Matt Harvey has made a convincing case that he’s recovered nicely from his Tommy John performance, and while the ride has been admittedly bumpy in some respects, the general consensus is that he is mostly up to speed, and barring a complete resurgence from Jay Bruce and a complete meltdown by Harvey, it seems the NL Comeback Player of the Year award is his to lose.
That being said, as he’s pitched and as the season continues its downward turn, the infamous innings limit is looming.
You know that limit, the one that forced Stephen Strasburg to sit for the rest of the 2012 season and essentially killed any chance the Nationals would advance past the NLDS. The same innings limit that was instituted as a result of Dusty Bakers complete overworking of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood which led to their once meteoric careers taking a big downward trajectory. Yeah, that limit.
That limit is all well and good, and would be okay under normal circumstances, but these are not normal circumstances, as the Mets find themselves in the hunt for the NL East title for the first time in seven years, and have a very good chance of breaking their 9 year old playoff drought.
Until recently, there was a consensus as to what Harvey’s limit was, and that limit was 180. No going over it, not even for the playoffs, so the Mets would either have to use him to get to the playoffs or, at most two starts in the playoffs, based on his current number, 166.1 innings. This limit was designated by team doctors and Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras, both of whom have preached that it is best for him in his future.
However, the Mets have said and insisted, Sandy Alderson in particular, that Harvey is under a soft innings cap, which is 200 innings, with the potential to go over that number based on certain circumstances, like quick innings.
The dispute over 20 additional innings has both Alderson and Boras at odds, with Boras all but accusing the team of potentially damaging their star pitcher’s health and potential future earnings by potentially overextending him, while Alderson is all but accusing Boras and his doctors of overreaching their bounds and being too conservative.
The two aspects left in the middle are the fans, who want to see the team play in October with Harvey throwing for them, and Harvey, who wants to pitch in October, although he hasn’t commented on his innings limit.
The problem here is that Harvey is in between a rock and a hard place. As the Dark Knight of Gotham, he has quickly ascended to being the face of the franchise, and seems very primed to take over that position, barring he doesn’t leave in free agency, which many Mets fans have believed considering his admission to being a Yankees fan. Harvey is running a tightrope. He could choose to listen to his doctors and his agent and not be available for the playoffs, or he could choose to fight through and play for his team, and his fans.
The consequences for each option are as follows: If he chooses to shut himself down for the sake of future seasons and money, he comes off as selfish and the Mets lose a key arm in the playoff race, meaning they would have to rely on someone like Bartolo Colon or Logan Verrett to compensate for Harvey’s loss. The sports pages will have a field day, and the fanbase will never forgive him, and given how badly they have treated him because of his Yankee roots, it would seem all too certain that he would bolt for the greener pastures of New York.
The more likely route, the one where he does end up pitching for the Mets in both the regular season and October, assuming the Mets get that far, leads to him pushing his arm too far and risking reinjuring it. It also means that he gets on both Boras and his doctor’s bad side, unless Boras files a grievance to the MLBPA for the Mets mismanaging Harvey. Still Harvey keeps his reputation of being a guy who wants to win, and the fanbase could give him a break for once, instead of constantly deriding him and telling him to be a Yankee.
Again, this choice belongs to Harvey, and if he’s smart, he will try and figure out the best way to help himself and the team. Even though he doesn’t like it, he will miss a start so the Mets can extend him for the race.
All that leaves is what to do afterwards.
The thing that Harvey needs to know is that Scott Boras works for him, not the other way around. And considering Boras’ history with other Mets players, to be specific, Carlos Beltran, Harvey could talk to Beltran about how Boras in some ways comes off as condescending and abusive to his clients all in the name of getting them lucrative contracts. To say that Harvey doesn’t deserve a megadeal when he finishes his rookie contract would insinuate that he isn’t a dominant pitcher, and honestly, that is a lie. Having seen Harvey pitch twice this season, I’ve come to respect Harvey more as a gamer, a guy who will fight tooth and nail for the win, even if it means that he doesn’t get the win himself. Plus, he is an All-Star already, and is bound to add more hardware to his awards closet.
Boras doesn’t dictate what his clients do, rather he works for them, and that’s the problem with him. The fact that he has forced teams to pay big for his clients, both in the draft and during free agency almost suggests that the players work for him, and not the other way around, which is wrong. Harvey is not beholden to his agent, meaning that he can do as he wishes, so long as it doesn’t go against the wishes of his employer, which as of now is the Mets. Boras has no right to tell the Mets what they should do with Harvey, nor does he have the right to tell any team what to do with their star player. Unless a team deliberately mistreats their player, he has no cause to complain. The Mets are acting both in the best interests of themselves and of Harvey, and it’s not like they are forcing him into a Mark Prior type situation. If Harvey feels that he can’t do it, all he needs to do is tell management. Knowing Harvey will fight hard to pitch in October, you can expect him to show that he wants it more than anything else.
All in all, Harvey knows that it all comes down to what he wants, and if it’s within reason for the Mets. Mets fans should prepare for Harvey to be a key component in the team’s playoff race.