Getty Images

Mets DFA Matt Harvey after he refused a minor league assignment

46 Comments

Yesterday the Braves lit up Matt Harvey for five runs in two innings and he left the game to a cascade of boos. As it was going down, I speculated that the Braves may have just ended Matt Harvey’s tenure with the Mets. Looks like I was right, because the Mets just designated Harvey for assignment.

Even worse: it seems they wanted to send him down to the minors but he refused the assignment. Everything ends badly or else it’d never end, but this is ending far worse for Harvey than anyone could’ve imagined a few short years ago.

As Bill wrote earlier this week, this move was a necessary one. Harvey is an absolute mess on the mound and in the clubhouse right now. He’s sporting a 7.00 ERA in 27 innings and doing himself absolutely no favors with the front office or his teammates. On Monday, the New York Post’s Page Six published a report that Harvey was seen partying in L.A. on Saturday night before the Mets’ game with the Padres on Sunday. Mets GM Sandy Alderson, while certainly not happy, was not at all surprised. In recent weeks Harvey bristled at his demotion to the bullpen and then froze out the media in response. You can get away with partying, insisting on a given role or being rude to the press if you’re good, but when you’re sucking eggs, that stuff isn’t going to fly.

Ultimately it’s the performance which sunk him. When he broke on the scene Harvey had the stuff of an ace, looking unhittable at times in 2012 and 2013. Midway through the latter season, though, he underwent Tommy John surgery and didn’t return until 2015. He was still effective at times that season, though his stuff was not as sharp. He dug deep in the World Series that year, pitching a famously gutsy performance in the deciding Game 5, demanding the ball for the ninth inning even though he appeared to be gassed. The seventh went south for him, and the Royals won the Series. Everything since then has been bad news for Harvey.

Mental makeup issues will dominate the Matt Harvey story, but poor health led him where he is today. The attitude just got him here a bit more quickly. Midway through the 2016 season he underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, which is often a death sentence for a pitcher’s shoulder. Since coming back in 2017 he’s posted a 6.77 ERA, his strikeout rates are way down and his walk rates are way up. He’s just a broken pitcher now and would be even if he had a winning temperament.

I suspect Harvey will clear waivers and latch on with another team. As history has shown us, past success will buy you a lot of second, third and fourth chances in this league, and if the price is right (i.e. basically free) a couple of teams will squint hard and convince themselves that they can work Harvey back into the pitcher he was in 2015, even if 2012 and 2013 seems impossible.

I’d like to think that a change of scenery will do him good in that regard, but I think the odds are against us ever seeing him as an effective pitcher again.

 

Sign-stealing penalties could be ‘unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history’

Getty Images
16 Comments

Early this morning we learned that Major League Baseball was planning to talk to former Astros Carlos Beltrán and Alex Cora as part of the sign-stealing investigation. Late this morning Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the investigation is, actually, going to go much wider than that.

Passan reports that Major League Baseball will not limit its focus to the 2017 Astros, who were the subject of the report in The Athletic on Tuesday. Rather, it will also include members of the 2019 Astros and will extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentions the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Oh, it also includes recently-fired Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman, who the league plans to interview but who, Passan says, has hired a lawyer. Which is sort of interesting in its own right, but let’s stay on topic.

Passan:

The league is attempting to cull tangible evidence from the widespread paranoia of front offices and teams around the game about others cheating and has indicated it will consider levying long suspensions against interviewees who are found to have lied, sources said . . . The penalties for illegal activity are determined by commissioner Rob Manfred, though if the league can prove wrongdoing, the severity could be unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history, sources said.

The Cardinals were fined $2 million when an employee, Chris Correa, hacked the Astros computer system. Correa, of course, was permanently banned from baseball and served prison time. Former Braves GM John Coppolella was likewise given a permanent ban for lying about the team’s circumvention of international signing rules. If Passan’s source is right and the league is going to level heavy penalties here, that’s where you have to start, I imagine.

To me, the stuff about Coppolella’s lying and the bit about interviewees lying mentioned in the block quote is key.

Will anyone have the hammer brought down upon them for being responsible for stealing signs? Hard to say. But they likely will if they are not forthcoming with league investigators. Which is actually a pretty decent way to handle things when one is conducting an internal investigation. Maybe you don’t give amnesty to wrongdoers in the name of information-gathering, but you do signal to them that cooperation is incentivized and lack of cooperation will be punished.

It’s an approach, by the way, that Major League Baseball notably did not take in the course of its PED investigations a decade ago. That led to a final report that had massive gaps in information and caused the league to focus on and publicize only the lowest-hanging fruit. As I argued at the time, if information-gathering, as opposed to P.R. considerations was its true aim, MLB would’ve handled it differently.

In the early stages here, in contrast, it does sound like baseball is taking this seriously. That’s a good thing.