Craig Calcaterra

Matt Harvey

Matt Harvey’s performance tonight says absolutely nothing about his workload controversy

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The Matt Harvey story has been at the top of the baseball news charts for the past several days. He pitches against the Nationals tonight. This, we are told is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Not just because a win puts the Mets six games up on the Nats with 24 to play which, yes, is huge. But because it will “silence the critics” or “make a statement” or “end the controversy” or some such thing.

Richard Justice at MLB.com:

All Matt Harvey has to do is win this one game. Do that and all is forgiven. Well, almost all of it. What could be simpler than that? Seldom does life deliver this kind of opportunity in such a tidy package.

Ken Rosenthal at Fox:

Boras, though, is not the only one who bears responsibility for this mess. Harvey brought some of his problems upon himself. And the Mets should have resolved this entire matter long ago.

I don’t want to be over-dramatic — Mets fans will embrace Harvey again if he vanquishes the Nationals on Tuesday night and contributes during the postseason, and an inflamed media will embrace him again, too.

I don’t offer these quotes to pick on these two journalists, the work of each is almost always excellent. I quote them because these passages are indicative of what we’ll see after tonight’s game between the Mets and Nats, particularly from the New York writers. If Harvey pitches well, “all is forgiven.” If he doesn’t, every story about it will either blame the recent innings flap for it and/or help build a general anti-Harvey media consensus.

Which is silly. Because the innings controversy has absolutely nothing to do with this game today. He was pitching in it either way. If he throws a no-hitter tonight and then gets shut down because of an innings limit and the Mets lose every game in which he was supposed to take a turn and then miss the playoffs, tonight’s result will not have made such a shutdown less responsible. If he gets the hell beat out of him tonight but the Mets still make the playoffs and Harvey shines in subsequent performances, tonight’s result will not have mattered either. If he does something in between but then tears his elbow up next February, there will be much more to talk about as well, again, with this game not mattering.

Which isn’t to say the innings thing isn’t a legitimate controversy. It is. But it’s one that is to be resolved on its own terms, not because of a nice, punctuation-providing game that just so happens to come at the moment journalists are getting bored talking about it all and thus are seeking a tidy ending. Not because his performance against a division rival says something about his character, integrity or grit that ends any discussion about the wisdom of his subsequent usage patterns. They are entirely separate events. Less so if he gets killed tonight — perhaps some blame can be placed on the “distraction” of the past few days — but definitely so if he pitches well. In that case it will have said literally nothing about the controversy.

To the extent people assign such significance to this game it’s purely in the service of narrative creation. It is purely a function of dramatic arcs, not medicine, pitching mechanics, the health of ligaments, the wisdom of taking one’s dispute with one’s employer public or the moral hazard which attaches to team-player interactions.

Those questions will still exist tomorrow regardless of what Harvey does today.

MLB releases its 2016 schedule

Calendar
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Major League Baseball just announced its master 2016 regular season schedule. Amazingly, they didn’t need a bloated prime time TV show to do it, either. Imagine!

The season will begin with ESPN’s now-traditional “Sunday Night Baseball” Opener on April 3 — teams to be determined. Thirteen games are set for Opening Day on Monday, April 4, some more openers on Tuesday April 5 and a full slate of 15 games is scheduled for Wednesday, April 6.

The last day of the 2016 regular season is scheduled for Sunday, October 2.  Other important dates next season include Jackie Robinson Day on Friday, April 15; the first day of the 2016 MLB Draft on Thursday, June 9, and the All-Star game in San Diego on Tuesday, July 12

You can see your team’s individual schedule at MLB.com now. Here’s the Braves’ (go Barves!), and from there you can toggle between and among all 30 teams.

Joaquin Andujar: 1952-2015

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Some sad news: ESPN Deportes reports that former MLB starter Joaquin Andujar has died in his hometown of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. He was 62. He had been suffering from diabetes for many years.

Andujar pitched in the big leagues from 1976 through 1988, coming up with the Astros but reaching his greatest fame with the St. Louis Cardinals. He helped lead the Cardinals to the 1982 World Series title, winning 15 games that season and allowing only two earned runs in thirteen and a third innings during the Fall Classic that year.

He may be best known, however, for his 1985 World Series appearance which did not go so well. In Game 7, Andujar was used in mopup relief. After giving up an RBI single, he began to argue with home plate umpire Don Denkinger — who made his infamous call at first base in Game 6, already raising the ire of the Cardinals — about balls and strikes. Whitey Herzog was ejected and Andujar threw one more pitch. It was called a ball. Andujar charged Denkinger and had to be restrained by three of his teammates. After his ejection he did serious damage to the clubhouse. He was suspended for 10 games the following season, when he was a member of the Oakland A’s. He’d pitch only three more seasons in total.

But the somewhat ugly end to his time in St. Louis does not overshadow a big league career that featured 127 wins, some seriously nice moments and an excellent 1982 season and his role in a World Series championship.