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It wasn’t that long ago when Matt Harvey was on top of the world. Every single time the man was on the mound, it was a day of celebration for Mets fans. “Harvey Day” used to be a daily reminder of how big of a commodity Harvey was. Now, it is a reminder of the day in which the Matt Harvey Era ended in Flushing.
The Mets DFA’d Harvey yesterday (May 4), after he refused to be sent down to the minors. This is after brutal outings by Harvey and a move to the bullpen, among other things. It begs the question: Is the once heralded phenom one of the biggest “What If?” players in team history?
Let us take a look at the facts. Drafted in 2010, Harvey already had people talking before standing on the mound. When he debuted in 2012, Harvey was the shiny new toy that was a big piece to a new era for the Mets. He had a solid 2013, even starting the All-Star Game at Citi Field, before having Tommy John surgery. Game after game, Harvey put on a clinic, causing a frenzy at Citi Field. They had a fever, and the only prescription, was more Harvey.
While he never was the same after having TJ surgery, he gave it his all in 2015. Game five of the World Series could have been when The Dark Knight truly went away. Going out on the mound in the ninth inning, Harvey imploded. Fans will always remember the effort he gave before that inning however, even if it was all for naught.
This season for the Mets, Harvey had a 0-2 record with a 7.00 ERA. He will look to improve on whatever team ends up picking him up. Many expected a breakout career by Harvey, not a man with a career 34-37 record and a 3.66 ERA. He is just the latest Met and ballplayer to be a “What If?” player on a roster. Other names that come to mind for the Mets are Mike Vail, Gregg Jefferies, Billy Beane, Lastings Milledge and Ike Davis. Due to more off the field issues, you can add Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry to the list.
When you look back at the history of the MLB, there are several examples of “What If?” players. Tony Conigliaro, the young player on the Red Sox who got beaned in the eye in 1967 and never recovered after, comes to mind. Mark Prior is another player to look at. Along with Kerry Wood (who could also be put in this category after he struck out 20 batters), Prior was set to dominate with the Cubs for years. Injuries halted his career, and he never got a chance to play in the majors again after the 2006 season.
Recently, Josh Hamilton is the best example of a “What If?” story. He was drafted by the Rays in in the 1999 MLB draft, but was suspended multiple times due to his own vices. He finally ended up in the big leagues with the Reds in 2007. You could see his potential during his terrific performance at the 2008 Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium, as a member of the Rangers.
While he ended up winning MVP in 2010, he never got a chance to consistently prove himself. Injuries and a relapse while with the Angels halted any chances of him continuing to be “the guy” in baseball. For all we know, he could have been one of the best to play the game.
This is not to say that Harvey’s career is over. He could very well impress wherever he ends up. It is just the end of an era in Flushing, where he got his first big break. Whether he can recover or not is a whole different ballgame. Knowing him, he will try his best stay relevant in the game he loves.
Over the next few years, Mets fans will talk about Harvey and his electrifying stuff, and what could have been in Flushing. It will be another story to put in the history books. For now, we will have to wait for the next “What If?” to come along, and debate what their impact could have been. In baseball, it is all part of the game we must accept, whether we like it or not.