It's not a clinching game. The Mets will still play Tuesday, regardless of what happens Monday, so it's easy to make too much of this one start, this one baseball game. Anything can happen in one baseball game. Shouldn't we know better than to make too much of one baseball game? We should know better.
We will never know better. This start has a chance to mean everything we want it to. This will be the Matt Harvey Rorschach test, unless it's the Matt Harvey Metaphor Start. Have feelings about Matt Harvey? Well, it sure is your day because you'll get to amplify them. It might be the game you think about for the rest of the offseason, calcifying your beliefs. Unless that's his next start or the one after that. We'll get to one eventually this postseason.
Before then, let's look back at what Harvey has been, what he's represented in his short career already. He has a shot to add another header to this list after Monday.
Matt Harvey as the promise of baseball
Every good fan of a bad team should have this feeling about at least one player on their team. It starts on draft day, especially if you follow a team lousy enough to pick in the top 10. The commissioner calls a name you've never heard before, or perhaps one that you've heard because you're a draftnik, but one that you've never really associated with your team.
Then the promise moves into the minor leagues, where there are pits of quicksand and bitey predators everywhere, where prospects can disappear forever. But then he did well. Thrived. Moved through the ranks quickly.
And then you see him pitch.
He's splitting the atom with every pitch, over and over again, deconstructing people who get paid to hit baseballs, and even though the Mets lost 88 games that year and 88 games the next, here was a reason to watch. More than that, here was a reason to think, "You know, some day ..." and think of a season when they wouldn't lose 88 games.
Matt Harvey as that promise, broken
Mets fans don't need lectures on what happens to young pitchers. Mets fans give those lectures. Then they give a test on the lecture and everyone fails because that's a part of the lecture, too. Mets fans either experienced Generation K for themselves, or they heard the ghost stories growing up. Now they get to experience it all over again for the first time with Harvey.
That thought up there, the one that trailed off? Here's how it ended for a bit: "You know some day, the Mets might be g ... no, forget it, the Mets will always be awful and their pitchers will always get hurt and I'm just going to the casino to eat out of the ashtrays and get locked in a bathroom I'm sorry to have bothered you."
Harvey was a symbol of how the Mets couldn't have nice things, would never have nice things. He was a monkey paw's gift, used only to set up the heartbreak.
It was easy not to notice that the Mets improved five games, even without him.
Matt Harvey as a perfect Mets distraction
Really, this is the perfect team for the unwinnable Boras/Harvey situation. The fans know about the fragility of the young arm and why it has to be respected. They also haven't experienced a lot of fun baseball moments, and everything is peaking right now, so, no, no, no, no, shut up about innings limits. But take it easy on the young, golden arm. But make sure you leave it all out on the field because you never really know when you're going to be back.
Everyone's caught in the middle, which is really the only rational place to be. Trying to win, regardless of personal harm, has always been a romanticized thing for baseball players to do. Recognizing the potential for personal harm, and realizing that teams will just churn through new players when you're gone, has always been a logical thing for baseball players to do. And now the Mets and their fans are thinking about anything other than the actual games, arguing about innings and agents and kids these days and ... well, everything. Even if there wasn't a right answer to any of it.
Harvey became proof that even if the Mets made good on that "You know, some day ..." that they'd screw it all up, perhaps in the Metsiest way possible.
Mets fans know that there's no "I" in team, but there sure is "a Met." That doesn't make sense, but it seemed like a good way to close out this section, so hopefully you won't even notice that it doesn't make sense.
Matt Harvey as ...
We'll know in a few hours!
He's here. The Mets are here. It's the most intense game of the year, with the world watching to see how the crowd responds to Chase Utley, how the team responds to him. A pitcher's first postseason start is always a syringe of adrenaline straight through the breastplate, but now there are gallons of extra adrenaline being dumped all over the place.
This is where he becomes promise again, on his way toward becoming the realization of that promise. This is where he becomes that broken promise again, where you remember that baseball is just setting you up for disappointment, most of the time. This is where he doubles down on the distraction, where he doesn't hit Utley, or where he does, or where he hits him in the right way or the wrong way, or where he somehow does something that everyone has opinions on.
He's probably going to become one of the three again. Of course he's the Game 3 starter after an emotional loss. Of course he is. Whatever Matt Harvey meant to you before you woke up today, prepare for him to mean it a lot more. Unless he means the exact opposite. Unless ... you get the idea. Of course Harvey's the Game 3 starter. And thank goodness for that.
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