A long-awaited Matt Harvey return means a reminder of all the ‘what-ifs’

A long-awaited Matt Harvey return means a reminder of all the ‘what-ifs’

“The Dark Knight returns!” - A clever editor

“The Dark Knight returns!” – A clever editor
Photo: AP

You were constantly reminded of what was, and led to pointlessly ponder what could’ve been.

The last time we saw Matt Harvey in Citi Field was a touch over three years ago. He had gotten lit up again, this time by the Atlanta Braves (as a middle reliever pitching from the fifth to seventh inning), for five earned runs in just two innings, giving him a 7.00 ERA for the New York Mets portion of his 2018 season. Eight days later, he made his first start as a Cincinnati Red and has been bouncing around like the MLB journeyman he’s become ever since.

Over the last three years, not much has changed, but simultaneously, everything has. SNY did an efficient job of reminding us how awesome Harvey was at his peak, which is easy to forget given everything else we’ve had to worry about in this world since the mid-2010s.

Less than one year after his debut in 2012, he was starting the All-Star Game, holding the American League scoreless in two innings in 2013. He was so good in 2013 that even though a UCL tear abruptly ended his season and kept him out of September, he finished fourth in CY Young voting, with MLB-best marks in Fielding Independent Pitching (2.01) and fewest home runs allowed through nine (0.4). And then, he came back, put together a great 2015, and suffered season-ending surgery the following season. He has not been the same since.

This afternoon, he was mostly applauded before his first pitch, cheered even louder before his first at-bat, and Met fans rallied even more for him after their team plugged him with eight hits and five runs. Would they have enjoyed it if he actually pitched well? Who knows.

Prior to this start, Harvey’s found moderate success or more than he’s had in six years. Now at 32, Harvey had made seven starts prior to today, putting up a 3.60 ERA for the AL East last-place Orioles, with whom he also had a 3-2 record.

Harvey finished with seven earned runs and eight hits allowed through 4.1 innings pitched. He had five earned at the time of his exit, but left two on, which the Mets brought home. And after the start, he was reflective, and probably the most honest we’ve ever heard Harvey.

Every step of the way, SNY reminded you of how promising Harvey was at his absolute best, which preceded the Jacob deGrom ascent. What was, and what could’ve been. Whether or not he should be in the deGrom seat now is irrelevant, but he probably, even after the injuries, should have been in a similar spot. He pitched, he partied, he dated supermodels, he got hurt, was just as dominant, partied some more, got hurt again, and never fully recovered. Even now, he still hasn’t. He was entrenched in the lifestyle that accompanied being a star in New York City, the face — and dominant right arm — of a World Series contender while only in his mid-20s.

Like MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo says, perhaps it’s this simple: You either die a hero or live long enough to become an Oriole.

Harvey is arguably the most prominent “what-if” in Mets history, a past that includes Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Fernando Martinez, Yoenis Céspedes, Generation K, Shawn Abner, Gregg Jefferies, Alex Escobar, Alex Ochoa, Lastings Milledge, 1988, 2006, cocaine, you get the idea. Even though it was cool to see him healthy again, it still left you wanting more. But in 2021, you know the more is, unfortunately, forever unattainable.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the Mets won 7-1.

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