The saddest part about the latest Matt Harvey controversy is that Sandy Alderson and Mickey Callaway had to spend part of their day on Tuesday dealing with it.
Harvey, the starter-turned-reliever and club-goer-turned-still-a-club-goer, used to land on the back pages with his late-night exploits. Nowadays all he gets is an item on Page Six about how he partied in Los Angeles last week while the Mets were in San Diego and a gentle reminder from team brass about how it looks when he jets off to hobnob with the beautiful people.
Alderson and Callaway have more important things to worry about than what the 12th man on their pitching staff is up to on his off hours (even if it was the wee hours).
The Mets returned to Citi Field on Tuesday to play the surprising Braves, who along with the Phillies are turning the NL East on its preseason prognostication head.
The Braves won, 3-2, to improve to 17-11. The Mets are 17-10, but just 6-9 since starting Callaway’s first season as manager 11-1.
The Mets had ace Noah Syndergaard on the mound and the Braves had 20-year-old righthander Mike Soroka, who was making his major league debut. It looked like one of those cheap NL East wins the Mets were supposed to gobble up this year. But the Braves apparently have plans other than being a doormat.
The Mets could barely dent Soroka until Yoenis Cespedes homered with one out in the sixth. Syndergaard allowed three runs and 10 hits, many of the line-drive variety, in six innings. Syndergaard didn’t record an out until the fifth batter of the game, and by then the Braves had a 3-0 lead.
“It seemed like every fastball I threw just kind of got whacked,” Syndergaard said.
Syndergaard used most of his 91 pitches to wiggle out of one jam after another. The only Mets batter who seemed to have any energy was Cespedes (3-for-4), who was a surprise starter after injuring his thumb on Sunday and predicting he would miss exactly three (not two, not four) days. He ended up missing none since the Mets were off Monday.
With the exception of Asdrubal Cabrera all season and Cespedes lately, no Met regular is lighting up the scoreboard. Still, Brandon Nimmo and his 1.051 OPS couldn’t crack the starting eight, mostly because Alderson is hell-bent on giving Adrian Gonzalez a chance rather than moving a reluctant Jay Bruce to first and starting Nimmo in the outfield.
The fill-in catching tandem of Tomas Nido and Jose Lobaton is batting a combined .164. Alderson said the trade cupboard for catchers is bare at the moment.
The pitching concerns you know about, from Harvey’s demotion to Steven Matz’s sore back — still “tender,” according to Callaway — and Jason Vargas’ underwhelming season debut on Saturday. Plus there is a sense Callaway overworked his best relievers when the Mets were playing (and winning) a lot of close games early. That bill will eventually come due.
As for Harvey, all we can say is this feels like the last season of a TV show that is way past its prime and is out of fresh plotlines. Both sides could benefit from the end of this tired saga, whether it’s by trade during this season or free agency after it.
There are two reasons Harvey is still a Met: his $5.625 million salary and the organization’s fear that he could catch on somewhere else and resemble his former self.
The Yankees, for example, might need a starter after Jordan Montgomery left Tuesday’s game with elbow tightness. Wouldn’t that be a thing!
But the Mets won’t let it happen. So in the bullpen Harvey stays, and an uncomfortable dance between team and player will continue while the Mets deal with other, much more important parts of their 2018 story.