I woke up to no fewer than 4 texts yesterday morning, all saying the same thing. “Happy Harvey day!” And a magnificent Harvey day it was.18 months removed from his last regular season game, it could be a disaster. Nope, Six innings, no runs and nine strikeouts. It’s very clear. Harvey is back. In the words of Gary Cohen “It’s like he never left”.
It’s funny, because this whole Harvey Day thing didn’t start out as a Mets marketing ploy. It’s a grass-roots Mets fan holiday. It started because we got excited whenever this guy took the mound, because we knew that we were going to see something special. We were excited for the first time in a long time, and even though the other eight guys on the field were completely helpless, there was that one shining light. He’s our guy. He’s our superstar. He’s going to lead us to a World Series. That’s, in essence what Harvey Day is.
What makes Matt Harvey, “Matt Harvey” to everybody? I mean, when you look at it from a broad perspective, the guy hasn’t really done much for the Mets. He’s pitched only 36 games in the majors and boasts a 12-10 career record. He hasn’t won any World Series titles. Hell, the Mets came in 4th in the NL East in 2013 with him. He doesn’t have any accolades. There’s no Cy Young’s on Harvey’s mantle. Yet, he’s created this hysteria that New York hasn’t seen for a specific player since Derek Jeter’s glory days (I’m not talking about the dragged out end of his career when he was batting .250 a season, I’m talking 1999 vintage Derek Jeter, who batted .349 and drove in 102 runs). Matt Harvey lit the town on fire. In less than four months he became the unquestioned star in the big apple. move over Jeter, move over Melo (remember, there used to be this team called the New York Knicks and they played basketball), move over Eli and….well there wasn’t anybody on the Jets. The point is that Matt Harvey was the king of New York. Then, like all great things the Mets get, he was taken away with a tear in his elbow that required Tommy John surgery. It collectively ripped the hearts and souls out of every Mets fan.
But why is he so important to all of us. Why has he made Mets fans so much more excitable for the first time in a decade? Let’s face it, the Mets without Harvey are just a very average team. Before him they were just a flat out shitty team. But with Harvey, the Mets become must-see TV. In fact, during Harvey’s takeover of New York nearly two years ago now, Matt Harvey’s starts increased viewership on SNY by over 14%. There has to be a reason for that. Don’t laugh, but the Mets have had their fair share of great players in the last 20 years. Just listing off names like Mike Piazza, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran. These guys are all either in the Hall of Fame or (maybe Reyes and Wright) are future Hall of Famers. And there were so many other very good, exciting players, but none of them garnered the wave of attention that Matt Harvey has received. Why is he so important to Mets fans though?
Well, let’s start off with the fact that he’s homegrown. We all love that expression. It makes him feel like one of us. It makes it that much more exciting when he wins. Harvey, was born in New London, Connecticut, Mets and Yankees battleground territory. He could’ve easily been a Mets fan growing up, but let’s remember, the Mets sucked when Harvey was a kid (and kinda as an adult), and the Yankees were winning title after title. So sure, the Mets lord and savior grew up a Yankees fan but we forgive him for that when he strikes out ten of them and gives up zero runs over 8 innings in the Bronx. Harvey is what we want all of our athletes to be. He’s gritty and dominant on the field. He’s got a great personality and he stays on the back page and page 6 of the papers, he doesn’t end up on the front page in scandals. Harvey’s a pitcher, so it’s easy to watch him play. It’s makes him easier to like. You can’t have people over to watch David Wright play. You can make a night out watching Harvey pitch. He takes the ball and you know you’re going to see something special.
Harvey is important to Mets fans because he is beyond an athlete. In Matt Harvey the Mets fans get the once in a lifetime pitcher, the Hollywood Celebrity (it’s only a matter of time until he starts cameoing in movies to set up his post baseball career as an actor), you get the down to earth sports fan (he’s a die hard Rangers fan if you didn’t already know) and a guy who loves New York. Harvey works harder then any athlete we’ve ever seen, and is never shy to speak up. He’s this generations Doc Gooden. Argue with me all you want about Dwight Gooden over Harvey, I’ll argue right back that Harvey is more dominant with less support, and he’s captivating both on and off the field. Honestly, you couldn’t go wrong with either, but I’m saying that Harvey is both a once in a generation pitcher and he has the itch to become a star. But more than anything, Mets fans get to brag about Harvey. Mets fans finally get a guy who they can show off to the rest of baseball and say “see, look, we have this guy. We’re relevant again”.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Harvey will go back to being the pitcher he was. He has too much talent, too much drive and is just too good. If he pitches like he pitched in his first start of the season yesterday, the sky’s the limit for the legend of Matt Harvey, and for Mets fans, that alone is a reason to hope.
“He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.”
– Lt. James Gordon