Matt Harvey copped to Friday’s late-night partying. Yes, he did play golf the next morning. The pitcher also took full responsibility for skipping Saturday’s game at Citi Field (there was no mention of a migraine).
The leap Harvey refused to take during Tuesday’s mea culpa, however, was spelling out the true nature of what seems to be a larger, more nefarious problem — one that he hinted at in so many words and Terry Collins skated closer to a few minutes afterward.
Read between the lines. Harvey repeatedly said how “embarrassed” he was by his behavior during the weekend and talked about changes that he has to make in his life going forward. Collins mentioned the “support group” around Harvey and the “professionals” working with him regarding off-field issues.
This is the picture we came away with, after attending those Citi Field news conferences and talking with other Mets personnel: Harvey is a player struggling to stay afloat right now, judging by his recent self-destructive behavior and the Mets’ drastic measure of suspending him for three games, a penalty that ended with Tuesday’s clubhouse apology.
“There are things I have realized in the last couple of days that I need to be doing or should not be doing,” Harvey said. “One of those things that I should be doing is putting myself in a better place to perform physically and be accountable for my work. That’s something I’m committing to.”
As much as everyone loves apologies, forget this one. We know saying sorry is the first step toward mending a relationship, and Harvey checked that box before Tuesday night’s game — with his teammates, the coaching staff and the front office. Publicly, those people accepted what Harvey had to say. Privately, however, the prevailing mood was skepticism.
After Harvey’s multiple missteps, dating to blowing off a pre-playoff workout in 2015, the Mets won’t believe in his reformation until they see it. And despite Harvey making the rounds Tuesday, there are a number of hurdles left, beginning with Friday’s start against the Brewers at Miller Park, one the Mets are happy to stage a comfortable 900 miles away from Flushing.
As one source explained, the team doesn’t want Harvey anywhere near a potentially hostile Citi Field for the next week or so, after he’s had a chance to repair his own damaged psyche with two road starts in Milwaukee and Arizona. Turns out, a person close to Harvey said that he was distraught lately over his breakup with supermodel Adriana Lima, and the Mets believe that likely contributed to Friday’s night out in the Meatpacking District.
Also, in the team’s view, this is far from over. While Harvey expressed a desire to move forward and be an upstanding Mets’ citizen again, we’ve heard the same thing from him before, and more than once. Why should we think this time will be any different? Tuesday’s performance was the only card Harvey had left to play. When the subject of the reported grievance came up, Harvey smartly ducked it like a 100-mph comebacker, showing at least a basic comprehension of how royally he messed up.
“I understand everybody’s anger and the organization doing what they did,” Harvey said. “It’s me who takes full blame for that and it’s me who needs to fix it.”
This is only about Harvey. Always has been. From the moment he was first called up by the Mets, Harvey’s sole connection to his teammates always felt limited to the uniform on his back and a neighboring locker. And now Harvey has made himself the singular focus again, with the Mets having to use extraordinary effort to nurse him back to being a serviceable member of the rotation.
Fact is, they need him. And the Mets will keep providing second chances for as long as Harvey shows some ability to contribute. Sure they were furious when he went AWOL during the weekend, but it’s best to have a short memory in this business. Now that Harvey has returned, the overriding concern is getting him in shape mentally to avoid future meltdowns.
“There’s a lot of people out there who are willing to help and I think he’s going to use them,” Collins said. “I think he knows he’s got people in his corner that are going to help him try to go down the right path, do the right things.”
Fine. Now it’s up to Harvey to do them.