Anybody who was alive in the 1980’s probably remembers the TV show “The Facts of Life”. And even if you don’t completely remember the tales of Mrs. Garrett and the four girls in her care, you certainly remember the theme song.
You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the fact of life. The facts of life.
What does that have to do with the New York Mets? Everything, when it comes to Matt Harvey.
The Mets have no problem “taking the good.” From his 11-strikeout performance in his Major League debut to starting in the All-Star Game in his first full season, Matt Harvey has given everything he has on the mound. Harvey has 261 strikeouts and a 2.39 ERA in 237.2 career innings. Not bad for a kid with just 36 starts under his belt. The Mets have no problem reaping the benefits from jersey sales and they take as many wins as they can get. The number of wins (Harvey has a 12-10 career record) is low mostly because of three things: poor run support, terrible bullpen support and a weak elbow ligament that eventually led to Tommy John surgery. Matt Harvey literally gave the Mets all he had and they took advantage of every dollar and every inning they could get out of him.
But the Mets also have to start “taking the bad.” Matt Harvey is not a criminal. He doesn’t have a history of run-ins with the law, nor does he have a child in every visiting city across the National League. The “bad’ that the Mets have to deal with is relatively simple. He wants to pitch. He wants to win. He wants to be famous. He wants to have fun. Wow. It’s a wonder the Mets haven’t traded him yet. The horror!
Matt Harvey wants to date supermodels and hang out in the bright lights of New York City. That kind of lifestyle did not seem to keep Derek Jeter from amassing five World Series rings and over 3,000 hits during his Hall of Fame career. Why should it bother the Mets? Harvey wants to handle his rehab in New York when the team is at home and on the road when the Mets are out of town. A compromise was reached that Harvey needs to head to Florida when the Mets are out of town but again, what is the problem with his preference? Sure, maybe he wants to go to Rangers games and party it up at night in Manhattan rather than Port St Lucie but as long as he shows up to the ballpark the next day to work out, is that really a problem? Is it a bad thing to have an extra set of eyes in the dugout watching the action? Wouldn’t it be helpful if Harvey sees something off in Dillon Gee’s delivery one afternoon and is able to give a tip or two? Does the new replay phone accept calls from Florida?
The Twitter picture sent recently flipping the bird before his surgery was a mistake. Matt Harvey will probably be the first to tell you that it made more sense in his head before he hit send. But if the biggest problem is that the guy wants to be around his teammates and he sometimes tweets something that needs to be deleted, the Mets have it pretty good. When was the last time the Mets had somebody with that kind of “bulldog mentality.”
When Harvey had a bloody nose to start a 2013 game, he pitched through it. When he had had enough of some rookie hazing, he challenged former reliever Jon Rauch to a fight and the 6’11 pitcher backed down. The team rallied behind him and fed off of both events. Sure, he pushes back a little too much when the Mets demand something of him but once a bulldog, always a bulldog. Matt Harvey knows what he wants and demands of others as much as he demands of himself. What Mets fan doesn’t want to see that on the mound?
There is a great scene in the movie “Miracle.” Herb Brooks is talking to goalie Jim Craig who was worried about his starting job and Brooks referenced that Craig refused to take a test that the rest of the team took. Craig angrily asked if he wanted him to take the test to which Brooks replied “no, I want to see the kid in net who wouldn’t take the test.” That’s what the Mets need. They need to see the kid on the mound who stands up to management, who stands up to teammates. That’s the kid who won’t back down when he needs to get one more out. That’s the kid who will get his defense to play just a little tighter behind him. That’s the kid who will throw one high and tight to send a message if a message needs to be sent.
Can his attitude be a little irritating to management? Probably. Would it be nice for an employee to acquiesce to the requests of his employer from time to time? No doubt. But sometimes you need to pick and choose your battles. The more you fight him, the more he fights back. The more fighting there is, the easier it will be to pack up and move on when free agency comes along in a few years. It’s no secret that Matt Harvey grew up a fan of the New York Yankees.
It won’t be Sandy Alderson working on his next contract but it’s a safe bet that Matt Harvey won’t be getting a $200M contract from the New York Mets. If that money is offered from the Bronx along with the chance to fulfill a boyhood dream of donning the pinstripes, the Mets need to have other ways of convincing him to stay. Bickering over where he completes his rehab and hovering over his social media and night life will not help that situation.
The Mets need to take the good with the bad because sooner or later Matt Harvey will be able to take his ball and go play somewhere else. And if it that happens to be across town and every Mets fan in the tri-state area has to see his Yankees exploits on the back pages, that may be too much to overcome as an organization. And that’s just a fact of life.