The Dark Knight Falls

Remember last November when Matt Harvey was plowing through the Kansas City Royals in New York during the 2015 World Series? He was pitching on his biggest stage and having arguably one of the better starts of his young career. The fans in New York were rocking, Citi Field was loud, and the entire baseball community was in awe of the greatness that Matt Harvey was showcasing. As the 8th inning came to a close, there was uncertainty if Harvey would come back to pitch the 9th. Everyone, except his manager, wanted him to finish his brilliant game. After all, this was HIS night. This was HIS game. He’s NYC’s Dark Knight. For eight innings, he was the hero the Mets needed but didn’t deserve. You could see him arguing with Terry Collins during the bottom of the 8th, clearly begging to pitch the 9th inning. Collins didn’t want him to – he wanted to use his closer instead. But, against his better judgement, he let Harvey finish the game. When Harvey emerged from the dugout in the 9th inning, every fan in New York yelled and cheered at deafening decibels that perfectly encapsulated the grandiosity of the moment. Then, like how every Hollywood movie seems to end, the Royals shellacked him in the 9th, effectively erasing one of the most important and impressive starts we had ever seen from Matt Harvey. He stayed one pitch too long, pitching just long enough to see himself become the villain.

If there has ever been a game that could summarize Harvey’s short career, it would be that game. Harvey, to put it simply, is capable of being an ace, yet he has somehow never gotten there. He was the highly-touted pitcher who was supposed to save the Mets, the man who was supposed to lead a rotation. He was deemed the ace before he had a chance to prove himself worthy of the title. He was gifted with the spoils of being a superstar player in NYC before he had the chance to earn them. He got the girls (okay, the models), the best tables at the best restaurants, the fame, the glory, the most badass nickname…He had it all before he established himself as a proven ace.

But what happens when a burgeoning superstar has to struggle to earn the adulation? That’s exactly what Matt Harvey is trying to figure out right now. After posting yet another abysmal start (if you can even call 2 & 2/3 innings  a “start”) last night, every sports writer worth his/her salt is wondering what is happening to Harvey. The Nationals spanked him for 9 hits and 6 earned runs, and almost all of the balls where hit hard. Yes, there were some serious defensive miscues (the Mets defense is a hot mess this year), but the bottom line is that Matt Harvey made terrible pitches, chose terrible pitches to throw, and missed his spots. Even Nats slugger Bryce Harper expressed that he felt bad for Harvey last night (you know it’s bad when the opposing team’s superstar feels bad for you).

Except it wasn’t just a problem last night: his whole season has been one long stretch of miserable starts. Barring injury, Matt Harvey has nothing and no one but Matt Harvey to blame for his shortcomings this year.

So is Harvey’s poor performance psychosomatic? Could it be all in his head? Is this a residual effect of him pitching over his 200 inning limit last year? Is there something wrong with him physically?  He has been accused of being more out of shape this year, and perhaps that is part of the problem, but is it something more?

I personally think this stretch of bad starts is good for Harvey. To be blunt, he is a guy who needed to be humbled. I have to admit that I was always annoyed by Harvey because his attitude and behavior never matched the product he was putting on the field. He is a guy who’s reputation has always outpaced the results, and he certainly hasn’t made it easier on himself. He has been late for practice because he “lost track of time”. He has ignored his team’s and doctor’s orders about limiting his innings post-Tommy John. He has openly lived a lavish lifestyle while basking in the glory of the biggest media market in the country. Harvey has built himself up to be a baseball titan, and perhaps now the baseball gods are doing everything they can to humble him.

Now, Harvey will have to rely on his skill-set and pitching weapons instead of his reputation to prove he can be an ace pitcher. Hell, at this point, he should be gunning for the title of “second-best” pitcher on the team (Noah Syndergaard has claimed the title of “Best Pitcher” for the Mets and it’s not even close). Harvey will need to spend that extra time in the gym to prepare his body for the rigors of a full season. He will need to spend that extra time with the coaching staff to figure out what he can do to improve. Maybe he just needs to skip a start so he can get his head right. Regardless, Harvey is going to have to rely on more than his reputation to become to the hero New York needs. But, maybe this skid is the best thing that could happen to a man who acts like a superstar without the credentials, a man who acts like a superhero without a cape.

Baseball is humbling game and his manager stated it perfectly – “There are two kinds of people in this game: those who have been humbled and those who will be.”

Harvey needed to be humbled and, boy, is he getting a big piece of humble pie. But, hopefully he can take his pie, eat it, and get his groove back. When Matt Harvey is on, he is ON and a lot of fun to watch. Even the petty haters like me can’t hate on that.

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I Like Philadelphia

It’s been almost a month since my last blog post, but I have a really good reason why: I moved.

Yep.

I packed up my belongs and threw them in my car, Jeet (named after Derek Jeter), and then drove north until I got to New Jersey. I have family up here, so I figured this would be a good place to figure out my life without having to pay rent.

I’ve been here a week and so far, I really like it here. I’m a short train ride away from NYC and an hour away from Philadelphia. It’s great, it really is! So what’s a baseball nerd like me to do on a rainy Sunday? Go to a game, of course! My dad and I drove to Philly and had the chance to take in beautiful Citizens Bank Park. In the pouring rain. Because I’m just that lucky.

Actually, even though it was cold and rainy, I had an amazing time. Let me just say that Citizens Bank Park is probably my favorite ballpark that I have ever been to. Granted, I have only been to a handful of parks, but this ballpark takes the cake. It’s beautifully designed – the concourse is wide, the food selection is bueno (Chickie Fries, anyone?!?), and there isn’t a bad view in the house. Even the team shop is well designed!

Coming into the game, I knew the Phillies were quietly surpassing expectations (mine included) and I was excited at the idea of seeing them potentially sweep the Cleveland Indians! Not only that, but I was really excited to watch Vince Velasquez pitch (since I live in Jersey now, I should probably just call him “Vinny”). This guy has the potential to be a very good starting pitcher, and not only that, but he has some pretty sweet tats up and down his arm. I was also stoked to watch Danny Salazar pitch for Cleveland, since he has been their best pitcher so far this season. It was a pitchers duel the entire game and I loved it.

The fans in Philly really helped make the game special, too. These fans are hard-core sports fans. Even though it was rainy, they didn’t leave early and they stayed focused on the game. They booed their own players, cheered for simple pop flies, and talked intelligently about the game. I’ve always heard that Philly fans across all sports spectrums are ruthless, and I think that’s true. But “ruthless” doesn’t mean “bad” – it just means that they are passionate about their sports teams. It’s a great environment to be in.

In short, I just wanted to say thank you to the Phillies for introducing me to the sports scene in Philadelphia. I’m so excited to get to know the teams better! But, just remember, if my D-Backs or Yankees come to town, I’m rooting for them. I’m prepared to face the wrath of you Phillies fans.