Hypocrisy and Hindsight: Why the Matt Harvey narrative is all wrong

[CBS New York]

Following a defeating 11-2 loss to the Yankees yesterday, the general narrative has come down to some iteration of one of the following statements:

  1. The Mets lost because they pulled Matt Harvey after only 5 innings.
  2. Matt Harvey is a phony for saying he wished he could’ve pitched further – it is his decision to make, after all.
  3. If the Mets collapse and miss the postseason, it will be because of Harvey’s innings restriction.

Now let me debunk those statements in order:

  1. No, the Mets lost because they played terrible defense, their bullpen threw terrible innings, and their offense was shut down by CC Sabathia. A 1-0 win versus a top offensive team such as the Yankees is not a realistic expectation.
  2. Perhaps, but I have no doubt he actually wants to pitch more. Yes it is his decision, but he is conflicted: he wants to save for his contract AND win now. That being said, Harvey certainly has not handled this situation well. For someone who wanted to come back in a meaningless season after major surgery and someone who balked at the 6-man rotation, this is certainly a letdown. He can’t have it both ways – either he wants to be the man for this team or he wants to conserve for the future. He is certainly entitled to conserve for the future, but that puts him completely at odds with the fight he has shown previously. This statement is the most true of the three, but nothing in that statement will stop the Mets from making the postseason. If they somehow miss out, it will be due to much more heartbreaking reasons.
  3. This is absurd. They didn’t even lose yesterday’s game for that reason (see #1). If the Mets miss out this season, it will be due to bullpen issues, offensive issues, or issues across the starting rotation. Harvey only has partial control over 2 more games this season. Unless the Mets go 0-10 and the Nationals 10-0 over their next 10 games, the Mets will remain in control of their own destiny through the final series with Washington. If the series matters, do you really think Harvey won’t be on the mound and set loose?

But here’s where the narrative is wrong: If Harvey was taken out after 5 innings last night and a combination of Robles, Reed, Clippard, and Familia held the Yankees down for a 1-0 victory, what would the story be? Sure, there would be mentions about Harvey’s removal, but nothing like the vitriol we’ve seen today from the tabloids and Twitter. Rather, the story would be how the Mets took 2 out of 3 from their rivals, they lowered their magic number to 7, Harvey was brilliant in his limited outing, and the plan is working!

After such a loss, the easy thing to point to is Harvey. After all, he was cruising through 5 and made some questionable comments after the start. That being said, Robles, Reed, Clippard, and Familia have all been fantastic, and it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to think they could wind up winning the game 1-0. It is also not unreasonable to think that the combination of those four relievers would have pitched better than Harvey, considering Harvey’s numbers the 3rd time through a batting order. But remember: they lost that game due to offensive futility, defensive embarrassments, and a bad day by Robles and a few non-elite relivers. We are hearing very little today on Daniel Murphy’s errant throw or David Wright’s missed catch, or on the team’s wasted opportunity in the first inning.

No, the Dark Knight’s selfishness is stealing the headlines again, even when they should be positive. Harvey limited the Yankees to just an infield hit and a walk over 5 shutout innings, yet that’s not what people will remember. It’s unfortunate that this Harvey saga will be on repeat until the Mets clinch. Conversely, if the Mets don’t make it, the decision to limit his innings will be one of the most infamous in team history, unfairly so. For a team with a 6 game lead with 13 to play (and a team which had a lead as large as 9.5 games), 5 innings of Harvey vs. 7 innings of Harvey won’t make the difference between making the playoffs and missing them. Rather, if the Mets find a way to miss the playoffs, a lot more will have gone wrong.

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