David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
The Mets had to know this day was coming, and Scott Boras -- acting as rooster -- trumpeted something as inevitable this season as the sunrise. Putting a leash on Matt Harvey has become the unfixable problem everyone feared it would be.
We're not saying the Mets can't deploy Harvey in a judicious manner the rest of the way, from skipping him again to using a six-man rotation to closely monitoring him come playoff time.
It's just that now, with Harvey bumping up against his post-Tommy John surgery ceiling, be it 180 or 195 innings, there is no right answer, no palatable solution. Despite having the best of intentions, the Mets are more vulnerable than ever on the Harvey front, with Boras' objections -- first made to CBSSports.com -- the opening salvo in what the agent has turned into a public debate regarding a player's long-term health.
Boras chose to go the bullhorn route Friday, but it's not as if Harvey's innings-limit conundrum was under the radar. Anyone with a calculator and a pocket schedule could see this on the horizon. The troubling part is that maybe the Mets -- on a giddy dash toward their first playoff berth in nine years -- chose to kick this can too far down the road.
Twice the Mets tried to implement a six-man rotation, for an indefinite period, and twice they abandoned it after one turn. The first time was in early June, when the starting pitchers -- Harvey included -- began griping about the extra rest. The next occasion came a month later, but that ended abruptly with the injury to Steven Matz.
Back then, it was easy to procrastinate with Harvey, because the notion of sitting their ace -- or 1A, if you're Team deGrom -- repelled the Mets. But eventually, the check comes due, and that's where the Mets are now with Harvey, who has an agent who chose to use Sept. 4 to torpedo a club with postseason aspirations.
"I never had a team that has defied the opinion of a medical expert," Boras told the Michael Kay Show on ESPN radio. "Never . . . Other organizations don't do that."
No matter what you think about the Mets, Boras' multimedia assault Friday felt personal against Sandy Alderson & Co.
Boras said he contacted the Mets once Harvey reached the 140-inning mark, wondering about the workload going forward, but did not receive a response. If that's the case, we can understand his frustration.
But from what we've seen so far, the Mets have tried to work with Harvey in mapping out an innings-curfew strategy to keep him both happy and healthy. It just took a little too long to get there, which is why the Mets appear to be scrambling again.
"All I know is we're very comfortable with the way we've set this plan out and the process we're following and it has been in consultation with the medical people all the way through," said assistant general manager John Ricco, who is the ranking executive traveling with the Mets in Miami. "It's not my experience that I've ever heard of a doctor mandating a pitching limit."
That explains why the Mets avoided going on the record with a precise number of innings for this season. But should all innings be treated the same?
Obviously, a pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery needs to be handled carefully, and there is a protocol for that.
Might Harvey be an outlier? Possibly. But with the playoffs looming and the Mets now backpedaling on how much they will be able to use Harvey then, there is no un-ringing this bell.
What began as a difficult situation in April now seems to be an impossible one for the Mets, whose feel-good push for the postseason now is clouded by the perception of jeopardizing Harvey's health to do so.