Sunday, April 17, 2016

What's Eating Matt Harvey?

Sometimes, when a team's biggest star is struggling, it can set off alarm bells all over the place. Matt Harvey might not necessarily be the Mets biggest star, but he's certainly up there and given the lofty expectations that people have for him (to say nothing of the bar he sets for himself), his poor start to the season has to be of some cause for concern. Saturday in Cleveland was just another example of Harvey coming apart when in prior years he'd be kicking into another gear. Harvey started off his day by striking out the side in the 1st inning, and usually when he does things like that, it's clear that it's one of those days when he's pitching with smoke coming out of his ears. Though he only struck out one after that, he was mowing down Cleveland batters with ease and had retired the first 13 batters to face him as the game moved to the 5th inning.

Then, of course, he walked Carlos Santana and totally unraveled from there.

This happened in his first two starts as well. Strong start and then an inability to maintain as the game moved on. So, now that it's happened three times, everyone and their brother is leading off their Mets talk with the same question: What's wrong with Harvey?

We at The Ballclub have gone through this before and so if we're going to go into what's going on with Harvey, it requires a bit more thought than the simple boilerplate answers of arm slots and innings counts and World Series hangovers. All this talk about what's wrong with Harvey seems to me all too reminiscent of when Dwight Gooden used to have a slow start to his season and everyone would be throwing up their hands and yelling "What's Up with Gooden?!" Now, I'm not saying that Harvey is using cocaine, these are different times. But what could be bothering Matt Harvey?

We all know Harvey purports himself as a real Ladies' man. This is nothing new. Before having been in the major leagues for a full year, he'd had some very frank discussions about how Beautiful Derek was his dating role model and he found himself in a very public relationship with a lovely Russian supermodel. But that public relationship went publicly south, and since then, Harvey hasn't purportedly been attached to anyone, at least as far as I know. Again, this is simply Harvey's personality, and as a young, handsome dude in the big city he likes the attention. But not all the attention seems to be very good. I know most people, whether they're Mets fans or not, are pretty convinced that the whole "Bladder infection" story was some weird smokescreen to cover up the fact that he has a venereal disease. This crossed the line with him, though, and probably rightfully so, but in New York, getting pissed off doesn't stop the whispers. Clearly, what Harvey needs is a change in reputation and maybe instead going out and being photographed with women, he should go out and be photographed throwing Baseballs outside of the Ed Sullivan Theatre like David Wright used to do.

On the other hand, maybe it's all a smokescreen. Perhaps Harvey is more of a wallflower and the talk and the photographs are bravado, and what Harvey really wants is a nice girl to settle down with. Harvey's best season to date, back in 2013, was accomplished when he was dating Anne V. (who sounds like some weird Bond Villainess with that name), and since then, all he's done is blow out his elbow, rehab, come back and have a season not as tantalizingly great as 2013. Hell, he didn't even make an All Star Game. So, clearly, whatever the problem is, it's that Harvey is lacking consistency in his life outside the lines and the random women he's seen with aren't really wetting the whistle enough to satiate him. What he needs is someone steady who will keep him grounded and keep his head in the game. Who that woman is, I don't know and I'm not going to make any suggestions. I'm no Dr. Ruth. But if it worked for David Wright, well, it should work for him.

It was of note when Harvey made the choice to live in the East Village in Manhattan. Harvey in fact resides around the corner from a former office of mine, and although I never saw him around there I can tell you that the location is right in the thick of everything that people seem to like about the East Village. But the East Village, for as hip as it may be from a Real Estate Standpoint, is a disaster of a neighborhood if you ever need to avoid people and just want some peace and quiet, and perhaps Harvey's point of view is changing. There is a bar on a sidestreet next to the Harvey residence. I heard, from a colleague who frequents said bar, that there had been some noise complaints from the building about the bar, and the scuttlebutt was that Harvey himself had made the complaints. So maybe, just maybe, this high-fallutin' East Village lifestyle is starting to wear on Harvey, and at the ripe old age of 26 he's ready for a more peaceful and quiet neighborhood. Like Gramercy. You know, where David Wright used to live!

Matt Harvey has always been a big dude, ever since he arrived in the Majors. He slimmed down slightly at the beginning of 2013 but bulked up as the course of the season went on. After missing 2014, he came back to camp in 2015 looking a little more filled out and bulky, which is fine. So long as it doesn't affect his pitching, he can weigh as much as he sees fit. It worked for guys like David Wells and Sabathia. But this season, Harvey looks like half the man he was when we saw him last October. It's kind of strange. I know he probably worked out like a demon in the offseason and Spring Training to get in that kind of shape but maybe not having the bulk behind him has caused him to lose something on the ol' rising stink. Maybe he should go back to the diet he used to have of sushi and Sunday brunch. I'm not saying he needs to eat himself into Bartolo Colon territory, but hey, success is success and when your body is your temple, don't mess around too much. I'm sure David Wright could recommend a good dietician.

So, these are my thoughts on Harvey. What does everyone else think?

No comments: