Dissecting Matt Harvey’s struggles seems to be a daily occurrence. Is he still hurt? Is this natural coming off injury? Is it his attitude? Is it related to his personal life? The chatter surrounds Harvey on seemingly every pitch. There’s one explanation that seems to be forgotten despite serving as an exact turning point in his season — that April 27th start.
One might forget that over his first four starts of the season, Harvey looked good. He had a 2.84 ERA, had just tossed seven strong innings against Washington, and seemed to be regaining form. After an injury-riddled 2016, maybe Harvey was going to be back to his old ways in 2017.
Then came April 27th, the morning to be exact. As has been reported, Harvey received a phone call that morning. The Mets wanted him to start in just a few hours to fill in for Noah Syndergaard. Rather than just make it a bullpen game, the plan was to force Harvey, who was coming off major surgery, into action, even after he had a heavy weightlifting session the day before.
We all know what happened next. Over his next four starts, including that April 27 game, Harvey has posted an ERA of 9.00. He’s failed to last more than 5.1 IP. He’s walked more batters than he’s struck out. Toss in some personal issues, and the last three weeks have been an utter disaster.
So why isn’t that April 27th decision still a big deal? The Mets have gotten their share of flack for “babying” their starters, but that decision was anything but. Whether necessary or not, it was probably the most aggressive move they could have made regarding Harvey and his progression after surgery.
What makes it even more puzzling is that the Mets still receive flack to this day for how they handled Johan Santana and his no-hitter. Even though the correlation is less (Santana had a six-inning shutout and an eight-inning shutout later that month), it’s more or less assumed that Santana’s career ended because he threw 134 pitches in the no-hitter.
People like to talk about Harvey and the blame for his struggles is a constant debate. But in 2017, those struggles might just have a simple answer. Harvey was good. He was poorly handled on April 27. Now Harvey is bad.
Maybe it’s too simple. Maybe it’s not the reason. But at the very least, that decision needs to come back into the conversation.