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In defense of Matt Harvey

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Most of what’s been written about him lately is disingenuous at best and outright vindictive at worst.

MLB: New York Mets at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

After Tuesday night’s game against the Cardinals, despite no shortage of stories to write about, Matt Harvey once again dominated headlines. The fact that the Mets won—in exciting fashion, at that—was essentially an afterthought.

Matt Harvey’s move to the bullpen spurred a new wave of “fall from grace” articles, in which writers lament his attitude, “complacency,” and supposed lack of commitment. Conveniently, every single one of them either glosses over or leaves out entirely the fact that Matt Harvey had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. TOS ends careers more often than it does not, and yet the few success stories are often cited as examples that prove that Harvey can be successful if he gets his act together mentally. If only adjusting to a bullpen role while simultaneously trying to figure out how to pitch with significantly diminished stuff with everyone around you seemingly salivating at the prospect of your failure (fall from grace stories get those clicks, after all) were as simple as a positive mental attitude.

Of course, the beat writers had some motivation to write negative stories about Matt Harvey. He committed the cardinal sin of refusing to talk to them after the game. Not only did this result in an extra vicious tone in the post-game write-ups, the beats took to Twitter to bemoan Harvey’s lack of “professionalism” and “character,” issuing haughty warnings about his ability to get signed this coming offseason. It is not in Harvey’s job description to have to talk to the media. And last I checked, character flaws or a certain level of brashness does not disqualify a player or seem to matter to teams as much as reporters would make us believe. Just ask Jose Reyes or Aroldis Chapman.

Further accusations posited that it isn’t personal; it’s a matter of other teammates having to answer for Harvey if he won’t answer for himself. I can understand if Harvey’s teammates take issue, but I certainly cannot understand why this upsets the reporters. They seem to be operating under the illusion that Harvey himself controls the narrative. Matt Harvey isn’t forcing them to bombard rookie catcher Tomas Nido at his locker. Matt Harvey isn’t writing their stories for them.

The drama dragged out further when reporters approached Matt Harvey yet again yesterday, for some reason expecting a different result. “I have nothing to say to you guys,” Harvey responded. And when probed further and asked why he doesn’t want to talk, he replied, “I don’t f***ing want to.”

Expletives aside, why should he want to at this point? What could he possibly say to redeem himself in the eyes of the media and in the eyes of a certain segment of the fanbase? Why should he give a quote for a story that will simply chalk his struggles up to a failure of character rather than recovery from major surgery (that was botched by the Mets, no less)? He has already spoken to the media countless times after getting shelled and had very little in the way of informative things to say. Because there’s really nothing to say. But now the columnists have to fill their column inches with—oh, the humanity—their own words. And so Harvey is the subject of their ire once again.

To be completely frank, if I were Matt Harvey, I would have stopped talking to the media two years ago after these charming front pages graced the New York newsstands, making light of and mocking a serious condition. But he didn’t. And his frustration over losing his rotation spot is treated as a sense of entitlement rather than something that can motivate him to prove himself. When Zack Wheeler was prompted about the Jason Vargas signing in spring, he had roughly the same reaction as Matt Harvey at the prospect of being dropped from the rotation. Yet his determination and tenaciousness was lauded as he pitched his way back into a spot—deservedly so. But in the court of the New York media, Matt Harvey has been judged as committing too many transgressions to be afforded the same treatment. Instead he is labeled as coddled. When pessimistic about his outings, he is painted as brooding and negative. When optimistic about his outings, he is painted as unrealistic and entitled.

To our knowledge, Matt Harvey is frustrated at his demotion to the bullpen, but he isn’t refusing to pitch and has not contradicted the fact that his performance warranted the move. In my eyes, he is taking this seriously and doing everything he can to be effective in his new role and get himself back into the rotation; he pitched well enough on Tuesday to keep the Mets in a game they would ultimately go on to win. Clearly the media is weaving narratives based on preconceived notions and old grudges to have us believe otherwise. But until they have actual evidence to back up any of these judgements, I remain exasperated as a fan reading their hit pieces. Their act of continuing to whip the whipping boy is far more tired and dramatic than anything Matt Harvey has done.

Of all of the storylines in this young season about the Mets, the media is choosing to continue to write countless pieces admonishing Matt Harvey. I’m done clicking on any of them. Matt Harvey is not in control of what is written in the media; journalists are. As a fan, I’m simply rooting for Matt to do the best he can to return to form, whether that be in the bullpen or in the rotation. He knows, given Steven Matz’s performance and rumors that his spot may not be safe, that there are rotation slots for the taking. And unlike certain members of the media, it seems, I am pulling for him to succeed, as I always have.