There is nothing glamorous about rehab. Coming back from Tommy John surgery is an arduous, painful, agonizing process. Players who make that journey describe the isolation from the world they know – convivial flights, meals, and general bro-ings on – as the worst part. Worse than the surgeon’s scalpel and worse than the slow process of teaching an old ligament new tricks.
It isn’t difficult to understand why Matt Harvey wants to spend as little time as possible in Port St. Lucie, Florida in 2014. By virtue of its location in Florida, it is automatically disqualified from a “places you want to be for more than a few days” list.
Matt Harvey is unlike most baseball players. Most of his New York Met teammates make their homes on Long Island, closer to the Flushing, NY, home of New York’s second team. Harvey was well-known for his preference to stay in Manhattan, embracing the role as “swaggering New York superstar” and/or “frat god” that his unbelievable performance affords him.
Now on the mend from a blown UCL, Matt Harvey is pushing back against the Mets stated preference for him to stay at the minor league complex for the duration of his rehab stint. A whole year in Florida? I don’t think that suits Matt Harvey one bit.
Of all the things to make a big deal about, this issue seems like the most inconsequential. “Young star gently pushes back against team wishes, tabloids spill ink.” But there is a greater point at play here. If, as the CBA dictates, a team can only require players spend 20 days at the Spring Training complex without the player’s consent, then Matt Harvey isn’t really doing anything wrong. His recent comments show the 2013 Cy Young shoo-in is keenly aware of the sensitive nature of his request.
“After talking with my agent and the Players’ Association and going over the CBA rules, as a player you have rights,” Harvey recently said. “I want to do what’s best for the organization and best for the rehab process. For me, I’ve made it clear where I stand.
“I think everybody knows I want to be with the team and be with the guys. New York is my home. I love being there. I love showing up to the ballpark every day. If I have that opportunity, then that’s where I’d like to be.”
There is an element of employee satisfaction at play here. Making players feel valued and that their opinions matter is probably a decent strategy, no? Not every player is as magnanimous as David Wright and happy to sign away their peak years to a club stuck in the middle of a long ice age between periods of competitiveness.
If the Mets cling to their belief that the distractions of big city life will slow the progress of Harvey…are they not paying attention? Harvey, who would return to PSL when he is ready for game action, repeatedly states a desire to pitch this season, less than one calendar year after his Tommy John. That’s crazy, and hardly consistent with a guy who would blow off his rehab commitments in exchange for late nights at the 40/40.
It might run counter to about 50 years of Mets tradition, but working with players and making them comfortable and accountable is not a bad strategy. Giving the athlete the benefit of the doubt as far as what they can do to better prepare their bodies is something other players tend to notice. Cautious as the Mets might be in allowing Harvey favors that Dillon Gee just isn’t going to get, there is an element of degrees here. Matt Harvey is one of the most dynamic Mets pitchers since Dwight Gooden. Keeping him happy and healthy (and out of pinstripes) should be goal #1.
So long as Matt Harvey makes it back to the mound at Citi Bank Ballpark, fans don’t care where he does his rehab. I assume the Mets feel the same. If Matt Harvey believes sleeping in his own bed and spending time with his teammates will facilitate better healing, who is to object. Understandable as the Mets’ need to control this situation might be, staying on the same page as their ace is just good business.