The Mets vs. Matt Harvey story is getting stranger by the day, and holds the potential to further sour a long relationship that’s already had plenty of ups and downs.
It’s the suspension, but it’s also now the story around the suspension.
Several hours after Harvey texted a Mets coach (or texted the coach back, depending on who tells the story) to let him know that he was ill and wouldn’t be coming to Citi Field for Saturday night’s game against the Marlins, the Mets’ pitcher was visited at his Manhattan apartment by a couple men — Mets security people — sent by the team to see what was happening with him.
Harvey, it seems, sensed the Mets were checking up on him with their surprise visit around 10 p.m. (to see if his headache story checked out). Meanwhile, people close to the Mets suggest that, after many messages went unreturned, the security men were merely checking on him (to see if he was OK, or needed help).
Harvey is said to have answered his own door in his pajamas, and word from people who’ve spoken to him is that the Mets emissaries weren’t doctors or caretakers but rather people who quizzed him about about what was going on with him. The implication he apparently got: the team was checking to see if he was really at home, and really ill. (He definitely was at home; on that score everyone agrees.)
Mets people aren’t talking about the situation – which still seems likely to wind up in a grievance, as FanRag first reported, though there’s been no final decision on this matter by the players union – but word from people who have spoken to team personnel is that they tried to reach him several times after he and pitching coach Dan Warthen exchanged texts sometime between 3 and 4 p.m. to try to express concern and see if they could help him. And, since he didn’t answer, word from people close to the team is that they sent a couple people over there to make sure he wasn’t in distress.
However, sources suggest Harvey didn’t necessarily see the surprise visit as a hand held out to help, as the men who came apparently didn’t offer chicken soup or Excedrins but merely inquired what was happening. (Of course, their drive over may have just been the next step of concern in case medical help was indeed needed.)
According to people close to Harvey, the story goes that he played golf early in the morning, drove the foursome back to the city, and after a chef made him lunch in the early afternoon, he fell asleep. There was no word he did any drinking while golfing (he did drive the foursome back), but when he awoke, he was hit with a bad headache – said to be the worst of his life – and he texted Warthen sometime between 3:00 and 4:00 that he was ill and couldn’t make it to the park.
People around the team have heard that the text exchange was actually initiated by Warthen, and that Harvey only responded then that he was ill and couldn’t make it. They say, despite further communications from the team, that they never heard back. Harvey’s contention appears to be that he was so ill he fell asleep again, and that’s why there was no further response and no follow-up texts from him. If in fact his sickness is to fault for the lack of response, that could mitigate the circumstances.
Even those close to Harvey understand his text (or text back) didn’t come until after the 3 p.m. cutoff for notice (the players are due on the field at 4), and that the Mets would have been within their rights to fine him. The issue is whether a suspension was warranted.
Harvey apparently does not believe a suspension was called for, but that a fine would have been OK. People who have been in contact with the Mets suggest he’s been fined before (though it isn’t known for what and how many times), and that this was the time to draw the line.
The position of Mets people, according to those who have spoken to them, is that he’s been late before (a few times, they say, including one time when he missed an off-day practice in the 2015 postseason when he also racked up innings and helped pitch the team into the World Series the year after his Tommy John surgery). And they say that it’s clear the policy is clear to report to trainer Ray Ramirez if you’re ill or injured and are going to be late, and not to a coach. Those people who’ve spoken to the club says Mets people cite an “accumulation” of slip-ups, and furthermore seem to believe other Mets players would have been upset by special treatment if they didn’t take a stand on a perceived punctuality issue (though that couldn’t immediately be corroborated).
Harvey is said by those close to him to be of the belief that it’s preferable not to come to work when you’re ill (and have a starting assignment set for the next day), and that instead he’s been singled out when club higher-ups’ mood has been soured in recent days by injuries to several players. Word from people who have spoken to the Mets is that this matter is 100 percent about Harvey – though it’s true they may not have been thrilled by a couple other things, including the decision by Noah Syndergaard not to have an MRI, against team doctors’ advice, which preceded a pulled lat injury that may or may not be related to previous issues but has nonetheless knocked him out for multiple months (he won’t throw for six weeks, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post and MLB Network estimated him to be out about three months).
The Mets, on the other hand, are said to believe it’s clear any warning of lateness or request to stay home needs to go through the trainer, not as a late response to a concerned coach. Thus, the suspension.
Harvey wasn’t told he was suspended until he showed up Sunday expecting to pitch, and sent home at that time, as FanRag Sports first reported Sunday. The Mets announced on Sunday that the three-day suspension actually began Saturday (and they contacted Las Vegas pitcher Adam Wilk in Albuquerque on Saturday to give him time for the cross-country flight to pitch Sunday’s game in Harvey’s place). But there’s suggestion now from people who have been in contact with the Mets that the final call to suspend him didn’t come until after the team higher-ups met with Harvey Sunday, and that Wilk was only on notice to pitch (and could have been sent back) until after the Mets finalized the ban decision after their Sunday confab with Harvey.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and MLB Network first reported that Harvey was telling folks he had a migraine, and that he was saying there were miscommunication issues.
Part of the Mets’ position on the timing may be that Harvey didn’t return texts/messages on Saturday but that they wanted to tell him in person that he was suspended, anyway, which is why they waited until he arrived Sunday to advise him they were banning him three games. But it’s also possible the decision hadn’t been finalized until after the meeting.
Harvey’s agent Scott Boras declined comment, as did Mets owner Jeff Wilpon. Mets GM Sandy Alderson didn’t return a text.
If the matter goes to a grievance hearing, and it seems almost unavoidable at this time (though the union makes the ultimate call on such things), part of Harvey’s position will undoubtedly be that he gave the Mets notice of his lateness/absence via the text to Warthen, while the Mets didn’t give him the same courtesy of a warning. But the Mets could possibly counter that it’s happened before, and perhaps that he’s been warned (and even fined) before.