THE Matt Harvey who pitches for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic isn’t the Matt Harvey who burst onto the scene with the Mets in 2012, was one of baseball’s best pitchers in 2013 and an absolute bulldog in 2015.
Gone is The Dark Knight, replaced by The Godfather, who Harvey now calls himself as he anchors the Italian staff.
Watching Harvey pitch now is watching someone trying to reinvent himself at 33, with his mid-’90s fastball gone – along with his once-vaunted slider. Harvey’s fastball now sits at around 90 mph, and it’s obvious he’ll never be a guy who dominates opposing hitters again.
In two starts for Italy, Harvey has a 1.29 ERA over 7.0 innings, allowing four hits, walking one and striking out three. No conclusions should be drawn from these statistics, at least initially, due to the competition Harvey faced. But something that’s obvious is that he’s a very different pitcher than he was in 2021 with the Baltimore Orioles — the last time he pitched in the majors.
In 2021, Harvey’s four-seam average fastball was 93.6 mph after averaging 94.5 mph in 2020 with the Kansas City Royals and 93.2 mph in 2019 for the Los Angeles Angels. When Harvey was at his best (in 2013 and 2015 with the Mets), his fastball was usually around 97 mph.
The aforementioned blazing fastball (and Harvey’s slider) went missing after surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, which he underwent in 2016. And in the years since, as Harvey tried to find success as a as Met and eventually as Angel, Royal and Oriole, it seemed like he was always trying to be that overpowering guy. No more.
Listening to Harvey speak, he’s comfortable, comfortable with who he is now as a pitcher — and with the fact that the heights he reached with the Mets in the 2015 World Series are a world away. away from where he is now.
When discussing Harvey, one cannot ignore that he just received a 60-game suspension due to his disclosure of drug distribution, which he spoke about during his testimony at the Eric Kay trial.
In that trial, where Kay was found guilty of supplying drugs that led to the July 2019 death of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, Harvey also discussed his prior drug use, including cocaine and oxycodone.
There is no way to treat the above as an aside. However, Harvey is no longer the same person he was four years ago. And it’s arguable that he deserves another shot at the majors, which would almost certainly start with a minor league contract.
It should be the Mets who give him that deal, effectively bringing him home.
Much of this is emotional.
Harvey should have been a perennial All-Star and a career Met. He was basically the Mets Jacob of Grom before most Mets fans knew who deGrom was.
It was Harvey whose arrival in 2012 gave fans a glimpse of what the future might hold, although it took the team a few years to get there.
It was Harvey who started the All-Star Game at Citi Field in 2013 and fought like hell to finish Game 5 of the 2015 World Series.
We’ll never know if Harvey, who pitched 189.1 innings in the regular season in 2015 before pitching an additional 26.2 in the playoffs that year, developed thoracic outlet syndrome due to the mileage he put on his arm in his first season after Tommy John surgery. .
But we do know that Harvey essentially staked his future in baseball while doing everything in his power to help deliver a World Series title to the Mets and their fans.
Were there any off-field issues with Harvey during his time in Queens. Yes. But it’s not that guy anymore.
Before Harvey resurfaced with Italy, it was clear he was still very keen on throwing. A look at his Instagram shows his workouts and throwing sessions. He’s not someone who wants his big league dream to end.
How amazing would it be if Harvey’s dream continued with the Mets, the team he basically donated his arm for?
Maybe the Mets sign Harvey and he’ll never come back to the majors. Or maybe he continues to hone this new version of himself and becomes a solid rotational option – or a relief pitcher, where his stuff might play out a bit.
Is the 2023 version of Harvey a better deep starter than Jose Butto Or Joey Lucchesi? Could it be an enclosure option if the boot doesn’t work? The Mets should find out.