Can Harvey reach his zenith again?

Mets pitcher Matt Harvey. Photo: Kathy Willens/AP

WCNN’s Nick Cellini sent out a tweet last week, asking fans to name their favorite attended sporting events. What immediately popped into my mind? The Matt Harvey-Steven Strasburg duel on a Friday night at Citi Field in April 2013.

I was at that game, and it felt like a postseason atmosphere. This was as great as it got for the Mets as they were rebuilding for a better tomorrow back then. That was the night Mets fans were proud of their own when Harvey outpitched Strasburg by allowing one run on four hits in seven innings in the Mets’ 7-1 victory over the Washington Nationals. The chants of “Harvey’s Better” were palpable from the stands to the 7 train.

The Mets and their fans envisioned more great nights like that night from Harvey. They were happy that their ace stood up to a bully that had owned the Mets in the Nationals, and there was going to be more to come. Fast forward to now, this has become wishful thinking.

Harvey has not been the pitcher he was for a long time now. He has been mediocre at best since coming back from Tommy John surgery few years ago, and ever since he came back from the disabled list earlier this month, he has been awful by pitching to 13.49 ERA while giving up 32 hits and 21 runs over four starts. In his last start against the Marlins on Monday, he gave seven earned runs over four-plus innings. In 17 starts this season, he is 5-6 with a 6.59 ERA.

It’s easy to wonder if the one-time Mets ace ever can be the pitcher he was again. In fact, Harvey has all of sudden doubted himself. He has been despondent after his last two starts. How the mighty have fallen from what was once a cocky guy who thought he could do no wrong to this.

In a way, it’s a tragedy. Harvey had baseball and the city as his oyster. He could do no wrong at the time by winning games and striking out hitters at will. His starts were an event every fifth day to the point Mets fans would say “Happy Harvey Day.”  Those were good times. Now, fans would rejoice if he would just go away.

In professional sports, it’s what have you done for me lately. The past means nothing, especially in a city like New York where a player is only as good as his last game. There’s no sentimentality whatsoever.

It’s hard to feel for Harvey when he should have known this was coming, especially all the nonsense he and his agent Scott Boras brought three years ago by worrying about going past the innings list that Dr. James Andrews prescribed in a year the Mets made the playoffs. It did not help matters when he skipped a postseason workout in October. And then when he got suspended by the Mets this year for not reporting to work.

Harvey thought he was immune to struggles since he could throw a blazing fastball. Success can be fleeing and fickle for athletes. Eventually, it catches up to them. There has been questions about his work ethic in recent years, and that could be one of the reason why he has struggled.

He also should have known there were no guarantees he would be the same after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Maybe Harvey should have worked harder heading to this season. He should have kept himself in shape as soon as he entered spring training. He was not ready to go from the start of spring training and it had a carry effect to the entire season.

Who knows if he can be the same pitcher again? He has had tons of mileage in that arm, and it’s hard to get back to what he used to be. He is going to have to learn how to be a finesse pitcher like CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander are this late in their careers. That’s going to take intelligence and ability to learn for that to happen, and it remains to be seen if the once-Mets stopper can do it.

It could be easy for the Mets to release him after this season, but they won’t for couple of reasons. For one thing, the Mets have too many starters that are injury-prone, so they can’t give Harvey away. Second of all, the last thing the Mets need is to see him do well for another team such as the Yankees for instance.

The Mets have to hope for the best when it comes to Harvey. This is likely his last season with them. They are done with their troubled pitcher, and he needs a fresh start elsewhere.

Harvey has to hope he somehow figures it out just to get a next contract in Major League Baseball.

From wishing he was the highest paid pitcher in baseball to hoping he gets a next contract is a fall from grace for this once proud superstar.

It remains to be seen what happens to him next year and beyond.

That may be the only thing interesting about the 2018 Mets season.

 

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