When the story leaked that Matt Harvey didn’t show up to Citi Field because of a migraine, my thought was “hangover.” When I read that the biggest issue for the Mets is that Harvey didn’t communicate his absence through the proper channels, my thought was “hangover.” As someone who’s read Ball Four, my thought was “hangover.” As someone who has met people under 30 and interacted with them, my thought was “hangover.” As someone with extensive experience being an incredibly handsome and successful 20-something, my thought was “hangover.”
And this morning, when the New York Post rumors section whispered that Harvey was getting table service on Cinco de Mayo until 4 a.m. ET on Seis de Mayo, my thought was, “oh, sweet mercy, what a hangover.”
It’s usually in this space where I take the side of the players over the organization because I err on the side of labor in these matters. It’s also usually in this space where I make cheap jokes at the Mets’ expense because that’s how I think I’ll get the internet to like me. But unless I have surveillance video of a migraine climbing through Harvey’s open window and physically assaulting him, I’m just going to assume “hangover.”
And if you have a hangover, my man, just call in sick before the deadline. Or if you have a migraine. Or if you have literally anything that is bad enough to keep you from the ballpark but not put you in the hospital.
So let’s be clear: A pitcher missing a game because of a hangover, and then not following protocol to stay home sick, even if it wasn’t his day to start, is sloppy and irresponsible. It could have been an 18-inning game, and the Mets could have needed a pinch-runner. Heck, they could have needed an inning from the next day’s starter. We’ve all seen that before.
Plus, it’s not like Harvey is a year removed from college. He’s 28, which is riiiiight around the time a person is a little too old to call in sick because of a hangover. We’re talking four or five years too old, but we’ll give millionaire celebrities a little cushion.
Yet people are laughing at the Mets for this mess, which seems like a knee-jerk, if somewhat understandable, reaction. They sent security to Harvey’s house to check on him. Terry Collins gave a quote that reads like a vote of no-confidence. There are anonymous quotes from players. And the perception is that the Mets have pulled up in a VW Bug again, with the entire organization tumbling out, even if that’s unfair.
What can they do? Here’s what the Mets need to internalize, explained in in one sentence:
Make sure everyone remembers at all times that the Mets will always be held to a different, unfair standard
The Mets are disproportionately targeted for stories like this. It’s become their brand, even if that’s unfair. And it hurts. There are certainly financial implications, even if they’re nearly impossible to quantify. The idea of “LOL METS” is an unspoken commercial for a product known as Anything Else — as in, you could be doing anything else with your time and money, so why would you waste it on these jokers?
Everyone in the organization knows this already. It needs to be a commandment, though. Thou Shall Not Do Anything To Support The Idea Of LOL Mets. Make bracelets to help people remember. Create an internal PSA with Frankie the LOL Mets Bear, who keeps getting into terrible situations. Put a placard on every desk that reads, “Would (whatever I’m about to do or say) reinforce the unfair perception that the Mets are bumbling fools?”
Here, let’s have some practice rounds.
Hey, Harvey didn’t show up today.
TO YOURSELF, UNDER YOUR BREATH: That asshole.
TO LITERALLY ANYONE OUTSIDE OF THE ORGANIZATION: It’s an internal matter. It’s being handled internally. It’s an internal matter. It was a violation of team rules. We’re handling it internally with respect for Harvey’s privacy.
It’s an internal matter. Stick with that.
Should we send team security to check on Harvey?
Pro: You can corroborate his story and make sure he’s OK. Or that he’s not pulling a fast one over on you.
Con: This could make it seem like you’re sending hired goons to check on an employee’s story. This is not something that, say, Visa or Ford normally does. This will propagate the idea of LOL METS if the story gets out. It’s probably not worth it.
Hey, Terry, do you think Harvey’s teammates respect him?
“Yes, I’m sure they do, but you’ll have to ask them.”
“I know that I respect him.”
“Matt works hard, and we all make mistakes. Next question.”
“Respect. Now that’s a funny word. Webster’s defines ‘respect’ as ...”
Anything but this:
Asked if Matt Harvey's teammates respect him, Terry Collins said, "I can't answer that. I don't know." Didn't want to speak for whole team.— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) May 8, 2017
There are thousands of better ways to answer that question. The way Collins answered it was another way of saying, “Eh, I haven’t seen evidence of it. Dude’s kind of a putz.” No matter how exasperated you are with the player, no matter how right you are to be exasperated with the player, keeping the LOL METS away is far more important to the overall goal.
So I was thinking about putting a dildo in my teammate’s locker?
Yeah, I would hold off on that for now.
I’m a player, and I want to give anonymous quotes to the paper, because I think it’s important for Matt to know how we really feel. If he takes the comments to heart, it’ll help the team.
Maybe on a normal team, you would be right. But on this team, with all of the scrutiny, all of the people just waiting for a screw up, it’ll help the team more to keep this all in-house. Any hint that you’re tired of Harvey’s antics are going to hurt the long-term goal of stability. It’s going to hurt the overall goal of being perceived as a normal franchise. Talk to him privately. If that doesn’t help, talk with your manager. If that doesn’t help, well, that stinks, but know that there’s no way the press is going to make it better.
It’s an internal matter. It’s an internal matter. It’s an internal matter.
It’s nearly impossible to staunch each and every leak, of course. Some people just love to talk. There’s always a you-didn’t-hear-it-from-me-but goofball in every office who is wired incorrectly. They lap up the sweet, sweet serotonin that comes with spreading rumors or passing information, and they remain the worst.
The Mets have to beat this idea into their corporate culture, though, to the point where even the blabbers are discouraged. We have to be extra careful. We’re different. We’re treated differently. Make sure everyone remembers at all times that the Mets will always be held to a different, unfair standard. If that seems like paranoia, it’s not. It’s not paranoid to run away from a tidal wave of scorpions that’s been chasing you for three miles.
Since I’ve been covering the Giants, they’ve had a pitcher fall off a dirt bike, a pitcher miss the All-Star Game with flu-like symptoms, a pitcher busted for possession of marijuana, a pitcher detained for arguing at a Vegas airport, players with questionable work ethics, players who didn’t get along with members of the organization because they thought they were better than they actually were, players with salary complaints, and a player who scheduled surgery right in the middle of the postseason because, gee, why would he want to hang around the team in the middle of the postseason? I’m sure I’m missing a whole bunch, too.
They were all stories. They never contributed to a general sense of “What are the Giants doing, lol?”
When any of that happens to the Mets, though, it becomes a story that hurts the entire organization. That’s because of a perception that’s been created with the help of everyone from the owners to the star players, sure. That salt has already been added to the soup, and it’s not coming back out. The only thing to do is to make sure everyone remembers at all times that the Mets will always be held to a different, unfair standard. Live it. Internalize it. Have training sessions and orientations about it. Make sure the rookies know. Make sure Ted from sales knows.
It’s not fair. It’s just the way it is.