David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
TORONTO - Because it's been a whole two weeks since Matt Harvey created some type of media stir, during that lull seemed like a good time to ask an expert about managing attention in the Flushing fishbowl.
That person is R.A. Dickey, the mountain-climbing, documentary-filming, book-writing former Cy Young winner, who gained a reputation around the Mets as something of a self-promoter.
Dickey said he didn't really hear of any issues with his off-field escapades until he read about them in the newspaper -- or learned of them after his trade to the Blue Jays.
But Dickey still keeps tabs on his old team. He's well aware of the simmering tension between the Mets and Harvey, the pitcher most likely to be next in line for the Cy Young Award, if everything goes as expected with his rehab from Tommy John surgery.
In discussing Harvey's butting of heads with Mets management, Dickey made sure to point out that some of the sources of friction were different. Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to combat human trafficking is not the same as taking liberties with a rehab schedule, as Harvey has done frequently this summer.
But there is a common thread of outspokenness, and Dickey thinks this should not be stamped out of Harvey in his desire to be a leader on a Mets team desperately in need of colorful characters.
"I enjoyed telling the truth in conversations," Dickey said Friday at Rogers Centre. "I didn't feel like I ever threw anybody under the bus, but I also didn't want to give the SportsCenter answers because that's not what I was really believing. And Harvey's a lot like that. We may be similar in that.
"I remember how he was upset that nobody retaliated for David , and that's valid. I feel like he shouldn't be chastised for speaking his mind unless he's throwing people under the bus. That's a different thing."
So where is the line drawn?
For Dickey, it didn't seem like much of an obstacle at the time because he was busy having a Cy Young season. Most of that stuff tends to be excused if the results are there.
That's why Harvey has been more of a bull's-eye this season. The only thing he's really done is shuttle between New York and Port St. Lucie in trying to build up arm strength.
Once Harvey rejoins the Mets full-time, expect the volume to be turned up. And not surprisingly, Dickey thinks Harvey should be able to flex his personality regardless of how things go between the lines.
When the numbers are good, off-field activities -- Rangers games, suit-shopping, hunting for the best cheese -- make a player more interesting. During a slump, they're categorized as distractions.
"I think that's wrong," Dickey said. "I think it's wrong that if you're performing well, and you have some things you're doing as a human being, away from the field, it's OK. But if you're not performing well, that's the reason that you're not performing well. That's nearsighted."
Dickey acknowledged that the public perception among Mets fans might have been much different if his knuckler had been consistently rocked as a film crew followed him around. But even doing a book, and spilling his guts to a biographer every night after games, was cathartic. Anything to help prevent the game's failures from setting up shop inside a player's head.
"People would speculate that things like that were intrusive and distracting and all that," Dickey said. "But it wasn't. It probably enhanced my performance . . . That helped me be a better major-league baseball player. It this is all you are, then that's a real toxic life. I wasn't going to deny myself what I was passionate about, regardless of the consequences."
Harvey seems to be taking that same approach. There's some fine-tuning he needs to do -- such as staying off the airwaves while the Mets are playing -- but it's not as though he was the first to blaze that trail. There's a long Mets lineage of that, and Dickey was only the most recent to make it work.
More Rule 7.13 fun
For the Yankees, there’s something about the Rogers Centre and collision-rule controversies. The team got its introduction to Rule 7.13 on the second stop of the first road trip of this season. Joe Girardi challenged that Josh Thole had blocked the plate — without the ball — in tagging out Francisco Cervelli. But Girardi lost that first challenge, just as he did again Friday night, when he appealed that Dioner Navarro had used his foot to obstruct Jacoby Ellsbury from reaching the plate.
Ellsbury suffered a sprained ankle on the play, and Girardi believes the blame for that is on Navarro, who the manager asserted did not give his player a lane to the plate. The commissioner’s office already has stated Rule 7.13 will be reviewed after the season is over and the expectation is that some changes will be made.
"I think they’ll definitely tweak it,” Girardi said. “I think it’s worked. I don’t remember seeing one catcher run over this year. I think the idea in and itself is a good idea, but with any rule, I think there’s always tweaks.”
And what would Girardi suggest?
“Leave it the same, and if the runner goes out of his way to run over a catcher -- where it’s unnecessary -- I think he’s subject to a suspension,” Girardi said. “How much different is it than hitting someone on purpose? And then I think everyone has a better understanding of what to do.”