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.