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The DFA Knight: Matt Harvey’s Two Faces

Matt Harvey by slgckgc is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The DFA Knight: Matt Harvey’s Two Faces

Estimated Reading Time: 8 Minutes

Don’t call it the end of an era. The door on Matt Harvey has been closed for a while, we’ve just been trying to pry it back open. The Dark Knight was Designated For Assignment this week by the New York Mets after refusing to be demoted to the Las Vegas 51s, and has since been sent to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for catcher Devin Mesoraco and Cash.

A quick rundown for those of you confused by what being DFA’d means.

When a player is designated for assignment, they are immediately removed from the team’s 40-man roster. From there the team must choose one of the following options. They can bring the player back onto the 40-man roster within 10 days of the day they were DFA’d, or they place the player on waivers within the first 7 days, trade the player, release the player, or outright them to the Minor Leagues.

While the majority of these options seem like a way to free up roster space, in this case, it’s not. The New York Mets and Matt Harvey have severed their relationship, and while it may sting now, this is the best course of action for both sides.

The Mets Side

The Mets have a pitching problem. Two of their starters are performing at the levels expected of them. Syndergaard and deGrom are blossoming into the pitchers were knew they would be. Syndergaard has relied less on his fastball and is using his secondary pitches get similar results. It seems that harnessing his velocity has also allowed him to use its absence as a weapon. deGrom has been masterful this season, coming off three starts where he averaged 10 Ks a game. In fact, in his last 18.1 innings pitched, Jake has given up 0 runs. ZERO. RUNS. And that 1.87 ERA is a goddamn thing of beauty.

Beyond those two, the Mets have some issues on hand. Zack Wheeler, Jason Vargas, and Steven Matz have not had the greatest success in recent weeks. Whether it’s a matter of confidence, ability or a case of the yips, the guys just can’t get it done on a consistent basis. Combined the three share an average ERA of 7.96, most of which is inflated by Vargas’ disastrous three starts.

Can these guys turn it around? Yes. All of them have shown that they can step up their game and the season is just beginning. I’d much rather have a slow start than a slow finish to a season. We’ve seen it before. Vargas had an incredible 2017 after coming back from Tommy John surgery and he’s coming off a shortened offseason with his hand injury. Wheeler’s had his ups and downs in the last two seasons but is still a solid member of the staff. Get these guys running on full steam and the Mets have their rotation. If not, you can always bring up Flexen or Conlon, and move Gsellman and Lugo out of the bullpen.

The move to send Harvey to the Reds should come as no surprise. The Mets were always looking to move Harvey. It’s just surprising that he went to the Reds… because… it’s the Reds. However, what they did get was Cash, and Devin Mesoraco, a former first-round pick, a former All-Star, and a decent catcher not named Nido or Lobaton.

I love the addition of Mesoraco to this team if he stays healthy. Since his All-Star campaign in 2014, he’s played less than 60 games a season. Part of the reason for that dropoff is injuries, a decline in production and Tucker Barnhart. But there’s still a good player in Mesoraco.

Regardless, the Mets had to make a decision about Harvey’s future and by sending him down to Las Vegas, they were probably hoping to rehab him and get some good starts under his belt. I mean, the guy was getting shelled by the Padres, he was already roughed up by Triple-A teams. So when he refuses to go, you have your answer. The guy you wanted on the mound in the 9th inning of Game 5 in the World Series just said he didn’t want to work on himself. Harvey made his choice, the Mets made the move.

The Matt Harvey Side

In his contract year, Matt Harvey is proving that he’s being overpaid while making $5.6 million dollars. Not the kind of advertising you want right before one of the most hotly anticipated free agent markets in years. Harvey was supposed to be the best pitcher of the 2018 Free Agent class, and now he looks like a bargain bin option for the Oakland A’s.

Let’s be honest about one thing, Matt Harvey was never going to succeed in New York after the 2015 World Series. Even if that seems like hindsight, you have to admit it’s right. Sure we all wanted the guy to bounce back and be the hero Gotham needs, but he simply could never live up to that hype. He was never going to achieve that level of success again.

Every time he stepped on the mound in a Mets uniform after that was mired by the memory of Harvey’s past. The 2013 All-Star Game Matt Harvey, the 2015 Opening Series against the Phillies Harvey, and of course, Game 5 of the World Series Harvey. Every other Matt Harvey after that failed to make any kind of resemblance to those pinnacle Matts. He needs a change of scenery. He needs to not be in New York.

And now he’s in Cincinnati.

If it were me, knowing what happens, I take the demotion. I would much rather pitch a month or two in Vegas, get my head right and come back ready to blow the roof off of the joint and get that big contract I want in the offseason. I certainly don’t want to be the #3 guy behind Homer Bailey.

Matt Harvey is facing the rest of his career as a bargain basement Andrew Cashner type who’s gonna bounce around the league for the rest of his days. He’s Kenny Powers without the fire, all pomp, no circumstance. And now he’s a Cincinnati Red.

The night is always darkest before the dawn, but why does this dawn feel like a sunset on the Dark Knight’s career?

A LITERAL YEAR AGO, I wrote a piece called  “I NEED THE DARK KNIGHT, NOT TWO-FACE“. This is an excerpt from that piece. Note how little has changed with Harvey over the past year.

“Matt Harvey’s 9th inning entrance in Game 5 of the World Series will forever be my favorite Mets moment. You could feel every Mets fan jump out of their seat and say, “That’s what I want! Gimme the Dark Knight.” Matt Harvey is the New York Mets to me. He’s gritty, he’s tough, he fights, he’s Queens. He’s bleeding on the mound, he’s throwing at Chase Utley, and he’s the guy who experienced first hand how rough it is to drop a city’s hopes of a World Series parade.

Matt Harvey’s follow up to his great 2015 campaign was a let down in the biggest way possible. We all wanted to get back to October, but Harvey could barely get back to the mound after the 4th inning. I was at the Game against Washington where he gave up 6 earned runs in 2.2 innings. I was there when he was booed off the mound. A lot of people were very critical of Mets fans for doing that, but to that, I say this: “Shut up.” Terry Collins should’ve pulled Harvey after Wilson Ramos’ 2-run single. Harvey didn’t need to fight his way out of that game, he needed his manager to be watching out for him. Terry Collins should have known better. 

Anyway, Harvey ended his season early in order to have surgery to fix his Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which was causing him to experience numbness in his throwing hand. The other important thing to note here is that Harvey was reportedly “forced to shut down for the season.” Matt Harvey was struggling to pitch games and was waking up the next day without feeling in his right hand, but still wanted to pitch in 5 days. That’s the Matt Harvey who’s coming back in 2017, the Matt Harvey who hit 97 MPH multiple times this week in Spring Training, the Matt Harvey who came out of the dugout in Game 5. That’s OUR Matt Harvey.”

I understand that everyone is mad. You’re allowed to be mad. I’m mad. I’m pissed. But I’m not mad that Matt Harvey was out late, or went golfing, not at all. I’m mad that Matt Harvey doesn’t want to be the captain of this team. David Wright will always be the Captain, but this team needs a leader. It needs that Harvey that was on the mound in the 8th inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. I see no reason why that shouldn’t be Matt Harvey. Matt Harvey starts the All-Star Game in 2013, he’s got his own DAY, he’s the DARK KNIGHT. He’s the OG Mets FlameThrower. HE’S THE GUY. Harvey’s status to Mets fans was similar to that of Felix Hernandez in Seattle, Scherzer in Washington, Kershaw in LA, and Keuchel in Houston. He was the Ace of this staff, and there’s no reason he can’t be again.

The second game I worked for the Mets was Matt Harvey’s first start at Citi Field after Tommy John surgery. In training sessions and lunch discussions, everyone talked about how crowded it would be on Opening Day, about how many tickets were sold. The buzz was high on deGrom, this being the season after he won the Rookie of the Year, and hopes were high. Everyone was excited, but there was something crazy about Harvey’s first start. The energy was frenetic, everyone was jacked up and ready to go. Harvey mows down 8, throws at Chase Utley, and gets the W. It was a direct warning to everybody: “The Dark Knight is back.”

I don’t think we’re mad at Harvey, I think we’re disappointed, and that’s the worst. We all know what Harvey means to all of us, we just wish he could actually be that guy again. He gets the ball tonight against the Brewers and from here on out it’s a zero-zero ballgame. Terry Collins wants to see that Matt Harvey again saying, “I told him he needs to make baseball No. 1. When he did that, he was on top of the world.” He’s got a long way to go, but I’m pulling for him to get back on top.

We’re disappointed that Matt Harvey couldn’t make baseball and the Mets No. 1, when he was No. 1 for us the whole time. That’s the biggest let down here, in my eyes. Not that Harvey turned his back on himself or the team, but on us, the fans. We were the ones who needed him, raised him up, and wanted him to the Matt Harvey we knew he could be.

If only he had listened and heard the cheers. If only he could have made baseball No. 1.

So long, Matt Harvey. I hope you enjoy your time in Cincy, and quite honestly, I hope you miss Citi Field every day.

Justin Colombo is a 2017 Broadway Show Softball League All-Star at 3B/SS. He's essentially the Manny Machado of the Kinky Boots team. Justin has been writing about Baseball since he was a little kid. Now that being an actor in NYC has given him a lot of free time, in 2015 he decided to take his passion public and founded Three Up, Three Down as a way to express his love for the game. From there, Three Up, Three Down grew from a hobby to an obsession. After years of growth and one insult from MLB's Historian, Justin launched The Turf, a way to expand into all areas of the sporting world. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. LET'S. GO. METS.

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