The New York Mets finally have something to be excited about.
After four years of last-place finishes and sinking attendance, rookie pitcher Matt Harvey has brought new life to the floundering franchise. In the early stages of his first full season in the major leagues, the 24-year-old has blown away expectations and put up historic numbers.
And he’s still not satisfied with his own work.
In Monday’s game against the Miami Marlins, Harvey pitched 5.1 innings, allowed one run, and struck out seven batters. Yet after the Mets lost the game in 15 innings, the young hurler said he was unhappy with his effort. And even after last week’s victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers, in which Harvey pitched six innings, allowed three runs, and struck out seven, he told reporters afterward he “had more work to do.”
“Well, you guys know me—in my mind, I sucked,” Harvey said. “I have to be better.”
If he gets much better, he’ll be unhittable. Through the first month of the season, Harvey is undefeated (4-0) with 40.1 innings pitched, 46 strikeouts, and only seven runs allowed. In his Mets debut last July, he struck out 11 batters, the most ever by a Mets pitcher in his first outing. Through his first 16-career appearances—from last July through Monday night—Harvey’s numbers stand with the best rookie seasons ever.
“There’s going to be a lot of years you guys are going to talk about this guy,” Mets manager Terry Collins said after his young ace outdueled Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg on April 19. “He’s going to be really something.”
Even Mets legend Dwight Gooden, who himself set rookie pitching records, has jumped on the Harvey bandwagon. During Harvey’s start against the Philadelphia Phillies earlier this month, Gooden tweeted he was in the stands watching: “This kid is better than advertised.”
Born and raised in Mystic, Conn., Harvey played baseball throughout high school and for two years at the University of North Carolina. He was the Mets’ first-round pick, and seventh overall pick, in the 2010 major league draft.
Harvey’s career is still in its infant stage, and baseball has seen many promising careers end quickly after electric rookie campaigns. The Detroit Tigers’ Mark Fidrych is one of the best examples of the unpredictable nature of the game. After bursting onto the scene in 1976 to win 19 games and collect the Rookie of the Year Award, Fidrych career quickly collapsed, and he retired from baseball just four years later.
But despite these cautionary tales, even the Mets’ opponents have been impressed with Harvey. After his game against L.A. last week, Dodgers third baseman Jerry Hairston talked about Harvey’s confidence and poise on the pitching mound.
“It’s amazing how guys that are coming up now, young guys, are more polished than I remember,” Hairston said.
Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel told reporters that Harvey reminded him of the greatest pitcher in Mets history: Tom Seaver.
Harvey’s repertoire of pitches—his slider, changeup, curveball, and 96-mph fastball—give the young starter a chance to stay in the big leagues for a long time.
The 2010s have not been kind to the Mets organization so far—losing records, tremendous financial woes, poor ownership decisions, and sagging ticket sales. Additionally, the team has not won the World Series in 27 years.
But for the moment, Mets fans have a reason to smile.