The Rise and Fall of The Dark Knight

In July 26th, 2012,  the future ace of the Mets made his debut, or so they thought. Matt Harvey’s debut was one that Mets fans had been waiting for, as the former first round draft pick had been dominating the minors. He rose through A+, AA, and AAA in less than two seasons with solid numbers, and a great SO/9 ratio.

Harvey’s debut was unbelievable, he went 5 and 1/3 innings, striking out 11 batters, and had two hits as well. He became the first pitcher since 1900 to strike out 11 batters, and have two hits in his professional debut.

Matt Harvey started a total of 10 games in 2012, finishing with a 2.72 ERA, while averaging just about 6 innings per start. Those 10 starts showed that Harvey had the stuff, and could live up to the hype that surrounded him.

The following season Harvey hit his stride, he started the season off in dominant fashion, striking out 19 batters in his first 14 innings. He drew praise from some of the most respected guys in the game, including former Mets Manager Bobby Valentine who said Harvey had the potential to be “the best Met Pitcher to ever wear the uniform.”

Strong words to say about a guy who had only 12 big league starts and to say he could be the best would be a long shot considering the great pitchers the Mets have had in the past. They had “The Franchise” Tom Seaver, who is one of the best pitchers of all time, and a 300 game winner.

The other guy that comes to mind is Dwight “Doc” Gooden. Gooden was arguably the best pitcher in baseball from 84′-88′. In 1985 Doc had a season that is regarded by many as the greatest season by a starting pitcher in history. He went 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA, had 35 starts, 16 complete games, and 276 and 2/3 innings pitched.

The comparisons to those two guys alone show how good people thought Matt Harvey could be.

His dominance continued and fans started to call the days he started “Happy Harvey Day.” Harvey ended up starting the All-Star game and pitched 2 scoreless, dominant innings, leading the Sports Illustrated magazine to don him “The Dark Knight.”

The name fit, Harvey dresses up in expensive clothes, and was always seen with beautiful women draped on his arms. When it was his night to pitch he would walk out to the mound with the confidence of batman ready to fight crime, suited up and ready for battle.

Harvey was a favorite to win the Cy Young award in 2013 and the future was looking bright for the Mets with an ace of the future… then suddenly it was a dark day for the Dark Knight. In late August, Harvey suffered a torn UCL, which required Tommy John Surgery and his great season was cut short. Harvey finished the season with a record of 9-5 and ERA of 2.27 in 178 and 1/3 innings.

Coming back from Tommy John Surgery and competing at a high level right away was not usual, so Harvey missing all of the 2014 season to rehab was not the only concern. The question had to be asked, would the Dark Knight Rise?

After missing the 2014 season Matt Harvey came back and quieted the doubters who didn’t think he could be an ace right away, if at all. Harvey came back and seemingly didn’t miss a beat.

Harvey gained a little weight, but his arm was as dominant as ever. The only issue was that Dr. Andrews, the man who performed the Tommy John Surgery on the Dark Knight didn’t want him to pitch over 180 innings. In order for a pitcher to go a whole season as a starter, it requires 200-240 innings of work, so this would mean he would have to shut down in late August, early September.

If the Mets were expected to have a bad season this would not be a big deal, but for the first time in almost a decade the Mets were legitimate playoff contenders, because of the pitching staff.

Well, the Mets had a plan to keep Harvey on the mound for the whole season by sporadically skipping his starts. The plan worked for the most part as Harvey finished the regular season with a sparkling 13-8 record, 2.71 ERA, and 189 and 1/3 innings pitched. It was perfect, he barely went over the innings limit and only had to miss three starts.

Well, it wasn’t that simple, the Mets were playoff contenders to start the season and coupled with a season flop by the Washington Nationals and the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline, the Mets won their division.

Now, the beloved Dark Knight was always a bit arrogant, and did some things that caused minor issues along the way, but he was Matt Harvey so it wasn’t ever a legitimate problem… until now.

Matt Harvey’s agent Scott Boras was pushing for Harvey to sit out during the playoffs because of the innings limit. Now a true athlete would say screw the innings limit, especially because there is no true rhyme or reason to the cap because there is no telling how somebodies arm can handle throwing after that surgery.

However, Harvey was seemingly siding with his agent to prevent further injury, which I understand to an extent, but we all know it was to preserve a big contract when he hit free agency and not to solely prevent injury. After pleading from the fans and most likely the entire organization, Harvey decided to suit up.

The issue here was Harvey showed he cared more about money in the future than helping his team win a championship. Through the NLDS and the NLCS he only started twice pitching a total of 12 and 2/3 innings, and winning both games.

The Mets earned themselves a shot at the World Series and with their young four stars hitting the mound the Mets seemed to have a shot at the high powered Kansas City Royals. Unfortunately, Harvey messed up again and this time it wasn’t forgivable.

The Mets swept the Cubs in the NLCS and had a long layover before the World Series started. So, obviously to avoid rust they had a team practice and the Dark Knight was late, so late that Terry Collins told him not to come. Mets fans had to ask, does he even care?

The Mets were not happy with Harvey, but being in the World Series they knew they needed the Dark Knight on the mound. He made two starts, one coming in game 5, an elimination game. Harvey dominated. So much so that he was able to talk Terry into letting him start the 9th, even with a high pitch count.

Once he stepped onto the field for the top of the ninth the crowd erupted as the entire fan base believed in him again. Unfortunately he could not get through the inning and along with some poor defense the Mets last the World Series that night.

There were high hopes for the future as the Mets had four young aces and one more possibly set to return early in the upcoming season. The rotation would be led by the Dark Knight and a possible pitching dynasty was on the horizon.

Well, game 5 of the 2015 World Series was the last time we saw the Dark Knight. The 2016 season was a complete bust for him, he never hit his stride, and eventually needed season-ending surgery to alleviate a rare but serious, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. His 2016 season line was a disappointing 4-10 record with a 4.86 ERA in only 17 starts. To alleviate the Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, he had two ribs removed and seemingly all of his confidence.

Harvey came back this season as a shell of his former self. Mets fans and the organization knew it would take time for him to regain his form and after two solid starts to begin the campaign it didn’t seem like it would take too long. That was not the case though, he couldn’t get it done on the mound like he had before.

His on field struggles seemed to carry over to his personal life. He failed to show up to a game, claiming he did not feel well, but later we found out he was just hung over and was suspended for three games. He missed a start which didn’t just effect him, but the team as well as they got swept that series and could never get going again.

There was not one Dark Knight sighting this season as Harvey lost the bravado that fans loved so much and hit the disabled list due to a shoulder injury, which he attributes to not strengthening it enough in the off-season.

Since coming off the disabled list, things have only gotten more bleak for the former top tier pitcher. He simply does not have the stuff he once possessed. His last two starts were so bad that there are rumors the Mets may just cut ties with Harvey after the season, officially killing off the Dark Knight.

Harvey cannot figure it out on the mound and if he wants to continue his major league career, he is going to have to do work not only on his craft, but on himself. He is a problem in the clubhouse and his talent no longer combats the issues he causes.

If the Mets decide to keep Harvey they can still cut him at the end of Spring Training if his stuff isn’t up to par and recoup the majority of his contract. It would be sad to see the reign of the Dark Knight come to an end, but baseball is a business at the end of the day.

The only way Harvey gets back to what he once was is by watching his old starts and seeing the confidence he had with every pitch he threw. Without confidence the Dark Knight is just Batman after Bane beat him up and broke his body.

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