Matt Harvey was late to a team workout Tuesday, and Mets fans convulsed in disgust. The New York Post (which seems to have moles everywhere here) reported Harvey spent the evening throwing a Monday Night Football party at a Tribeca steakhouse. This led to the obvious connection: Harvey was hungover and overslept.
People were furious. His drinking got in the way of the team.
If this was an April workout before playing the Reds it wouldn’t even be a blip on Mr. Met’s radar. But it was a mandatory event before the Mets first playoff series in nearly a decade, and Harvey has a rep as a playboy. The Dark Knight of Gotham enjoys his dark nights.
The situation was also exacerbated by the team putting Harvey on blast instead of wrapping their Mother Hen wings around the story. Captain David Wright took his shot (“I’m concerned about the guys that are here… you’ll have to talk to Matt about that”). Terry Collins took his (“He has got to be smarter than that… he messed up”). And the team pushed Harvey onto the podium to take his medicine in front of the media.
The message was clear: You wrecked dad’s car, you pay for it.
In Mets Land these are energized, optimistic, yet extremely nerve-wracking times. This Summer of Love has even pessimistic fans thinking about a deep October run. Citi Field has blood pulsing through it for the first time. We’re mentioning 1969, 1986 and 2000, thoughts usually reserved for watching SNY Classics in our Gary Carter jerseys.
It’s tense because us Mets fans are wired to know the rug can be pulled out, the bat may never leave Beltran’s shoulder, Timo Perez may slow down on the base paths. There’s Kershaw and Greinke and the Dodger Stadium shadows… and ugggh.
So Harvey represents so much: a bright era on the horizon, an arsenal of power arms John Smoltz has compared to his impossibly talented Braves staffs, the most homegrown players of any playoff team. This should be the start of something big, not the end. Harvey embodies the moment baseball got interesting in Flushing again, when finally the Mets weren’t punchlines anymore. They were cool, grabbed headlines, had attitude and nicknames. The Mets mattered.
In a different era you wonder if Harvey’s indiscretion would’ve been laughed at. Or at least buried under the rug like so many things our nation used to just avoid talking about.
This week marks the 59th anniversary of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the World Series, and Mickey Mantle once lovingly referred to his teammate at “the greatest drinker I’ve ever known.” Hard to imagine Pujols saying that about Trout. It’s also the ultimate co-sign since Mantle is the most renowned booze hound of all-time. The Mick once tried to get himself kicked out of a game to nurse his hangover. Babe Ruth is the greatest player of all-time and will forever be celebrated for his late-night carousing, dominating the sport in a daily boozy fog.
It’s not even like Mets lore isn’t painted with romanticism about drunken good ol’ boys. The ’86 Mets are the greatest squad in franchise history, remembered fondly as a bunch of rowdy trouble-makers, nocturnal bad boys in an era of excess and madness – New York City of the 1980s. The anecdotes about the Mets drug and alcohol binges are legend. Yes, they probably squandered an opportunity to become a dynasty… but we’ll always have ’86 dammit!
Maybe Harvey was just born at the wrong time. Had he played alongside the Babe or the Mick or Doc and Straw, this would’ve been just another Tuesday. But in 2015, it becomes a storm. And Harvey blowing off another responsibility is more evidence the team is fed up with his self-centered antics, his innings limits, his magazine spreads, his appetite for the Big Apple’s vices.
Harvey can erase all this hand-wringing with a dominant performance in front of the Queens faithful Monday night. If he mows down the Dodgers in Game 3 he’ll get serenaded by a fan base waiting to explode in the first ever postseason game at the new ballpark. If he gives up 6 runs in 4 1/3? He’ll get mercilessly booed, a storm of anger will wash over the moment, a fan base exiling him to off season trade talks.
It could get loud. It could get nasty. Let’s just hope he’s not nursing a hangover.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.