Baseball is hard. I know that without taking ground balls on the Citi Field dirt. I know that without even picking up a bat. I know that because so few people are stupid enough to try it and even fewer people are stupid enough to keep trying it. Making it to the majors isn’t easy.
Matt Harvey isn’t easy either.
He never was. From the day the Mets drafted him in June 2010 as the seventh overall pick with that stupid typo to Friday, the last day of his Mets career, he was never easy. None of it was easy. He fought with Terry Collins in the dugout and through Scott Boras. He drove too fast and drank too much and had his heart broken. He loved pitching, even if it didn’t seem like it sometimes. He was loud and brash and abrasive. He was a true New York athlete, for all that title entails. That’s what the Mets wanted out of the Dark Knight and that’s what he gave them. But that doesn’t work when your fastball tops out at 92. Relievers with a 7 ERA don’t get to be loud and brash and abrasive.
Game 5 of the 2015 World Series was one of the best pitching performances most of us will ever see. The 2013 bloody nose game too. But injuries destroyed him and he became Mike Pelfrey without the split or the breaking ball. Arms like Harvey’s aren’t owned. They don’t last forever. They’re gifts from the baseball gods that can be ripped away at any time, by Tommy John surgery or Thoracic Outlet Syndrome or age. We take stars for granted because we think they’ll last forever. We think they have more starts, more home runs, more diving catches. But that’s not how time works, and it’s not how the Mets work. Because the Mets don’t make it easy and they don’t let legends live.
It’s hard to describe a true Metsing; you just know it when you see it. Hansel Robles pointing at 425-foot home runs as if they were routine pop-ups is the Mets. Michael Conforto dislocating his shoulder on a swing is the Mets. Bobby Valentine’s disguise is the Mets. Luis Castillo’s dropped ball and Endy Chavez’s catch are the Mets. Willie Randolph’s 3 a.m. firing is the Mets. Jordany Valdespin is the Mets.
Matt Harvey was supposed to get a ring and a statue and a plaque in Cooperstown. But there’s nothing more Mets than failure. He was a legend for a while, longer than he had any right to be and yet for just the briefest moment in history. He won’t be remembered like that because that’s not how the Mets are. He was too easy a villain. He partied too much and he didn’t respect the media and he put his own interests above the team’s. “You either die a hero or you live long enough to become a villain.” That was never fair but that was always how his story was going to end, because it was easier to cast him as the Joker than to admit that he had to fail. Harvey was hope and strength and power. He was the Dark Knight. He was something to believe in.
Then he wasn’t. And the Mets keep going.
Photo credit: Tommy Gilligan – USA Today Sports