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Mets' Harvey Out for Remainder of Season with Elbow Injury

by Photo of Patrick Cranna

Harvey, out for the remainder of season with a partially torn UCL in elbow; surgery may be imminent.

Mets' Harvey Out for Remainder of Season with Elbow Injury

In this article…

The worst nightmare for the New York Mets organization and fans everywhere is no longer a nightmare, but a harsh reality. Yesterday, it was learned that Harvey, easily the ace of the Mets pitching staff -- and one of baseball's best young up-and-coming stars -- suffered a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. "This news was tough today," said Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson in a press conference which could be described as nothing short of somber. "And the full implication of it probably has not yet been felt. But we have to respond. And we will."

For the past several weeks Harvey had been pitching with what he believed to be normal forearm soreness -- typical for a young pitcher late in the year who had pitched a career-high 178 1/3 innings following Saturday's start against the Detroit Tigers. "When I heard the news, I was pretty shocked," said Harvey. According to him he was never concerned because there was "no pain shooting down" his arm or in his elbow and never felt "tingling," which are both signs of elbow problems. Added catcher John Buck, "He was still pretty good. I wouldn't have suspected anything. It's late in the year. He's never been in this territory before, but he was still throwing 95-96 [mph]. Maybe there there were a couple of pitches that he left up where maybe he wasn't quite as sharp as he's been all year, but at the time, I thought it was just being late in the year. He'd been so perfect all year, I really didn't think much of it."

Although it hasn't yet been determined if he'll require surgery or not, Tommy John does seem likely. Alderson has already stated that the team was going to wait for swelling to go down so doctor's can get a clearer image of the tear before any determination is made. Harvey himself has made clear that he prefers to avoid the knife saying yesterday, "I am going to do everything I can so I don't have to get surgery. Whether it's strengthening areas in my shoulder and elbow or stretching, making sure that I can stay out of the doctors' offices." Hearing that from the young phenom should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with him or those who have witnessed him pitch this season. The guy is as competitive as any and upon taking the rubber he brings an attitude and bulldog mentality rarely seen. He just wants to win and do anything he can to help the team achieve success. However, sometimes, what a player wants now, may not be best for the long-term success of the organization or as an individual.

"We will do the prudent thing," Alderson said. We will not jeopardize Matt's future with the Mets." So, what is the prudent thing to do in this case? As much as it pains me to say it, I think it's best if Harvey just gets it over with and opts for surgery. I desperately wish this was not the case, that this is just a misdiagnosis and the real issue is simple inflammation or tendinitis. But that is just me, a Mets fan, hoping against hope and maybe even refusing to accept the truth. Putting emotion aside, though, I realize the best thing to do for Harvey and the organization is to get this taken care of. Why wouldn't they? He's the crown jewel of an organization rich with young arms and he's under contract for years to come. Rather than try to alleviate the injury through alternative methods and risk a lingering problem -- a ticking time bomb scenario -- the smartest decision would be Tommy John surgery. Thankfully, this is not going to be a career-ending injury, and although inconvenient and coming with a full year of recovery time, Tommy John is routinely performed on pitchers throughout all levels of baseball, with many recipients coming back even stronger than before. About that necessary one year recovery time, though...

When Sandy Alderson took over for Omar Minaya as Mets General Manager at the conclusion of the 2010 season the team was in complete disarray. An utter mess on the field as well as in the front office. A laughing stock of baseball. The passionate fan-base, beleaguered by back-to-back collapses in '07 and '08 as well as an injury-plagued '09 coupled by total ineptness in '10, was starving for a winning team and desperate for change. With an impressive resume as GM of the Oakland A's and San Diego Padres, it was Alderson, with financial expertise and known as a shrewd micro-manager, that was chosen to lead the Mets out of the abyss. Alderson's plan was not going to happen overnight and was going to take some time -- the Mets were going to have to go through a rebuilding period, as they say. It was the year 2014 which Alderson and his counterparts targeted as the beginning of the renaissance for the Mets. With a collection of burgeoning, young, stud arms combined with the expiring contracts of Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Jason Bay, and Johan Santana, giving the team money at its disposal, the Mets were no doubt going to be players in the upcoming winter's free agent signings.

But now what? "In terms of our timetable, it will certainly have an impact," Alderson said yesterday. Allow me to read between the lines and translate that for you: "This might prolong the process an additional year or two." To hear that, as a Mets fan, is extremely disheartening. After waiting patiently through years of embarrassment and futility followed by running through the motions of rebuilding, I am more than ready to see a competitive team take the field in Queens. A team we can be proud of. A team that is fun to root for. And here we are, experiencing the feeling of another all-too-familiar setback.

However, let me play Devil's Advocate briefly: Maybe, even with a healthy Harvey, there was too much optimism for 2014 all along? Though talented, the pitching staff is largely young and unproven and it's risky to count on too many prospect's; David Wright, the all-star cornerstone third baseman has shown a propensity for injury in recent seasons; would any new acquisition, free agent or on the team via trade, be able to make a real discernible impact, especially under the scrutiny which comes with playing in New York? What about Ike Davis? Who's playing shortstop? As you can see, even if Matt Harvey had remained healthy, the Mets were still going to be left with several important unanswered questions heading into the year. My response, though, to these questions is simple: With a rotation spearheaded by Harvey and Wheeler, with an infusion of veteran presence and a power bat, and with a new positive attitude, the Mets would have been building towards something. Building towards something real. Finally.

Unfortunately, now, in the wake of the Harvey news, 2013 will end leaving fans with a bad taste in their mouths, not unlike the preceding six seasons. Although their record isn't indicative of it, the Mets have been playing much better baseball as of late and progress was evident. The feeling surrounding the team was just different. The potential was palpable -- surely meaningful games in August and September weren't far away. And, just like that, with a partial tear in Matt Harvey's ulnar collateral ligament everything changed in an instant -- or the time it takes one of his 98 mph fastballs to reach home plate.

Despite the numerous Mets jokes and digs I had to endure over the past several years -- Generation K references, historic collapses, broke ownership, dropped pop-ups, inexplicable injuries -- I truly believed that the corner had finally been turned. In fact, even amidst this news I still believe the Mets are on the upswing and not all hope has been completely dashed: It is safe to expect Harvey to come back more determined and better than ever before. Zack Wheeler has been impressive as a starter since being called up from Triple A. The minor league system is full of promise and talent, especially with regard to pitching. And after years of frugality the team should now have the flexibility to sign reinforcements.

After hearing the news last night, I was as down about the Mets as I've been since the conclusion of the '07 collapse. Yes, hearing that Harvey may be destined for Tommy John Surgery was that devastating of a blow -- so unfair, so unexpected, yet so Mets-like. But I know things will get better. They have to. I just keep telling myself 'Ya Gotta Believe.' For today, though, the light at the proverbial end of the tunnel is not shining as bright as it was last week. 

Said one Mets official, "the worst possible news we could have." Talk about an understatement.

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