The Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2015 — #15: Scott Boras, Matt Harvey and the shutdown that wasn’t

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We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

The Mets’ season turned on a dime in late July after the club picked up Yoenis Cespedes, half the lineup got healthy again and the other half began to rake. A team that as recently as the All-Star break was the subject of mocking tabloid headlines went on a rampage in Auguest and, by the first of September, was comfortably in first place in the National League East. By then the reality that the Mets were a playoff team — and a dangerous one at that — became inescapable. So, naturally, controversy arose.

That’s when Scott Boras let word slip through his mouthpieces in the media that he and the Mets were at odds over the workload of his client, Matt Harvey, who was just a year removed from Tommy John surgery. On September 4 Boras said that Harvey should be shut down at 180 innings — he was then at 166 — while the Mets said that his workload was never subject to a hard innings cap, Boras knew this, and that Boras bringing one up then was out of bounds.

As so often happens in New York and as so often happens when Scott Boras is involved, the Matt Harvey Affair became something of a circus.

Harvey took his agent’s side at first, saying he always thought he had a 180-inning limit. Old Timers chimed in, saying back in their day NO pitcher would beg out of work in a playoff race. Even the ones whose careers were wrecked by overuse. The Armchair James Andrews Brigade, for their part, wrung their hands at the innings counts and carried on as if the Mets and Harvey had no doctors advising them and as if the organization’s mindset with respect to pitcher usage was stuck back in 1996 or something.

Eventually some compromise was reached. Harvey changed his public stance, realizing that players need to be the good cop in these disputes and that pitchers who say they want the ball, even if their arm is literally falling off, get treated better by the fans and the press. For their part, the Mets did modify Harvey’s usage, resting him more, skipping starts and using him for only parts of games to keep him sharp. The fact that the Mets had a comfortable lead in the NL East made this quite a bit easier of course.

Come playoff time it was mostly forgotten. Harvey pitched well enough for the Mets to win the game he started in the NLDS and was downright stellar in his NLCS start. Harvey gutted out a no-decision in Game 1 of the World Series — the Mets lost — and was fantastic in Game 5, pitching eight fantastic innings and demanding that he keep the ball for the ninth in a game that, if the Mets lost, would mean their elimination. This from a guy who, less than two months previously, was publicly saying he should be subject to a strict innings limit.

The Mets did lose the game, though it was a team effort, not solely Matt Harvey’s fault. If it had been Harvey’s fault folks would’ve written snarky things about how maybe he should’ve been shut down all along. Ballwriters don’t get that kind of opportunity every day, so the fact that we didn’t said quite a bit. The story had completely changed by then. Matt Harvey was not putting himself and his future paydays first. He was A True Competitor. A defeated one to be sure, but one whose guts were not to be questioned. The Mets would enter the winter a transformed team with a bright future.

Oh, and not long after the World Series ended, Scott Boras said that the Mets had a great plan for Matt Harvey all along. Because of course he did.