Happy Harvey Day Anniversary.
On June 7, 2010, the Mets, picking seventh overall in the annual amateur draft, selected right-handed pitcher Matt Harvey out of the University of North Carolina. So began one of the greatest thrill rides in this rarely boring franchise’s history.
Ten years later, with perspective from all of the key players and then some, let’s relive how The Dark Knight rose in Gotham like few professional athletes have … and then fell in equally spectacular fashion:
The 2009 Mets, aiming to reach the postseason after suffering final-day eliminations each of the prior two years, instead sustained a slew of injuries and went 70-92, thereby earning the seventh spot in the ’10 draft.
The Connecticut native Harvey, meanwhile, had entered UNC in the fall of 2007 after deciding not to sign with the Angels, who had popped him with their third-round pick (118th overall) of that year’s draft and didn’t offer him enough — $1 million, $500,000 short of Harvey’s ask — to turn professional. As a junior in 2010, he would be eligible once more for the draft.
Omar Minaya, Mets general manager: What I remember about that pick is Matt’s sophomore year [a 5.40 ERA in 75 innings pitched] was not a dominant year. But in April, [scouting director] Ruddy Terrasas said, “This guy’s throwing great. This guy is a guy we’re going to have to look at.” We had someone at every one of his starts after that.
Bryan Lambe, special assistant to Minaya: He was solidly built. Good delivery. Good arm action. He checked all the boxes.
Minaya: That year, there were a couple of other guys that were kind of in the mix for us. I went to see Matt against [Yasmani] Grandal in Miami [on April 16]. When I saw him, he got beat around in the first inning, but I stayed and watched it, and he just became more dominant as the game went on. (Grandal’s Hurricanes knocked Harvey around for four runs in the first inning, yet Harvey wound up lasting seven innings, giving up seven runs, five earned, in the loss.)
He was a bulldog. He had an aggressive personality and good secondary stuff. I loved his competitiveness. I thought he was the right pick at the time.
In addition to the catcher Grandal, the Mets also extensively scouted Cal State-Fullerton shortstop Cristian Colon, Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox and Florida Gulf Coast left-hander Chris Sale. They didn’t seriously look at Southern Nevada outfielder Bryce Harper, Texas high school right-hander Jameson Taillon or Miami high school shortstop Manny Machado — whom the Nationals, Pirates and Orioles chose to start the draft’s proceedings.
The Royals, with the fourth pick, felt they had enough pitching already and saw Harvey’s ceiling as a No. 3 starter, so they drafted Colon. The Indians, with doubts about Harvey’s secondary stuff, went with Ole Miss left-hander Drew Pomeranz. Arizona chose Texas A&M right-hander Barret Loux, who failed his physical examination and never reached the major leagues.
Josh Byrnes, Diamondbacks general manager (in a 2013 email): We did consider [Harvey]. Obviously, we should have done more than consider him.
The Mets drafted Harvey and, on the Aug. 15 deadline, signed him for a $2.525 million bonus, a healthy amount above the $2.1 million slot price.
Dan Warthen, Mets pitching coach: As soon as he signed, he came to New York. I saw this big, good-looking kid standing in our bullpen with a black suit, white shirt, very thin tie — very GQ-ish, as he always was. His hair was always perfect. Then you see the ball coming out of his hand and you say. “Oh, it won’t be long until he’s playing baseball up here.” And he was cocky, oh Lord. He said, “Hey, I’ll be ready to pitch for you next year.”
Terry Collins, Mets minor league field coordinator: After we signed him, we brought him to the Instructional League [in Port St. Lucie]. Oh my God, the stuff was off-the-charts good.
When the 2010 Mets posted a disappointing 79-83 record, the team relieved both Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel of their duties, hiring Sandy Alderson to take over the baseball operations. Alderson promoted Collins to the manager’s spot.
In 2011, his first professional season, Harvey divided his time between Single-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton. He pitched better at the lower level (2.37 ERA in 14 starts) than the higher (4.53 ERA in 12 starts).
“And he was cocky, oh Lord. He said, ‘Hey, I’ll be ready to pitch for you next year.'” — Dan Warthen, Mets pitching coach
Sandy Alderson, Mets GM: You wouldn’t call it dominating, but I think by the end of 2011 or so, he was a very highly rated prospect nationally. His performance, together with his draft position, gave us some confidence.
Harvey spent most of the 2012 season at Triple-A Buffalo, totaling 110 innings, making 20 starts and compiling a 3.68 ERA. On July 26, the Mets summoned him for his major league debut against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Harvey excelled over 5 ¹/₃ innings, striking out 10, walking three and allowing three hits, and picked up the win in a 3-1 Mets victory.
Collins: That game he pitched in Arizona, we came into the clubhouse after the game, I went to Dan, and I said, “Where in the hell did that come from?” All of the reports I read didn’t talk about a 98 mph fastball. It was “94-95, pretty good slider, working on changeup.” All of a sudden, this guy is throwing 97-99 with a 92-mph slider. I said, “Holy cow!” We were shocked by what we saw.
I think when he finally got the call, he said, “OK, this is where I belong.” He came to me about a month later and asked me, “So why do you think it took me as long as it did to get to the big leagues?” I said, “I don’t have an answer, except the stuff I’m seeing is not the stuff I read about.”
Minaya: That night, Josh Byrnes [Minaya’s co-worker with the Padres at the time] called to congratulate me. He said, “That’s unhittable!”
Dillon Gee, Mets pitcher: When he burst on the scene with a fury, it was fun, man. You had heard about him coming up. When he got here, he was like on a different level. You could tell he was a special talent.
Harvey spent the rest of the season with the Mets, going 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA in 10 starts totaling 59 ¹/₃ innings, striking out 70 and walking 26. And that wound up serving as a mere appetizer to what came next.
John Buck, Mets catcher: I remember that  spring when I was there, when I came, he at that time was regarded as a good pitcher. I don’t think anybody foresaw what he was about to do that season.
Warthen: I give a lot of credit to John Buck. He took Matt under his wing and led him pretty strongly.
Buck: He was able to do things with the ball that weren’t normal. He was able to tighten his slider in on lefties to make it more like a cutter and open it on righties to make it run a little more. He was learning how to pitch at a high speed. It was like he was toying with people with that curveball and changeup, the slider. I thought, “He’s figuring some things out. This is going to be fun.”
Harvey won his first four starts of 2013, putting up an 0.93 ERA while striking out 32 and walking nine over 29 innings. Through May, his ERA stood at 1.85, and it stayed at 2.00 through June. The buzz from his 2012 arrival exploded into a frenzy. Each Harvey start became an eagerly anticipated holiday, with “Happy Harvey Day!” lighting up social media as soon as the sun rose.
Collins: He was as good as I’ve seen. That game with him and [Stephen] Strasburg on that Friday night [April 19], I’ve never experienced that kind of emotion in the ballpark. I had coached in the playoffs with the Pirates, and I had never witnessed that. The people were into it so much. That’s when you said, “Boy, this guy has got a chance to be something special.”
Warthen: We were a fairly mediocre team at that time. We were trying to get ourselves in the right direction. We felt that every fifth day it was “Happy Harvey Day!” He was running with the torch and he was loving every bit of it.
Hank Azaria, actor and lifelong Mets fan: “Harvey Day” was genuine. I remember feeling that: “We’ve got a win today.”
Gee: The game that stands out to me was against the White Sox [on May 7]. He threw nine shutout innings and had to be pulled out of the game because we didn’t score a run.
Buck: Batters, when they came up, they just had this aura of, “We have no shot.” There were a lot of times I felt like, “This [hitter] is done.” I would hear comments from hitters: “Dude, what about this Harvey guy?” That’s when he had that psychological edge. He knew that he had it. The hitters knew it and were feeling the effects of it: “[Bleep], I have no chance.” They’re already down 0-1 when that happens.
Matt Harvey, Mets pitcher: [I remember] how electric it was. How much support I had from my hometown and New York. I remember after pitching well against the Yankees, going to a nice restaurant in the city with my family and getting a standing ovation. You don’t imagine that as a kid.
Collins: At the All-Star Game, I talked with Carlos Beltran. Matt was going to start that game. I asked him, “What’s your impression of Matt Harvey?” He said, “He might be the best I’ve ever faced, He’s got 97-98 [mph] that he can move to both sides of the plate, up and down. He’s got a 92 [mph] slider. And by the way? The changeup is dynamic. In a hitter’s count, you don’t know what’s coming. That’s not a good feeling.”
Michael Cuddyer, National League designated hitter, 2013 All-Star Game: We get to New York, and obviously he is the buzz of everything. He’s starting. He’s having a tremendous season up to that point. When you see him and the way he’s handling the media, you think, “Damn, who is this guy?” He’s handling everything professionally and confidently. To go out and perform the way he did [two shutout innings, one hit, three strikeouts, no walks], I thought, “Jeez, this guy’s the real deal.”
With this overwhelming success came sudden, surging fame. A Sports Illustrated cover story dubbed Harvey “The Dark Knight of Gotham,” a handle that Harvey enthusiastically adapted. He dove into the Big Apple celebrity scene with similar vigor.
Minaya: The whole thing just took off, “The Dark Knight” and all that other stuff. He had that personality to be the guy.
Emily Smith, Page Six editor: He was giving Leo DiCaprio himself a run for his money as Page Six’s most precocious party boy and mega-modelizer. He pulled off the amazing feat of dating a cabal of models so extensive he could have cast his own Victoria’s Secret show — including Devon Windsor, Ania Cywinska, Anne V and Ashley Haas.
Alderson: I enjoyed that kind of celebrity. It brings a lot of energy to the team, to the ballpark, to the fans. It was a hallmark of the teams in Oakland [when Alderson was the A’s GM]. We had some big personalities. Obviously it was a different market with those big personalities. They weren’t challenged as often as they can be in New York. But it was fun.
Gee: You could see the media and limelight kind of became part of what he wanted to do. I’m sure that is super, super hard not to let that creep in, as popular as he got. I couldn’t imagine being bombarded as he was. He was the guy.
Warthen: I love him. I love his father. … Dating beauty queens and Victoria’s Secret models, I think he got carried away in the wrong direction.
Azaria: I remember when he was quoted how much money he was planning on making [$200 million, in a 2013 interview with Men’s Journal] and got criticized for that. I’m a superstitious enough actor to know, let’s not count that chicken before it hatches.
In his 26th start of 2013, on Aug. 24 at Citi Field, Harvey suffered a 3-0 loss to the Tigers, giving up a season-high 13 hits in 6 ²/₃ innings. He said afterward he felt “pretty tired,” and two days later the Mets announced Harvey had partially torn the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. After attempting to rehabilitate the injury for over a month, Harvey relented and underwent Tommy John surgery.
Buck: I went out for the national anthem [on Aug. 26] and then he came out and told me. I put my arm around him. I felt like, “I didn’t see this coming. Oof.”
“He was giving Leo DiCaprio himself a run for his money as Page Six’s most precocious party boy and mega-modelizer.” — Emily Smith, Page Six editor
Despite completing his first full major league season a month early, Harvey still placed fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting. He sat out the entire 2014 campaign, then returned in 2015 looking sufficiently close to his old self. Through 24 starts and 160 innings, Harvey tallied a 2.48 ERA, playing a key role in the Mets’ takeover of the NL East. Then came Labor Day weekend in Miami and a controversy for the ages: Scott Boras, Harvey’s agent, publicly announced the two sides had agreed before the season to shut down Harvey after 180 innings, which would’ve meant not having the ace for the playoffs.
Scott Boras, Harvey’s agent: In 2015, we were going through the whole thing with Matt like we went through with Strasburg [with the Nationals in 2012]. Following doctors’ advice and plans is very difficult for players. To Washington’s credit, people got all over them about [shutting down] Strasburg when they didn’t win in 2012. Look what happened. He’s a World Series MVP and won a ring.
Warthen: Scott said, “You should probably shut it down.” Harv said, “All right, I’m gonna shut it down.” We had several conversations in the outfield [before games]. We showed him how [Adam] Wainwright had thrown 200 innings 18 months out of Tommy John. We said, “Look, Harv, you should pitch the rest of the year. You’re only doing this because you’re worried about the future. There’s no reason to think that something bad is going to happen. If you want a promise, there’ll be no games with over 100 pitches.” He said, “I’m gonna throw 100 pitches every game!”
Harvey: When you’re an athlete and the decision is yours to make, at that age, nobody is not going to take the ball and fight for their teammates.
Boras: We had doctors make their recommendations. It’s up to teams to follow them. With Matt, the Mets asked him to pitch. In Washington, they didn’t ask Strasburg to pitch. The Mets left it up to the player. The player is always going to want to pitch.
Cuddyer, who left the Rockies for the Mets in 2015: We didn’t talk about it amongst the players. I think it might have been a little bit different if he was saying, “Don’t pitch me,” but he was the opposite. He wanted to pitch.
After a somewhat reduced workload in September, Harvey helped the Mets complete their stunning journey to the World Series by defeating the Dodgers in NLDS Game 3 then the Cubs in NLCS Game 1. He drew a no-decision in the World Series opener, then got the ball in Game 5 with his club facing elimination, in a 3-1 hole. Harvey threw eight brilliant shutout innings, and with his team leading 2-0 and his pitch count at 102, Collins informed Harvey he was done, to be replaced by closer Jeurys Familia. A legendary argument ensued.
Warthen: [Harvey is] screaming, “You’re not going to take me out of this [bleeping] game!” He was able to talk TC into it. There were some pretty tense moments. TC and I had Familia. He was pretty automatic. It’s a catch-22. If you bring in Familia and he gives up a couple of runs, then it’s, “Why didn’t you leave in Harvey?” My good friend Grady Little went through that with Pedro [Martinez, in the 2003 ALCS].
Harvey: I was rolling and got so caught up in the moment. … I remember I had no idea what inning it was.
Cuddyer: I was right there, 5 feet away from the conversation. I’m of the same belief that TC is: If I’ve got my guy out there dominating and he wants to pitch, I’m all for it.
Minaya: Oh God, I was there. I was sitting right next to [players association executive director] Tony Clark, right next to the Royals’ bench. I had the whole view in front of me of what was going on in the Mets’ dugout, the whole situation of Terry talking to him.
Azaria: I was at Game 5, and I certainly remember being like, “Yeah, leave him in!” I’d be hypocritical if I criticized it.
Harvey walked leadoff batter Lorenzo Cain, who stole second, and Eric Hosmer followed with an RBI double. Out came Harvey, in came Familia, and two groundouts and one poor Lucas Duda throw later, the game was tied. The Royals scored five runs in the top of the 12th — with Colon, whom Kansas City chose instead of Harvey, delivering the go-ahead RBI — to win the game and the championship.
Collins: A lot of fans bring it up. If 10 fans bring it up, nine of them say, “I’m glad you left him in.” I’ve had other people call and say, “You couldn’t take him out.”
Harvey: I definitely think about that. I still have nightmares over that. One thing I’m most angry about was not getting it done.
“I definitely think about that. I still have nightmares over that. One thing I’m most angry about was not getting it done.” — Matt Harvey
With Harvey leading a starting rotation of stud arms featuring Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz (with Zack Wheeler rehabilitating from TJ surgery), the future appeared extremely bright for the Mets. In 2016, however, the injury bug hit the Mets’ pitchers in a big way — none bigger than Harvey, who put up a subpar 4.86 ERA in 17 starts before getting diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome in July and undergoing season-ending surgery.
Gee: I had TOS. I know how much that sucks. It definitely changes you. You start trying to tinker with things. It’s not natural anymore. You start being robot-ish. You start not trying to hurt one area and totally hurt another area. Your whole body is out of whack.
Collins: He just wasn’t the same guy.
Alderson: Thoracic outlet, it’s rare to come back. I think that’s partly because of the nature of the injury and what it takes to correct the problem.
Boras: Matt sacrificed himself to be in the World Series in 2015. Then he had another surgery after Tommy John that took a while to recover from.
Harvey: Would I take back getting to the World Series with those guys and the city of New York? There’s not a chance. I believe things happen the way they are supposed to. I got hurt and maybe I would have anyway. Getting to the World Series was worth it.
As Harvey’s performance diminished, his off-the-field lifestyle became less forgivable. He had drawn his teammates’ and superiors’ scorn back in 2015 when he reported late to a workout before the NLDS. In May 2017, Harvey hit a new low.
Smith: It was his swing and a miss with Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima in early 2017 that led to his biggest skirmish with Page Six. Lima threw Harvey for a loop after they went on a series of dates, then just days later, in the early hours of May 2, she was pictured leaving Rihanna’s Met Ball afterparty with her ex, Patriots star Julian Edelman, while upping the heartbreak by simultaneously unfollowing Harvey on Instagram. Harvey then failed to show up for the Mets’ May 6 game against the Marlins, claiming he had a “migraine” — except that excuse turned out to be something of a catcher’s signal for a “stinking hangover.”
Page Six publicly called out Harvey by exclusively revealing he had, in fact, been out the night before, celebrating Cinco de Mayo at hot NYC club 1Oak until 4 a.m. that very morning. He then got a slugging from manager Terry Collins, had to apologize at a humiliating press conference and was suspended for three games for the party foul.
Warthen: The last one where he didn’t make it to the game because he and his girlfriend broke up and he was out all night, we tried to contact him, we sent people [to his home] — those were very difficult times in my life, to think about this young man who had all this talent and the world by the [bleep] and something clicks like that.
Alderson: I liked Matt. I continue to like Matt. Sure, he had his reputation, but ultimately I thought as an individual, he was sort of a vulnerable person. Someone whose confidence was a little brittle. I remember in his postgame interviews, he came across as a real solid, humble, genuine guy. The things that we went through with him were not novel for me. It was part of the job. I didn’t resent it at all. I didn’t take it personally.
Another surgery, this one to repair a stress fracture in his right scapula, curtailed his 2017, which he completed with a terrible 6.70 ERA. His physical decline showed in his average fastball velocity, which dropped from a peak of 95.9 mph in 2015 to 93.8 in 2017 (thanks, FanGraphs). 2018 marked his final year before free agency.
Dave Eiland, Mets pitching coach: He worked hard and pitched well in spring training. He worked well throwing his fastball to both sides of the plate. His slider had a nice shape, good bite. We were trying to get him to use his curveball and changeup more, which he did in spring training — and he had a nice, four-pitch mix. And then once the regular season started, he went back to his old habits, fastball and slider primarily. The command of it wasn’t quite there. If he missed a little bit, the outcome was going to be a little different than when he missed 97-99 with a 92-93 slider.
It was a situation where we wanted to put him in the bullpen. I had success, and Mickey [Callaway, manager], putting starters in the bullpen, resetting them a little bit and then putting back in the rotation and off they go. Matt felt like he could still be a successful starting pitcher. We respected that. That’s why we let him go.
On May 4, 2018, the Mets designated Harvey for assignment, a transaction that seemed simultaneously inevitable, given his 7.00 ERA and unhappiness working as a reliever, and shocking, given how high he had once climbed. Four days later, Harvey went to the Reds in a trade for catcher Devin Mesoraco, marking the end of an era.
Harvey: There are a lot of things I’d do differently, but I don’t like to live with regret. There were just things I didn’t know at the time. Now, obviously, I’ve struggled the last few years. And what I know now is how much time and effort it takes to stay at the top of your game. I wouldn’t say my work ethic was bad whatsoever, but when you’re young, it’s not like you feel invincible, but when everything is going so well, you don’t know what it takes to stay on the field. It’s definitely more time consuming and takes more concentration.
Harvey pitched adequately enough with the Reds (a 4.50 ERA) to earn a one-year, $11 million contract from the Angels for 2019. Then he pitched poorly enough for the Angels (a 7.09 ERA) that they released him on July 21. A late-season, minor league audition with the A’s, blessed by Alderson after he rejoined his old team, didn’t pay off with a promotion, and no one signed him last offseason. Harvey, 31, remains a free agent on his big anniversary, and Boras has engaged with Korean teams about the possibility of Harvey pitching there. A video of Harvey’s recent mound sessions has made the industry rounds.
Warthen: I know he’s looking for a job right now. Somebody’s going to be fortunate to get him for a pretty decent price. This is the cleanest and easiest that I’ve seen him throw the baseball in a long time.
Eiland: I saw the video he put out. His arm looked like it was working well.
In a 2010 draft redo, Harvey wouldn’t go seventh. Sale, whom the White Sox picked 13th, lasted longer and pitched better before undergoing his own TJ surgery earlier this year. The Mets uncovered the far more successful deGrom in the ninth round. Yet the Dark Knight most certainly left his mark in Queens.
Lambe: When he was doing well, I said to myself, “It’s nice to be right.” It sucks to be wrong. I anticipated he was going to be good. I didn’t anticipate he was going to be good for such a short period.
Azaria: I feel bad for him, and I certainly feel bad as a Mets fan, that that’s the way it panned out, it fizzled that fast. … Yet another chapter of the Mets.
Harvey: It’s been an interesting ride, a roller coaster. With where I am now, physically and how I’m feeling, I hope I get another shot.
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