The Rise and Fall of “The Dark Knight”

As a 90s baby, I have yet to witness the New York Mets win a World Series. The closest I got was the demoralizing Series against the Kansas City Royals in 2015. Being a Mets fan was sweet. The team boasted a star-studded starting pitcher rotation that featured Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey, the Dark Knight.

Harvey was otherworldly in the eyes of fans across the country, and us Mets fans bought into his game tenfold. We celebrated Harvey Day every time he took the mound, which we always thought would result in scoreless innings and wins. He embodied the star quality you would expect out of someone playing in New York with a cool-guy appearance and exhilarating temperament on the hill.

Harvey was selected as the seventh overall pick by the Mets in 2010. He split time between the single-A St. Lucie Mets and the Double-A Binghamton Mets. With St. Lucie, he had an 8-2 record with a 2.37 ERA and 92 strikeouts across 76 innings. He earned to Florida State League (FSL) Pitcher of the Week awards and was selected as a Mid-Season All-Star.

His strong performance with St. Lucie led to a promotion with Binghamton, where he went 5-3 with a 4.53 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 59.2 innings. He pitched in the 2011 All-Star Futures Game and recorded the save for the U.S. team.

In 2012, Harvey was ranked as the Mets’ second-best prospect and the 34th overall best prospect by MLB.com. Although he was invited to spring training that year, he did not make the team, though he was promoted to the team’s Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons.

For the Bisons, the first half of the season saw Harvey maintain a 7-4 record with a 3.39 ERA in 18 starts. He was named to the International League Mid-Season All-Star team.

Due to injuries to Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee, there was consideration for Harvey to join the Mets’ starting rotation, but the front office wanted him to improve his consistency and control before granting him a promotion to the Majors.

Following an injury to Johan Santana and a lack of quality starts by other replacements, general manager Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins made the call to Harvey. He remained in the rotation as the fifth starter for the rest of the 2012 season.

In his first season, which was capped due to an innings-pitched limit, Harvey finished with a 3-5 record and a 2.73 ERA over 10 starts.

The following year, Harvey struck out 19 batters in 14 innings across his first two starts of the season. He earned Pitcher of the Month honors after posting a 1.56 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 40.1 innings. Batters hit just .153 against him.

It was in May 2013 when an issue of Sports Illustrated magazine cover featured Harvey and “The Dark Knight of Gotham” was born.

Harvey was the starting pitcher for the 2013 MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field. But later that season, he was diagnosed with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. In mid-September, Harvey said he would try rehab before opting for surgery, but a few weeks later it was announced he was having Tommy John surgery. Due to the procedure, he missed the 2014 season.

The Dark Knight returned in April of 2015 and allowed no runs in six innings with nine strikeouts. Bryce Harper said his opponent Harvey was going to be a Cy Young winner one day and he was one of the toughest at-bats he’s ever had. Also noteworthy, former Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez said Harvey could have a better career than his and that Harvey had more talent than him.

Controversy arose in September when Scott Boras, Harvey’s agent, expressed concern with the Mets’ plans to allow Harvey to pitch around 190 innings in the regular season and “a reasonable amount” in the postseason. But in a column written by Harvey in The Players’ Tribune, he said the innings limit only applied to the regular season and that he would indeed pitch in the playoffs.

More controversy came to be when Harvey took the mound in Game 5 of the World Series. He remained in the game with a 2-0 lead in the top of the ninth and asked if he could finish it even though he threw more than 100 pitches. Collins complied but pulled him after allowing a leadoff walk and RBI double. The Mets went on to lose the game in 12 innings and clinched the World Series win for the Royals.

Harvey’s decline continued following the woeful World Series loss. In his remaining seasons in New York, his ERA stayed above 4.80.

Ultimately, the Mets traded the Dark Knight on May 8, 2018 to the Cincinnati Reds for catcher Devin Mesoraco and cash considerations. His career continued to decline as he hopped around to several organizations, including the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Royals, and Baltimore Orioles.

All good things must come to an end, I suppose. But Harvey’s fall from a God-like figure in New York does not just include his performance on the mound following a few seasons of great success with the Mets.

Last week, Harvey was named as a possible drug source in the Eric Kay’s trial for Tyler Skaggs, a former Angels teammate of the Dark Knight.

Harvey received a subpoena and was granted immunity from prosecution to testify. He said he personally used drugs in the dugout and clubhouse, specifically cocaine and oxycodone, the former of which he used at parties and while pitching and continued when he went west.

The cocaine use could then be the reason why Harvey missed a game in 2017 after a night of partying, which ultimately resulted in a three-game suspension. Harvey was also missing from a Mets workout at Citi Field prior to the team traveling to LA for the NL Division Series in 2015.

During this time, though, the league’s drug testing policy did not test players for “drugs of abuse” without reasonable cause a player used, sold or distributed a drug in the previous 12-month period. Such cause needed eyewitness testimony or evidence.

Former Mets manager Collins said he was disappointed but not shocked to hear about Harvey’s drug use during his career.

“I think Matt got caught up on stuff off the field. … There’s no question, his off-the-field stuff hurt him a lot,” Collins said on Baseball Night in New York.

When testifying, Harvey stated he provided Skaggs with Percocet in the clubhouse occasionally, but otherwise Skaggs got his from Kay.

On Tuesday, Harvey said Skaggs asked him for pills in 2019 for when he wanted to feel “loosey goosey” for a start, according to ESPN’s T.J. Quinn.

When asked if he wished he told Skaggs to be careful, he reportedly said, “Obviously looking back, I wish I had. … Guys are constantly doing what they can to stay on the field. At the time I thought I was being a good teammate.”

As more information becomes available to the public, it is important to remember addiction is a disease. Harvey should not be discredited for his elite performance early in his career because of his battle with drugs and mental health issues on and off the field.

For me, Harvey will always be a staple on a Mets team that fell just short. Like it or not, he brought the fanbase together every start to rally and celebrate the Dark Knight.

(Photo: @MLB on Twitter)

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