It has been widely reported that the trouble between Matt Harvey and the Mets began with a migraine for Harvey after a Saturday morning round of golf, his team not scheduled to play until that evening at Citi Field. It has been further reported that there was no contact between Harvey and the Mets until after he was supposed to have reported to the ballpark, which he ultimately never did on Saturday, even after there was contact between him and his team. When Harvey did report again, on Sunday, a day he was scheduled to pitch against the Marlins as the Mets tried to sweep a weekend series, he was told he had been suspended for three days, without pay, and sent home. On Tuesday, Harvey apologized for his actions, which reportedly included staying out until 4 a.m. the night before that golf outing: "I made a mistake and am doing everything I can to make sure it's something that never happens again."
You know who knows how we reached this point with the Mets and Matt Harvey, once the most exciting pitcher the team had had since Dwight Gooden? He knows. And the team knows. But what has become abundantly clear to the rest of us, because of the force and drama of the team's action on Sunday, is that the Mets don't just think Harvey suffers from migraines.
They think he is one.
But even now, with the situation still in flux, and with reports that Harvey still intends to file a grievance over the suspension and the money it would cost him, it is worth asking yourself some questions:
How would all of this be playing out, not just between the pitcher and the team, if his record was 4-0 and his earned run average was under three runs a game, the way it briefly was in New York, instead of 2-2 and 5.14? How would the public be reacting to all of this if Harvey could still pitch like the young star that Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated nicknamed the Dark Knight, back when Harvey was good enough and had enough arm and had enough fastball to start an All-Star Game at Citi Field?
In light of everything that's happened since that night in July of 2013, it is easy to look back now and legitimately wonder what all the fuss was about surrounding Matt Harvey. But the truth is, there was plenty about which to make a fuss, especially for a team that had fallen off the grid for years before Harvey came along and Mets fans began to talk about Harvey Day like it was a local baseball holiday, and every one of his starts suddenly felt like the main event in New York baseball.
And remember that it was less than 19 months ago that Harvey had pitched so brilliantly in Game 5 of the World Series against the Royals that Terry Collins, the Mets manager, allowed him to go back out for the ninth, even with Collins' closer, Jeurys Familia, ready to go. Of course, by the time Collins did come and get Harvey, he had given up a hit and a walk and the Royals were on their way to tying the game before winning it, and the Series, in extra innings.
It looked to be the biggest night of Harvey's baseball life, so much bigger than an All-Star start in his own ballpark. And Terry Collins was still as star-struck about Harvey as a lot of us in New York were when the kid first came along with a fastball he seemingly could throw past the world, ready-made for the big-city spotlight.
Now Harvey is caught in that glare again. It is just different now, and simply makes us take a closer look at the reality of a former phenom who is 28 years old, who has only pitched one full season in the big leagues, winning 13 games the year he did, with a lifetime record of 31-30. Two of the four seasons before this one ended with surgeries, one involving the ulnar nerve in his pitching elbow, the other for something called thoracic outlet syndrome, which is a problem involving nerves near the neck and shoulder that can produce tingling in the arm or hand.
So far this season, a small sampling to be sure, especially for a young guy coming back from another surgery, Harvey has looked like what Bill Parcells used to call a JAG: Just Another Guy. And now the Mets treat Matt Harvey like that, exactly, even though not too long ago they thought he could be the cornerstone of what were going to be more World Series teams than one. For the time being, Harvey helped pitch them to one. So did Gooden.
This is how fast things change, no matter how much fastball you have. Coming out of Spring Training, the Mets still looked as if they had as much starting pitching, top to bottom in their rotation, as any team in the sport. Now Noah Syndergaard, who decided he didn't need an MRI the week before last, is on the disabled list for months because of a partially torn lat muscle. Syndergaard became Thor, the new comic book star of the Mets staff, after coming along to throw even harder than Harvey, the previous comic book hero, had. Jacob deGrom, then, goes back to being the Mets No. 1 starter. He once had Tommy John surgery. So did Zack Wheeler.
Left-hander Steven Matz, who also once had Tommy John surgery, experienced elbow issues last season, and has yet to pitch this season. Say it again: You want to make the baseball gods laugh when it comes to young pitchers? Tell them about your plans.
One Sunday for the Mets, Syndergaard walks off the mound, hurt, and the Mets end up losing to the Nationals 23-5. The very next Sunday, Harvey is suspended and the Mets get one-hit by the Marlins, and Giancarlo Stanton gets to have batting practice against a journeyman Minor Leaguer, Adam Wilk, who had to be flown in from Albuquerque to take Harvey's place. Wilk, taking one for the team, got lit up, on a weekend when the Mets officially became fed up with Harvey.
It wasn't so long ago that Harvey missed a team workout during the Mets' National League Division Series against the Dodgers, saying he had overslept. The Mets weren't happy then, but they were on their way to beating the Dodgers and then sweeping the Cubs in the NL Championship Series and coming as close as they did to taking the World Series back to Kansas City.
The Mets needed Harvey then. You'd think they need him now more than ever, with the start they've had and the injuries they've had, and not just to starting pitchers. But now they act as if they don't. My friend Frank Isola from the New York Daily News always says that Harvey is the most over-hyped New York athlete of the past 10 years, and in light of everything that has happened over the past few years -- and past few days -- it becomes harder and harder to disagree with him. Harvey always loved being famous. Now he is, again. Most famous 31-30 pitcher around.