After his banishment to the New York Mets’ bullpen, it’s important that we properly say goodbye to Matt Harvey as a starting pitcher.
Talented. Electric. Dominant. That’s how I will choose to remember Matt Harvey the starting pitcher.
Many prominent arms have donned the orange and blue, but like Bobby Valentine said in 2013, Harvey had the potential to be “the best Met pitcher to ever wear the uniform.”
Those days have come and gone and now we live in a world where Matt Harvey has been banished to the bullpen. So as we enter the realm of Matt Harvey the reliever, I am here, as a lifelong New York Mets enthusiast, to help you say goodbye to Matt Harvey the starting pitcher.
“He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.”
Our story began when the Mets selected Harvey seventh overall in the 2010 MLB Draft. The six-foot-four right-hander was an immense talent who grew up in the Amazins’ own backyard. Harvey hails from New London, Connecticut and starred on both the baseball diamond and basketball court for Fitch Senior High School.
Despite being ranked the best high school prospect in 2007, he fell to the third round of the 2007 MLB Draft where the Los Angeles Angeles scooped him up as the 118th overall selection. Seeking to improve his draft stock, Harvey signed with the UNC Tar Heels and did so successfully. 22 wins and 263 strikeouts later, Harvey joined the Mets organization with a signing bonus north of $2.5 million. By 2012, he reached the major leagues and the legend of the Dark Knight was born.
Harvey’s debut was an eye-opening moment — a chance for us to all realize just how special he was. Few pitchers turn in a quality effort in their first taste of big league action. Even fewer set a franchise record. And an even smaller fraction do something that has never been done in modern baseball history.
The Dark Knight debuted against Arizona in July of 2012. Harvey went right to work, striking out the first batter he faced in Gerardo Parra. He would go on to toss a dominant 5 and ⅓ innings, surrendering three hits, three walks, and striking out 11 in total. The eleven punch outs would set a franchise record for a Mets starter in their debut.
But it wasn’t just his performance on the mound that day that laid the foundation of his legend. Harvey also recorded two hits, one of which was a towering two-out double off of Wade Miley leaving Gary Cohen to wonder:
“How many different souvenirs will Matt get from today’s game?”
No player in modern baseball history (since 1900) had ever recorded double-digit strikeouts and two hits at the plate in the same game. It only took one start for Harvey to make major league history.
In 2013, Harvey continued his meteoric rise, cementing himself as one of the most exciting players to watch in professional baseball. A spectacular first-half garnered him his first All-Star selection and with the midsummer classic being hosted at Citi Field, Harvey was given the nod to start things off for the National League.
He was a phenomenon. Similar to the excitement and buzz Dwight Gooden’s starts generated, “Harvey Day” became a weekly ritual for Mets fans. Whenever the Dark Knight took the mound at home, you could always find somebody in the stands wearing a Batman mask.
But his rise to the top didn’t come without challenges. Harvey was dealt the worst possible hand a pitcher can receive when he was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in 2013. He did not pitch in 2014 and we all watched helplessly, hoping our Dark Knight would return to pitch at an elite level. We were not disappointed.
In his 2015 return following Tommy John Surgery, Harvey pitched six shutout innings and struck out nine against none other than the Washington Nationals. Following the game, Bryce Harper was quoted by Newsday’s David Lennon regarding just how tough it is to face Harvey:
“He’s going to be a Cy Young one day and everybody knows that. He’s one of the toughest at-bats I’ve ever had.”
The praise didn’t end there. Just a few weeks later, Hall of Famer and former Mets ace Pedro Martinez announced to Bill Price of the NY Daily News that he believed Harvey could have a career that would surpass his own.
“I think he has more talent than I do.”
And then came his pièce de résistance. Harvey toed the rubber in Game Five of the 2015 World Series against the Kansas City Royals.
After turning in eight spectacular, shutout innings, he returned to the mound in the ninth inning to try to complete the shutout. Unfortunately, a leadoff walk followed by an RBI double ended Harvey’s night on a sour note. Despite coming up short, our former ace left it all out on the field and forever cemented his place in our hearts.
There were so many positive moments, that when we look back it is easy to ignore the innings controversy in 2015 or when Harvey went AWOL after Adriana Lima threw him for a loop. In truth, a perfect storm of injuries and off the field issues spelled the downfall of this potential superstar. As Harvey Dent put it, “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” And in Harvey’s case, you either die a $200 million pitcher or live long enough to see yourself become a throwaway player.
It’s important for all of us to remember Matt Harvey the starting pitcher. He kicked off the “Five Aces” era and could have been the best of them all if things had turned out differently. He showed us what this staff was truly capable of and just how good the Mets could be when all of their star hurlers were in sync.
Some would say he was a key catalyst behind the culture change that has taken hold in Queens over the last few seasons. What I know for certain is that he will always remain one of the most exciting pitchers we’ve ever had the privilege of watching, even if it were only for a brief moment.
Maybe saying goodbye to starting is exactly what Matt Harvey needs. Maybe Matt Harvey the reliever will have a resurgence, similar to the way Kerry Wood reinvented himself after going through a comparable ordeal. But for now, we will just have to say farewell to Matt Harvey the starter and thank him for all of the wonderful memories he’s left us with.