Loss of Matt Harvey like a punch to the solar plexus

Matt Harvey talks to the media about his

Matt Harvey talks to the media about his diagnosis of a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). (Aug. 26, 2013) (Credit: Getty)

In talking Monday about his injured right elbow, Matt Harvey made it sound as if a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament didn't hurt all that much.

Fatigue, sure. Discomfort, no doubt.

Part of that is Harvey is a throwback type of pitcher who takes a line drive off the chest, then shoos the trainer away like a hot dog wrapper twisting in the breeze. But in the grand scheme of things, he's right.

Harvey may be the one ultimately headed for surgery, but it's the Mets who are feeling the pain.

Again.

Regardless of when Harvey first felt weakness in the forearm or whatever the timetable was to get it checked, there was no way for the Mets to adequately brace themselves for the results of Monday's MRI.

Harvey was nothing short of everything the organization had dreamed of this season. Sports Illustrated cover boy. A viral sensation from his man-on-the-street bit for Jimmy Fallon. Harvey didn't just start the All-Star Game, he did it at Citi Field. The Mets looked at Harvey like a proud, adoring grandparent would -- and they needed him for reasons beyond that every fifth day.

Of course, Harvey was great then, too. Among the best, a serious Cy Young contender. And it wasn't just getting people out. Harvey, capable of touching triple digits on the radar gun, dominated. He made the Mets matter again. He gave them a national presence. He gave them something no one else in the major leagues had.

They had Matt Harvey and you didn't.

We know the Mets. We've witnessed the frustration, the failed signings, the collapses. Always the punch line for David Letterman. But Harvey was changing all that. In toting that microphone around Bryant Park for Fallon, the winking Harvey was in on the joke, and the Mets could laugh along with him.

So imagine how Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins felt Monday when Harvey was cruelly snatched away for this season and possibly next year.

Actually, you probably felt that way, too. All along, we've been led to believe that 2014 was the goal, the return to respectability, the start of a new era -- and a big reason for that was Harvey.

Was there anyone else in baseball you'd rather build your rotation around? Harvey was that true No. 1, and the Mets had Zack Wheeler stacked behind him with Noah Syndergaard destined to follow at some point in 2014. Other teams finally were envious of the Mets for something, and it isn't a stretch to say that Alderson's head bowed slightly during Monday's news conference.

"It's unfortunate from Matt's point of view and it's unfortunate from the standpoint of the organization," Alderson said. "There's no question about that. On the other hand, these are the kinds of things that happen in the game. And the successful teams, the successful organizations, respond to these setbacks."

Calling what happened to Harvey a "setback" doesn't seem to do it justice, though. David Wright's strained hamstring is a setback. Ike Davis' Triple-A demotion was a setback. Suddenly plucking Harvey from the rebuilding process, for however long, is like getting broadsided by a hurricane.

It's more than just the loss of Harvey. His injury detonated the club's plans, including an offseason blueprint that was supposed to rely on using the Mets' pitching stable as currency in the trade market. Now Alderson must reconsider that strategy as he looks to shore up the team's weaknesses -- in addition to finding a replacement for Harvey.

"In terms of our timetable, it certainly will have an impact," Alderson said. "We're fortunate we have a lot of pitching depth in our organization. So that gives us perhaps a leg up in responding to this. But this is what many successful teams must go through from time to time. For us to expect not to go through it from time to time would be unrealistic.

"The news was tough today. There's no question about that. And the full implication of it probably has not yet been felt."

No doubt. Only a handful of players over the years have been as important to the Mets' self-esteem as Harvey is, and it feels as if they never have needed someone like him as much as they do right now.

Forget what Harvey said. This really, really hurts. The pain is real. For everyone.

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