Matt Harvey is all about the spotlight
David LennonDavid Lennon
David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since
Matt Harvey craves attention so much, he'd probably pitch Tuesday night's All-Star Game wearing only his stirrups and boxer shorts.
Most of the viewing public already has seen his windup in the buff anyway for ESPN The Magazine's "Body Issue," a photo spread Harvey's reps lobbied for. Getting the starting nod for the NL team, however, didn't take a phone call or a willingness to frolic au natural with a room-service tray.
Harvey earned that in uniform, on the mound, and left NL manager Bruce Bochy no choice but to start him at Citi Field. He'll be the first pitcher to do so in his own backyard since Roger Clemens, then with the Astros, pitched at Houston's Minute Maid Park in 2004.
The Rocket, with an ego as large as his home state of Texas, enjoyed the spotlight, too. So did Pedro Martinez, who dazzled Red Sox Nation by striking out five of the first six batters he faced during the '99 All-Star Game at Fenway Park.
Think Billy Joel at Nassau Coliseum. Bruce Springsteen at the Meadowlands. With Harvey, this night at Citi Field feels as if it's been waiting for him to own. From where we stand, he appears ready to strut out there and seize it.
"I know he wanted this very bad," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He wanted this game desperately."
Meaningless? Who better to pitch this exhibition than an exhibitionist? Harvey is all about the sizzle, and if he can't get the ball in a World Series for a few years, he'll settle for the Midsummer Classic.
It's got the national TV audience, the game's elite. As measuring sticks go, Harvey will take what he can get. Consider the All-Star Game the most fun he can have with his clothes on now that he's turned his full attention to pitching rather than posing.
"I know that his diet has changed since then," David Wright said. "It was a lot of salads before that. Now it's a lot of pizza and cake."
Harvey may have blindsided the Mets with the nude layout, and surprised even more people by telling another publication of his post-baseball aspirations to be a movie star -- a full 29 starts into his major-league career.
But there's no need to hang up his spikes first. Look at R.A. Dickey. The knuckleballer released a book, starred in a documentary and won a Cy Young Award in the same season. Don't think Harvey wasn't paying attention.
When asked Monday about his inspiration, guess who Harvey brought up? Dickey, a multi-media darling who prepped for his career year by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
"I came up and obviously wanted to do everything I could to fill in for R.A. Dickey," Harvey said. "We knew him not being with us, it was going to take a lot and someone needed to step in. It was a role I wanted to take."
Harvey quickly has graduated from understudy to leading man, and with Tuesday night's start, he'll have one-upped Dickey. Last season, Dickey desperately wanted the start in Kansas City, but Tony La Russa -- the NL manager emeritus -- picked Matt Cain instead.
Dickey made no attempt to hide his disappointment. Neither did the Mets, as the knuckleballer's starts gave them a chance to forget another losing season for a few hours every five days. It's why the team re-arranged its rotation to allow Dickey to win No. 20 at Citi Field.
That VIP treatment irked some around the Mets. But we all have to remember this is the entertainment business.
As Harvey explained, there is a void to fill here in Flushing, where the NL franchise is starving for the next Tom Seaver or Dwight Gooden. It just so happens those two were the last to start an All-Star Game for the Mets. Harvey, another rifle-armed intimidator, considers himself a worthy heir to that throne.
"People who haven't seen him," Collins said, "they're going to see something special."
By now, just about everyone has been treated to an R-rated eyeful of Harvey. He's made sure of that. And knowing him, Tuesday night is going to be quite a show.