May 14

Latest Loss May Be Best Thing To Happen To Mets’ Harvey

Last night may be the best thing to happen to Matt Harvey and the Mets. In defeat, he showed us a humility we haven’t often seen from him, which can be the first step up from rock bottom.

Sometime between Rockies’ hits in the fifth inning I flashed to the summer of 2013 when Harvey first flirted with stardom. Do you remember the video piece Harvey did on the Jimmy Fallon show when he roamed the streets of New York asking people their thoughts of Matt Harvey?

HARVEY: All smiles in 2013. (USA Today)

HARVEY: All smiles in 2013. (USA Today)

To listen to the answers, and Harvey’s response – both verbally and his body language – was priceless. Harvey was talking to his fan base about himself and they didn’t recognize him. He was funny and showed real humility.

It made us like him for more than what he did on the mound because he seemed
approachable.

However, since then Harvey has been sidetracked by injury, off-the-field issues and media clashes. Both Harvey and those who followed him ventured into the dark night of judgment. Unlike that day in Central Park when he was anonymous, Harvey lived with a target on his back and hasn’t responded well.

Neither has anybody else.

His body language spoke loudly last night; louder than the cheers that greeted him at the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field when he seemingly held the world in his hand like the baseball he threw which such force and artistry.

Gone last night was the cockiness and arrogance which made people root against him. Also gone was the confidence that made him stare down a hitter then climb the ladder for another strikeout.

His head was down when he handed the ball to manager Terry Collins and slumped off the mound. The cameras caught him with his head bowed in the dugout talking to himself. He wasn’t getting any answers and it was a very human moment from a man Mets fans and media insist on labeling a superhero.

“A great statement I heard the other day is there’s two kinds of players in this league: Ones who have been humbled and ones who will be,” Collins told reporters. “When it’s your turn, it gets tough to take sometimes, because you have got to learn how to adjust from it and how to bounce back from it.”

However, before he can bounce back from a problem it must be identified.

Mechanics? Perhaps. Injuries or health? He says no. Is he feeling the pressure to perform after Game 5? Could be, but he’s repeatedly expressed no regrets in how he handled that night.

Most recently, is he trying to pitch up to the expectations of the contract he’ll seek when he becomes a free agent? Maybe, but it’s something I can’t see him admitting because after all, that’s something few players admit.

What then?

To his credit, and I really liked his answer, he refused to blame the altitude of Coors Field, a place he’s never pitched before.

His answer was a polite, yet forceful, “No, it’s me.”

Humility defined.

“I’m just not feeling comfortable throwing a baseball right now, so it’s frustrating,” Harvey told reporters. “Something I have obviously done my whole life is gone on a mound and thrown a baseball, and right now it’s not an easy task.

“Right now it’s just not feeling great out there — you start overthinking everything. That’s kind of the way it feels every pitch, and hopefully you get past that.”

Harvey cast no blame, although catcher Kevin Plawecki might have given him an out by saying his pitch recommendations might have been predictable. Not many pitchers win games with two runs, but he didn’t point fingers at the offense.

Instead, Harvey spoke of square one.

“It’s taking a lot longer than expected,” said Harvey, who must remember some pitchers hit the wall after Tommy John surgery in the second year back. “You can’t give up. You’ve just got to keep going. It’s start-to-start for me right now.

“I don’t look at it as ups and downs. It’s trying to continue figuring stuff out. … It’s not easy, but there’s another day tomorrow. And it’s a long season. There’s a lot of hope in that regard and drive toward figuring it out.”

I was glad to see Harvey get ripped because it might be the first step toward him getting to where he wants to be.

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May 07

Colon One Of A Kind

Bartolo Colon swings hard, so you figured if he ever caught a pitch just right it might go out. Well, it finally happened in the second inning Saturday night when Colon, 17 days shy of his 43rd birthday, connected against James Shields in the 226th at-bat of his career.

This wasn’t a “run for the roses,’’ as much as it was a 31-second jog around the bases, long enough for the Mets to vacate the bench, fans back home to text their friends with a “you’ll never believe what just happened,” message, and researchers to discover he became the oldest player to hit his first career homer.

Colon’s blast – and he did crush it – was one of four the Mets hit on the night. Yoenis Cespedes hit the first in the first inning, and David Wright and Michael Conforto went back-to-back in the ninth as the Mets regained their power stroke to beat the Padres, 6-3, and Colon won the 221st game of his splendid career.

COLON: One of a kind. (GETTY)

COLON: One of a kind. (GETTY)

Incidentally, the Mets also have the oldest player ever to hit a homer in Julio Franco at 47.

This is Colon’s third year with the Mets. He was originally signed to pick up the innings void when Matt Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery. Colon won 15 and 14 games, respectively, in his first two years and worked over 190 innings each time.

Colon won over the hearts of Mets’ fans, not to mention his teammates, with his work ethic and outwardly unashamed signs of enjoying himself on the field. Colon also won everybody’s respect last year when he volunteered to pitch out of the bullpen during the playoffs.

Colon’s behind-the-back flip to first base last year in MIami was a sense of comic relief, but Saturday’s homer came at a time when the struggling Mets’ offense most needed a jolt.

However, the Mets didn’t get Colon to rake. They got him to pitch, and once again he came up with a quality outing, giving up three runs in 6.2 innings with five strikeouts. It marked the fourth time in six starts this year Colon (3-1) has gone at least six innings, and the 50th time in 68 starts with the Mets he’s gone that far.

Those, however, are numbers. He means far more than stats to this franchise. To watch his teammates mob him in the dugout, to hear how they love to tease him and enjoy his company, is a reflection how much they like and admire him. That’s a sign of respect not many players get to enjoy.

Colon has been a joy to watch during his short time here. He’ll go down as one of the most beloved Mets.

 

Feb 27

Wheeler Must Remember He’s Not Harvey

The longest journey begins with a single step and the Mets’ Zack Wheeler took his first today with ten throws off the front of the mound. It was his first time throwing off an incline since he underwent Tommy John surgery, last March 25.

“As small as it was, it’s a big milestone,” Wheeler told reporters. “Even if it was like seven throws off the front of the mound, it’s still feet on the dirt, getting back off the slope a little bit. It might be small, but it’s big for me.”

WHEELER: Takes important step. (Getty)

WHEELER: Takes important step. (Getty)

The most important words from that thought are, “for me.”

The target date for Wheeler’s return is July 1, which is roughly 15 months, the same as it was for Matt Harvey. While the Mets’ plan for Wheeler is the duplicate of Harvey’s, Wheeler must remember he’s not Harvey.

What worked for Harvey might not work for Wheeler. Harvey had a longer than normal rehab, but Wheeler’s could be even longer. He has a different body type than Harvey. Although they had the same surgery, perhaps their injuries weren’t identical.

Everybody’s body is different and the recovery process is unique. Fortunately, Wheeler appears to have grasped that concept: “Well, everybody is different in their comebacks. I know Steven Matz had some problems coming back. And Harv and Jacob deGrom, they did pretty well coming back. So it’s a process. It’s different with everybody. Everybody reacts differently to the surgery.”

He says that now, but let’s hope he remembers it in June if his recovery has a setback or two. And, if he’s not back by early July, well, that’s fine, also. The most important thing is Wheeler eventually pitches again without pain.

Whenever that is.

Feb 25

Harvey: “I Want To Be Part Of The Mets.”

Speaking to ESPN today, Matt Harvey said what Mets’ fans have wanted to hear for a long time. Several issues were glossed over in the interview, but the essential nugget was Harvey saying he wants to stay with the Mets. He didn’t say anything about home-team discounts or what it would take, but just saying that is cause for hope.

HARVEY: Walking away after World Series collapse. (AP)

HARVEY: Walking away after World Series collapse. (AP)

Harvey addressed the innings controversy ignited by agent Scott Boras by very diplomatically, saying, “as a young player, you want to play this game for a long time. I want to be part of the Mets and help this organization get to where we want to be.”

As for Boras, last year Harvey defiantly supported him by saying he hired the fire-balling agent to maximize his career, so naturally, speculation was – which I admit was voiced here – he’d take the last dollar and bolt for his childhood team, the Yankees. Harvey said the main issue Boras focused on was, “is helping this team getting as far as we can and not only getting there for one year but getting there multiple times.”

For that to happen, serious precautions needed to be taken to protect his arm, which generated a conflict between Harvey and his agent, his doctor and Mets GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins.

“As a young guy you want to have a long career,” Harvey said. “ A doctor is telling you one thing, but as a competitor you want to be out there.”

When Boras leaked the innings story, Harvey, who was coming off Tommy John surgery, was to be shut down at 180 innings. Instead, and not without some tension, he threw 216. Unfortunately for him and the Mets, he didn’t reach 217, which would have been the ninth inning of Game 5.

Of course, as we all remember, manager Collins went against his better judgment and acquiesced to Harvey’s demand to remain in the game. He expended a lot of energy arguing with Collins and sprinting to the mound to start the ninth. Perhaps that’s when he ran of juice.

After reflecting on that night, Harvey admitting “some heartbreak and some sadness” and said: “Nobody wants to lose. Nobody is trying to lose. It’s one of those things. Once you sit back and realize what we did and what we’re capable of for years to come, and with who we have, and getting [Yoenis] Cespedes back, and getting a healthy David Wright, followed by the starting staff we have. It was a great experience for us. Something we can learn from, but not dwell on, but really pick up from where we left off and finish what we started.”

It’s spring training, a time for new beginnings, and with that comes the hope Harvey really wants to stay here and possibly the Mets can keep the band together.

Would be nice.

 

Feb 15

If Harvey Is Up For Deal, Mets Should Talk

Until today, the most definitive theory about the Mets signing Matt Harvey to a long-term contract extension was the prevailing belief his agent Scott Boras would play the market and hold out for the last dollar. We concluded this based in large part by what Harvey said last year during his innings fiasco when he said he hired Boras to take care of his career.

HARVEY: Willing to talk long-term. (Getty)

HARVEY: Willing to talk long-term. (Getty)

Harvey said today what we already knew, that the Mets hadn’t opened negotiations and don’t even have a timetable of doing so.

Harvey, who is under Mets’ control until after the 2018 season and will make $4.325 million this season, today said he’s not ruling out anything. He said he was open for discussion, but don’t forget spring training hasn’t started yet and Boras is still in the equation.

“I think whatever comes up is going to come up,” Harvey told reporters today in Port St. Luice. “I’ve never shied away from it. I’ve never said I wouldn’t consider it. But I haven’t heard anything considering that.”

Jacob deGrom has been more open about his willingness to sign a long-term extension, which is why I recently wrote he should be the Mets’ first choice, followed by Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz before Harvey. The reason for Harvey being down on the list was the presumption Harvey wasn’t interested because of Boras.

Zack Wheeler will be a free agent after 2019 season, with deGrom eligible after 2020, followed by Syndergaard and Matz after 2021.

Harvey will be arbitration eligible for the next two years, so his salary will continue to spike assuming he remains healthy and pitches to expectations. The 26-year-old Harvey was 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA in 29 starts, and despite the innings issue he logged 216 innings, which included the playoffs.

Traditionally, pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery – Harvey had his in 2013 and missed all of 2014 – and with no innings limits projected for this season, there’s reason for optimism. Assuming the Mets can sign Harvey to a three-year deal, that would cover two arbitration years and his first season of free-agent eligibility.

There’s risk, of course, but if he stays healthy and produces it is a win-win for the Mets. Considering there’s the rest of the rotation to consider and several high-salaried Mets could be off the books over the next few years, this could be the time to act.