WASHINGTON — Matt Harvey talked his way into the rotation the last time the Mets considered removing him a few days ago. Now that he’s staying silent, after Tuesday’s dumpster fire, he should be on his way out.
Harvey, who came up small again on the mound, disappeared altogether in the wake of the Mets’ 7-4 loss to the Nationals. After reporters talked with Terry Collins in the manager’s office, and waited for Harvey to emerge at his locker, PR guru Jay Horwitz informed the media the Dark Knight had vanished.
“He’s not going to converse tonight,” Horwitz said.
Fitting, because there’s nothing left to say. The Mets gave Harvey another chance to prove himself — he bombed, serving up three homers in five innings — and now it’s time for Logan Verrett to take his next turn in the rotation, against the White Sox.
We’re not sure exactly how that’s going to happen yet, but the Mets can get creative. A stint on the disabled list for a “tired arm” would work, then they’d have to decide what to do with those two weeks. But that’s something to worry about later. In the meantime, it sounds like Collins tipped his hand a little bit in discussing Harvey’s future afterward.
“Right now, we’ve got to think not just what’s best for Matt,” Collins said, “but what’s best for us moving forward.”
And Harvey’s not helping. In giving up five more runs Tuesday, with many of his eight hits well-struck, Harvey’s ERA jumped to 6.08, an unsightly number to pair with his 3-7 record. If his name wasn’t Matt Harvey, he’d already be designated the bullpen’s long man. But even that shouldn’t spare him at this stage.
As Collins has said many times, these Mets are trying to win a World Series, not experiment or play nursemaid at the major-league level. With Harvey’s implosion reaching a critical mass, he’s affecting more people than just himself, and that’s where the team’s decision-makers have to step in.
A few feet from Harvey’s vacant locker, Kevin Plawecki was asked to fill in the blanks, and it was an impossible spot for a catcher of his junior status. Plawecki clearly was uncomfortable, but did what he could, while also trying to protect a teammate that was fine leaving him exposed.
“I’m not going to get much into it,” Plawecki said. “You guys watched the game. I’m frustrated, he’s frustrated.”
As for the handful of other questions about Harvey’s lackluster performance, Plawecki went to the default, “You’d have to ask him that.”
This Harvey situation is turning into a nightmare scenario for the Mets, who are witnessing what was once a tremendous asset quickly fading before their eyes. What can they do now? Banish him to Vegas? That seems like a recipe for disaster. Even if we assume Harvey would steer clear of The Strip’s temptations — no easy task for a famous New Yorker flush with cash — he’d be away from Dan Warthen’s tutelage while trying to right himself in the Pacific Coast League, a very pitcher-hostile environment.
Once, there was a time Harvey threw his pitches with malicious intent, a lethal purpose. The thought of standing at the plate, with Harvey staring back, was a scary proposition for hitters, and Harvey seemed like he could smell that fear.
If there was any doubt before, Harvey confirmed the Mets’ worst suspicions Tuesday night. By the fifth inning, Harvey was a lost soul again, just as we’ve witnessed for nearly two months now, and it was his former teammate, Daniel Murphy, who ultimately shoved him off the cliff.
Harvey’s last dozen pitches were like the flailing, desperate strokes of a drowning man. The back-to-back home runs by Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon the previous inning, both on fat change-ups, wounded Harvey. But the 94-mph fastball he threw to Murphy in the fifth? The one that he smoked for a two-run homer over the Nats’ bullpen?
That was not a major-league pitch. It was a cry for help.
“We’re not going to make any rash judgments,” Collins said.
No need. Tuesday night, Harvey decided for them.