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.