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.