Matt Harvey’s demons shouldn’t change places in Mets history

Matt Harvey became universally beloved by Mets fans after bursting onto the scene in 2012 with an electric fastball and wipeout slider.

The kid from Connecticut had it all: talent, charisma and a smile that could light up Citi Field. Before Jacob deGrom became heir apparent to Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden, there was Harvey. And he rose to the challenge.

By the time Harvey left Queens, he was a broken man, physically and emotionally. We know the latter because of his admission this week that he used cocaine while pitching for the Mets. This information came in the testimony he gave during the trial of Eric Kay in Texas. Kay, a former Angels employee, was accused of supplying opioids to pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who died in 2019 with fentanyl and oxycodone in his system.

Harvey’s admission came as little of a shock to those around the Mets. There had been unsubstantiated rumors that Harvey had used cocaine, and his reputation as a hardcore party animal only grew with each new team infraction, whether he missed a practice session before the 2015 NLDS or skipped a game two years later after staying out late the night before. .

As someone who covered Harvey throughout his Mets career, it was easy to spot a personality line. He started the All-Star Game at Citi Field in 2013 as a New York toast. A month later, he was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his elbow which required surgery by Tommy John. Harvey came back with a burden, perhaps with the realization that he could still be a good pitcher, but had missed his golden chance to receive a nine-figure contract.

Matt Harvey
André Theodorakis

That’s not to say Harvey’s cocaine use started then. We may never know when it started or what effect it had on a pitcher whose remaining superpowers completely disappeared after pressing for the ball in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series against the Royals. The Mets were on the verge of losing their lead and the series.

Soon Harvey’s speed was gone and a new diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome arrived. It meant more surgery. Harvey has barely survived in the majors since then. Last year, he threw a 6.27 ERA in 28 starts for the Orioles.

“Especially as a pitcher, you never know,” deGrom told me two springs ago. “That’s why I say I’m grateful every day to be able to put on this uniform and do this, because you never know when your time is up to play. The main thing is to try to stay healthy. It’s easier said than done.

“There are things that are out of your control, like nobody knows much about chest outlet, then Harvey gets it and you do the surgery and you just don’t know. There are so many things that are unknown.

One of the great disappointments in Mets history was never extended with Harvey, deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz in the same rotation. Injuries suffered by each of them limited this talented group to just one round in the rotation together. This happened in 2018, shortly before Harvey was traded to the Reds.

Matt Harvey
Matt Harvey
André Theodorakis

Harvey has acknowledged in recent years that his lifestyle and immaturity contributed to his downfall with the Mets. Fans showed their appreciation for him again last season when he pitched at Citi Field for the first time since the trade.

The confirmation of Harvey’s cocaine use during the Mets presentation shouldn’t change anyone’s opinion of him. Rather, feeling bad for Harvey for being emotionally broken enough to use the drug.

More than a generation ago, Gooden and Darryl Strawberry sabotaged their careers with drug addiction. Both are still widely revered for helping the Mets win the World Series in 1986.

Harvey has never delivered such a championship, but took the ball in 2015 when forces pushed him to shut down due to workload issues. He still wanted the ball in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the World Series, but couldn’t finish the job.

He deserves to be remembered as a shining star – even for a brief moment – who, through a confluence of physical ailments, emotional distress and lifestyle choices, never found success. sustainable.

Let’s just hope he found peace in his life that doesn’t require harmful chemical promptings.

New York Post

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