defense and bullpen sucked too. They gave up five runs in the eighth inning for Pete’s sake. Harvey would’ve been out by then anyway and that was enough for them to have lost the game standing alone.

More generally speaking, let’s talk about risk and reward calculations, shall we? No matter how poorly Harvey is handling this from a public relations perspective, the reason he’s doing this is an understandable one. He has already had Tommy John surgery, even one of those is thought to put a ceiling on most pitchers’ careers, a second one means even less of  a chance for a long career and Harvey wants to ensure his future. Maybe he’s totally wrong about how to go about ensuring it. We know less about how to prevent torn pitcher ligaments than we do about most things in baseball. Maybe he’s doomed no matter how light his workload. Maybe he could go 250 innings every year for a decade and be fine. We really are in the dark about this stuff. But let us agree that that’s why he and his agent are limiting his workload.

There is one thing that would, I guarantee you, make Matt Harvey throw workload limits to the wind and go out and take the ball without hesitation: security. A long term deal that ensures an injury will not jeopardize his career and financial future. If the Mets wanted to, they could totally give him that, even with Scott Boras as Harvey’s agent. It’d have to be a good deal, sure, and it would cost a lot of money. But it could happen.

Of course it won’t. Why? Risk. I mean, jeez, this pitcher is not far removed from Tommy John surgery! He’s still several years from free agency! Anything could happen to him! Why on Earth would anyone take that sort of  . . .

Oh. So now you see Matt Harvey’s position. I’m glad we agree on that.

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

Astros
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Astros 5, Athletics 1Colby Rasmus homered twice and George Springer hit a two-run homer of his own as Houston takes two of three to stabilize themselves after that hellacious road trip. One and a half back of Texas who lost and two and a half up on their wild card challengers.

Yankees 11_, Mets 2: CC Sabathia was shaky as heck early on but the Mets couldn’t deliver. That allowed the Yankees to hang around and then put up a five-spot in the sixth after Matt Harvey, who had been dominating but is on a work load limit, left, the Mets forgot how to play defense and Carlos Beltran and Dustin Ackley made them pay with big hits. Greg Bird added a three-run homer in a five-run eighth later on which allowed anyone who wasn’t already watching the Emmy Awards to switch to ’em and allowed the rest of us to continue reading Richard Stark’s “The Outfit” which all of you should do it, for no other reason, than to learn how the numbers racket technically works. It’s sort of like the lottery, by the way, except the lottery has fewer transfers of money in sci-fi magazines and the numbers give you a better chance to win.

Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 3: Three errors for the Jays, two by pitchers, one by a catcher as Toronto drops two of three to the Sox. Now they have the Yankees in town for three, with a chance to put ’em away for the year or find themselves right back in a tight race. Beauty of baseball: it just keeps going and going.

Royals 10, Tigers 3: Not sure what’s more amazing: that Kendrys Morales had three homers and a triple and 15 total bases or that he did all of that and only drove in three runs. He scored five times, though. Runs > RBI, folks. You know in your heart it’s true.

Indians 6, White Sox 3: Lonnie Chisenhall hit a homer and drove in three as the Indians keep pace with the Twins and Astros. Unfortunately they’ve been so up and down lately that they’re still four back with 14 to play the Angels are ahead of them too. Math and the calendar are not their friends at the moment.

Rays 7, Orioles 6: Baltimore had a 6-5 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth but Zach Britton blew it by giving up a homer to Brandon Guyer and then allowed a triple to Evan Longoria, walked a couple of dudes and then allowed a walkoff infield single to Kevin Kiermaier, plating Longoria. One bright spot for the O’s is that they’ve reached the part of the season where they can use their iPads to book October vacations with their wives and girlfriends without having to hide the screen.

Braves 2, Phillies 1: With this sweep the Braves most likely ensured that they wouldn’t finish with the worst record in baseball this year but, rather, Philly will. I suppose it’s possible for Philly to make up those four games, but it’s not super likely. A.J. Pierzynski played the hero here, hitting the walkoff single. So strange seeing a long-time heel being a hero like A.J. has been this year, but it’s not like the Braves have had many other options. Other unexpected face-turns? Randy Savage? Roddy Piper? Frankly, face turns are boring anyway. It’d be way better if Freddie Freeman attacked someone with a chair and turned heel instead.

Nationals 13, Marlins 3: Stephen Strasburg struck out 10 and allowed only one earned run in seven innings. Four driven in by Oo-ee-oo infielder Yunel Escobar and oh-oh-oh three more runs by Tyler Moore. I don’t care what they say about us anyway. I don’t care bout that.

Brewers 8, Reds 4: I wonder what the breakdown of fans in each city caring more about the Packers and Bengals over the Brewers and Reds are at this point of the year? 95-5%? OK, maybe not that bad as there are right-thinking people who only like baseball and think football is awful. But whatever the number is, I bet the shift to football is more stark among fans of these two teams than fans of any other two teams who matched up yesterday.

Twins 8, Angels 1: Minnesota arrests a five-game losing skid and remains two and a half back of the Astros. Rookie Tyler Duffey allowed three hits in seven shutout innings while Eddie Rosario, Joe Mauer and Torii Hunter homered.

Cardinals 4, Cubs 3Carlos Martinez allowed two runs on four hits while pitching into the seventh and Tommy Pham and Stephen Piscotty each homered. Bad news, though: Yadier Molina leaving with a thumb injury. Contrary to what Cardinals fans often say, Molina is not the single most valuable or indispensable player in baseball, but his loss for any length of time would hurt the Cardinals. Mostly because, yes, he is still an excellent player. Partially, however, because I have come to believe that he is the actual keeper of the Cardinals Devil Magic.

Mariners 9, Rangers 2: Felix Hernandez won his 18th and Robinson Cano drove in four. Five of those 18 wins have come against the Rangers, which I believe makes Hernandez a minority owner in the club, which entitles him to part-time use of a suite and stuff. Not his best outing — he walked five guys and left with a stiff elbow — but that just gives him more time to use that suite.

Giants 5, Diamondbacks 1: Six scoreless for Tim Hudson and a three-run homer for Buster Posey. That ends a six-game home losing streak by the Giants to the Diamondbacks. I suppose I’d be happier if I lived in Phoenix and got to take trips to San Francisco too.

Pirates 4, Dodgers 3: The Pirates’ win gives them a two-game lead over Chicago for the top seed in a would-be wild card game between them. Gerrit Cole won his 17th, allowing three runs on six hits in seven innings and striking out nine.

Padres 10, Rockies 4: A homer and two doubles for Matt Kemp who has been on fire in the second half and a win for James Shields, who pitched a two-hitter into the seventh inning. Yangervis Solarte, Jedd Gyorko and Cory Spangenberg also homered. Justin Upton had three hits and drove in three. No idea where all that went the rest of the season.

 

Matt Holliday leaves game after getting hit in the head with a pitch

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If you have to get hit in the head with a pitch, there are few pitchers you’d rather have do it than a soft-tosser like Dan Haren. Still, probably not fun either way, as Matt Holliday just found out.

Holliday exited this afternoon’s game with the Cubs after being struck in the back of his helmet by an 86 mph fastball from Haren (Haren’s Twitter handle claims he throws 88, and now we know that’s a base falsehood).

Jokes about Haren’s velocity aside, the ball sure sounded like it hit hard, but Holliday didn’t seem to be too terribly affected. He started heading to first base, but he was taken out of the game out of an abundance of caution. Smart move, as sometimes it’s not immediately apparent if the player who takes a blow to the head is truly hurt. And even if he’s not hurt, the Cardinals JUST got Holliday back off the disabled list, so they don’t want to risk losing him again.

 

As of now the Cardinals trail 8-3 in the bottom of the sixth. Here’s hoping Holliday is OK.