Cincinnati Welcomes “The Dark Knight”

Matt Harvey has been traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Devin Mesoraco and cash. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Growing up as a Mets fan, I have endured far more losing and heart wrenching seasons than good ones.

I was too young to remember the 2000 Subway Series, so my first heartbreak came in ‘06 when I thought the Mets were destined for the Canyon of Heroes.

In 2007 and 2008, the Mets had historic collapses, and from 2009-14, they never even came close to making the playoffs.

My Mets fandom made me bitter and I masochistically embraced the futility that comes with being a fan of the lovable losers.

But every once in awhile, hope rears its head and a player comes along, injecting some adrenaline into the fanbase and you realize why you love the game of baseball.

I felt that adrenaline kick in on July 26, 2012 when then 23-year-old Matt Harvey took the mound for the Amazin’s in Arizona, punching out 11 Diamondbacks and even recording two hits in his big league debut.

I know, I know. Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in franchise history just a month and a half prior, but Santana was an aging veteran and that was his last hurrah in a Mets uniform.

R.A. Dickey was also a Cy Young winner that year with his devastating knuckleball, but his meteoric rise seemingly came out of nowhere and he too was not in the Mets immediate plans for the future.

Harvey’s debut had that feeling. It signaled a new era of Mets baseball, and finally something to get excited about again.

The Flushing faithful lovingly nicknamed him “The Dark Knight,” and it was a site to be seen. “Harvey Day” became a Mets fan holiday when he took his turn in the rotation every fifth day when thousands of Batman masks graced the crowd.

He was larger than life. And what a stretch he had. In 2012 and 2013, Harvey was a top five pitcher in all of baseball.

He mowed down the Chicago White Sox in the infamous “bloody nose game,” he started the All-Star game at Citi Field wearing fluorescent orange cleats, he was on talk shows, magazine covers, the back pages of all the newspapers…and then it happened.

Late in the 2013 season, Harvey tore his UCL and had to undergo Tommy John surgery, a procedure that typically requires a year of recovery.

“The Dark Knight” would miss the remainder of the 2013 season and all of 2014. However, he exploded back onto the scene in 2015, leading the Mets in innings pitched and logging a 2.71 ERA.

He also pitched the pivotal Game 5 of that year’s World Series. He went eight strong innings, holding the Royals at bay and fanning nine along the way.

Then-manager Terry Collins was coerced into allowing Harvey to go back out there in the ninth. Should he have taken him out when Lorenzo Cain reached base? That’s a topic for another day.

Unfortunately, this was the last night we would see the Dark Knight.

After that, he became mortal. In 2016, Harvey’s velocity dropped and he became hittable. Very hittable. It was revealed he had Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and underwent surgery to relieve the symptoms, but from then on, he could never get back the fire he once had.

Since the 2016 season, Harvey has been one of the most ineffective starters in the game and on Friday, May 4, the Mets finally cut ties and shipped him off to the Cincinnati Reds for catcher Devin Mesoraco.

In the Twittersphere, one of the things that has bugged me the most is people pinning Harvey’s fall from grace on his ego or attitude problems.

Sure, there were times Harvey wasn’t a great teammate. He let his breakup with supermodel Adriana Lima affect his on-field performance, he went out and partied on Cinco de Mayo last year and missed his responsibilities with the Mets. He was an imperfect human.

Here’s the thing, no one cares what you do off the field when you’re thriving. But when you’re as bad as Harvey turned out, it becomes magnified.

Regardless of all that, the notion that Harvey came crashing down to earth like a meteor is not due to his partying, dating supermodels or his ego.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is one of the most devastating injuries a pitcher can endure. Some notable pitchers who have been able to return and be effective from it are Jaime Garcia and Mike Foltynewicz. That’s about it.

This injury literally destroys careers. Do you think Harvey wants to pitch as bad as he has? Absolutely not. In fact, I’m sure it’s destroying him that he was once on top of the world and has now been exiled to Cincinnati where he’s going to be as far out of the limelight as you can practically be.

But you know what? I’m rooting for Harvey. I’m not a Mets fan who is going to cheer at his demise. No one was calling him a bust or a headcase when he was making Citi Field rock every fifth day, when he was practically a superhero or when he anchored the rotation in 2015 and went against his agents requests to shut him down for the season.

Those kinds of Mets fans aren’t fans because they have short-term memory. When he came up, we had nothing, and he gave us a reason to believe again.

I hope Harvey is able to refine his mechanics and reinvent his game to become a strong pitcher again. It’s more than possible.

But first, he needs to hang up his Batman costume and just be Matt Harvey.