As cool as it would be for Matt Harvey to remain a Met for his entire career, that probably won't happen, and that's why I'm sort of excited to root against him. Not this season or any other year that sees him wearing an orange and blue uniform, but someday when he's not on the Mets anymore. Then it's going to be a lot of fun to root against Harvey and not be so embarrassed by his attempts to emulate Derek Jeter's career.
He's perfectly welcome to date models, model suits, and pose naked for ESPN. I don't think any of those things have gotten in the way or will get in the way of his so-far amazing baseball career. They just make Harvey look like a pretty boy Jeter wannabe. That's not very appealing to someone like yours truly who grew up hating Jeter and the Yankees with their winning and their championships... So many championships.
I'm over it now that I'm an "adult," but those feeling from the past are still real and will force me to continue loathing Jeter and, soon enough, Harvey. Not as real people. Just as baseball people.
I figure when Harvey has taken his Scott Boras drama to the Yankees or some other club, it will be fun to cheer against him as a true "bad guy" wearing some other squad's colors. Something happened this week, however, to make me reconsider that position. The star pitcher was held out of his final Grapefruit League start due to what started as an undisclosed medial issue. The next morning, when it was revealed that Harvey had a blood clot in his bladder, everyone made fun of him.
That's kind of messed up. A blood clot seems like a serious issue that we shouldn't be acting like five-year-olds over. But somehow, the media decided it was okay to make lots and lots of penis jokes. And penis jokes are great when they're not in reference to a condition that we're very fortunate was cleared up by a medical procedure.
The important thing is that Harvey is healthy and he no longer looks like a golden boy in the eyes of the media. That makes him more likable, which makes him more fun to root for. Now when he shuts out the Royals tonight, he'll be sticking it to headline writers instead of sticking it to that one model who turned him down because she didn't catch that late night episode.
The other guys
Right-handed veteran Edinson Volquez will be toeing the slab opposite Harvey in tonight's Opening Day game (8:37 p.m. on ESPN), and he's one of the reasons why the Mets' loss to Kansas City in last year's World Series was so maddening. New York seemingly had the starting pitcher advantage in every game and was still done in by all that contact hitting and defense we had heard so much about. In 2016, the Royals will need even more of that magic formula to defeat the Mets because Johnny Cueto signed a deal with San Francisco and general manager Dayton Moore gave Ian Kennedy a bunch of money to fill his role.
That's the same Ian Kennedy who gave up 31 home runs while making 16 starts at pitcher-friendly Petco Park last season. But we'll talk about him another day, because while he was supposed to take the hill on Tuesday versus the Mets, Kennedy was pushed back to Saturday due to a hamstring issue. Old friend Chris Young will start the second game in his stead.
|Date||Time||Television||Mets Probable Starter||Royals Probable Starter|
|April 3, 2016||8:37 PM||ESPN||Matt Harvey||Edinson Volquez|
|April 5, 2016||4:15 PM||SNY||Noah Syndergaard||Chris Young|
While Volquez appeared to be walking his way off the major league scene before Pittsburgh pitching coach Ray Searage revitalized his career in 2014, Young is a guy who has always been useful as long as he's been physically able to throw. WAR and FIP haven't been a fan of Young for the past two seasons, but his extreme fly ball rates make him useful in the right ballparks. After posting a 3.65 ERA in 165 innings for Seattle in 2014, he improved to a 3.06 ERA in 123 innings with the Royals in 2015. Young will probably never pitch 200 innings in a season during his career, but when he's on the mound, you know what you're getting.
Volquez has also grown reliable over the past two seasons now that his walk rate is down to acceptable levels and he's pitching in front of terrific defenses. His meeting with Harvey still looks like a mismatch, but much like a WWE "mismatch," you kind of know that this one is coming down to the wire anyway.
A lot of that has to do with the Kansas City offense, which looks a lot like the one that Ned Yost sent out to oppose the Mets in October. There are still some really tough outs like Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales, and Alex Gordon mixed in with on-base percentage black holes Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar. Perhaps burying Gordon in the lineup and batting Escobar leadoff will finally prove to be a mistake this season.
The two big questions for the Royals this year involve Mike Moustakas and Omar Infante. Can the man known as Moose maintain the giant leap in performance he took from 2014 (15 home runs, .632 OPS) to 2015 (22 home runs, .818 OPS)? If he can, Yost has yet another dangerous hitter to misplace. Can Infante give his team anything on offense this year? In 2015 he batted .220/.234/.318 and forced Moore to trade for Ben Zobrist. Having a third player with an OBP below .300 is bad news for fans hoping for a second straight Royals world title.
Similarly, Mets fans should be asking themselves if the offense will stay healthy and effective enough to defeat the rival Nationals without the need of a midseason trade that works out as perfectly as 2015's Yoenis Cespedes deal. Like Moustakas, Michael Conforto is a young player who fans are banking on to build on last year's performance. Although Sandy Alderson has spent the winter preparing for what seems like the inevitable David Wright injury, it would still be great if the third baseman could play in as many games as possible. We could also be in for a rude awakening if Cespedes reverts back to his 2014 form, when he was merely a very good offensive player and not a legendary one.
That offense's first test will come tonight against Volquez and a Royals bullpen that has been reinforced by the return of Joakim Soria from his trip around the big leagues. We'll be ready to overreact to every hit, blunder, and managerial decision on Monday. Until then, let's just marvel at that beautiful 0-0 record and hope that Friday's exhibition victory was a foreshadowing of things to come. Let's go Mets.