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.

Baseball is Over and I am Sad

We have officially entered the saddest, most horrible part of the year.

The off-season.

If you are anything like me, you are probably in serious baseball withdrawals. I mean, I went from watching 2-3 games a day to watching none and I honestly have no idea how to fill my time. What am I supposed to do now, watch basketball? I only care about basketball during the playoffs or when the local team wins so I can get half-price pizza from Papa Johns. Anyway, I would like to talk about the World Series. I’m a week late, I know, but I’ve been busy nursing a sick cat back to health and sulking through a two-week long rainstorm. Neither one of those are made up excuses. Sadly.

Okay, first of all, I am sooooooooooo happy the Mets and the Royals were the two teams in the World Series. It was weird not having the Cardinals or the Giants as a major player, but if we are being honest, I was glad they were not there. It was nice to see some fresh teams coming out of the National League! BTW, how amazing was it to see the Cubbies in the postseason? For the first time a while, I had no rooting interest in what team won the World Series. I would have loved the outcome either way.

Even though it only went five games, this was one of the more entertaining World Series I have seen in quite some time. It was dramatic, energetic, unpredictable, and fun. The crowds at Citi Field and at the K were incredible. The pitching was incredible. The offense was incredible. And, even more than that, the story lines in this World Series were incredible:

  • Daniel Murphy going from en fuego in the NLCS to el cabra (a goat. And yes, I did Google translate that) in the WS
  • Matt Harvey pitching like the hero NYC deserved in Game 5, but pitching long enough to see himself become the villain
  • Eric Hosmer half-stealing home plate in Game 5, after the Royals came up 90 ft short in Game 7 last year
  • Edinson Volquez pitching, unaware of his father’s death, then pitching a gem in Game 5

And that’s not even all of them! Also, can we just talk about how the Royals scored most of their runs late in games? Like, they are the biggest procrastinators ever. Well, either that, or the Mets have a really sucky bullpen.

This series had everything we as baseball fans love and adore. Actually, the entire postseason was one of the best I can remember. The drama was there. The high caliber of play was there. The passion was there. The underdogs were there. The fallen giants were there.

Looking back and reflecting on all of it, I gotta say, we were very spoiled with the 2015 postseason. It was magical, plain and simple. I can only hope that 2016 will give us another amazing season!

But, for now, I will have to settle for watching football and hoping that A-Rod tweets more so I can get my Bae-Rod fix until Spring Training.

Dear Baseball Santa…

Dear Baseball Santa,

I know I am cutting it a little close here. After all, Christmas is almost over and you are surely back up at the North Pole by now. I do have a few last minute baseball requests for you to work on over this next year. I know you are probably gonna be busy all year yelling at the elves to make the toys faster, but maybe in your spare time you can work on these requests? Pretty please with Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen on top? They are pretty simple requests, so if you could help a girl out, that would be greatly appreciated!

#1) If you could, can you keep the Yankees healthy in 2015? Or, if they do get hurt, can you make sure they don’t get hurt all at once? I understand they are a bunch of old farts out there, but I need them to do well this year. America needs them to do well this year! I wanna see my pinstriped boys in October again! And if A-Rod is back on the team, can you make sure he is productive and not just a super gigantic distraction? I know he’s gonna be a distraction, but it’ll be worth it if he can produce. And while you’re at it, can you please stop Brian McCann from hitting into the shift all year?

#2) On the topic of shifts, can you tell teams to let up on those defensive shifts a little bit? I get that pitching is all the rage right now, but I think everyone would love to see dudes get some more hits! Watching a one- or two-hit game is nice and all, but watching a team unload 10+ hits in one game is even better.

#3) Can you let the Padres be awesome? I mean, they made all of these crazy off-season trades and signings, so I would like to see them do well. They don’t have to make the postseason or anything, but it would be fun to watch them do well.

#4) While we are talking about the NL West, can you make sure that the Diamondbacks will finish with an above .500 record? I don’t even care if they make it to October (it’d be awesome, but I gotta be realistic!), but the fans in Arizona need a team they can believe in (and one who will beat the Giants).

#5) Please please please let the Red Sox suck this year. It’s not exactly fair, I know, but I am a Yankees fan and an asshole, so my request should come as no shock. If you can’t make them suck, can you at least make sure the Yankees finish 2015 with a better record than them? That’s all I want.

#6) If you could, please let Giancarlo Stanton mash many more homers. He’s a special player and he seems like a nice guy, so if you could let his bat stay hot, I’d really appreciate that.

#7) PLEASE DO NOT LET THE GIANTS WIN THE WORLD SERIES AGAIN. I know it isn’t going to be an even numbered year, but just hear me out on this one: It’s time for someone else to win the World Series, Santa, you know this.

#8) I would like fewer Tommy John surgeries to happen this year. It seems to be a popular thing now, so if you could limit the number of pitchers who have to get this surgery, everyone in the baseball community would really love that! And please let Matt Harvey, Patrick Corbin, Jose Fernandez, and Ivan Nova come back stronger than ever. The game is better with those guys pitching.

#9) Please stop letting the managers dawdle during instant replay reviews. If they are going to challenge something, have them do it quickly. No slow ambles onto the field while awaiting a thumbs up or down from the bench. Have them throw a flag or something, or only come out of the dugout if they want to challenge the play. PLEASE.

#10) Stop having Yasiel Puig make stupid choices. He’s a really fun player to watch, but having him make poor play calls and base running gaffs is really bothersome. He’s a better player than that. He could be the NL MVP if he just stopped doing stupid stuff.

Okay. I think that just about covers it. Oh! Wait! One more thing:
HURRY UP AND BRING BASEBALL BACK!!

Thanks a bunch, Baseball Santa!
XOXO,
Hannah

Let Me Elbow in Here…

Unless you have been living under a rock this spring training, you should have noticed a deeply upsetting trend occurring among young pitchers. This issue is causing serious problems for ball clubs and players, and is disappointing fans everywhere. If you know the names Patrick Corbin (D-Backs), Kris Medlen (Braves), Jarrod Parker (Athletics), or Brandon Beachy (Braves), then you know what I am talking about:

The dreaded elbow injury.

These four guys are all facing the daunting idea of Tommy John surgery, and for Kris Medlen, it would be his second. It is something that no one wants to have to deal with, especially considering the recovery time is about 12 months. There is no denying it: these injuries are increasing and that is a problem.

Just think about some of the names of guys who have had to have this surgery: Steven Strausberg, Matt Harvey, etc. These guys were both in their early twenties. It’s kinda odd, right? That’s why I was so disheartened to hear about Patrick Corbin. He is just 24 and was slated to have another great year. Even if he doesn’t get surgery, he is probably going to be out for six to eight weeks, minimum.

It must be really scary, right? It’s kinda scary for me and I am just a fan! Watching these pitchers going down (these last four in the same week!) is really concerning. We try really hard to prevent these kind of injuries by limiting pitch counts, innings, etc, but it’s not enough. Pitching is unnatural and the arms are trying hard to tell us that.

Losing Medlen and Beachy forced the Braves to pick up free agent Santana. Aside from losing the power-hitting Paul Goldschmidt, losing Corbin is the most devastating thing that could happen to the Diamondbacks. A rotation that was shaky last year relied heavily on their young ace, who delivered and then some. He was an All-Star. He nearly broke the club record for most wins and no losses. For now, the D-Backs are going to have to figure out what to do until he is healthy again. My guess is that they are going to take a chance on Archie Bradley and put Randall Delgado in the bullpen for long relief, but I could be totally wrong. This is a mess, but fortunately, there will be plenty of time to figure it out on the flight to Australia. 

All of these players are outstanding guys who do not deserve to deal with this kind stuff. Injury in any sport is inevitable, but it is a bit alarming how many pitchers are coming out of the game due to elbow injuries.

 

This was a good article by Ken Rosenthal, if you want some more detailed info:

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/rosenthal-pitching-injuries-piling-up-and-remedy-still-elusive-031514