For the past 25 years I have sat in baseball press boxes and watched young pitcher after young pitcher walk onto a mound and try to strut their stuff. Some have more talent than others. Some have more desire than others. Some have the intellect to make up for sub-standard stuff. But the true litmus test is on the nights they do not have their best stuff and during those games how they alter their game plan to get themselves to the finish line.
Last night was one of those nights for Matt Harvey because the command of his fastball was not there and he had to alter his game plan. "I knew was fastball command was off from early on in this one and I had to utilize my other pitches until my command returned", said Harvey after the game. In the very first inning, he pinned Ben Revere at third base getting Chase Utley to pop out and then blowing away slugging first basemen Ryan Howard. I think the thing that impresses me the most about Harvey (aside from his 98MPH heater) is his poise and how calm he always seems to be. Before the game, he joked with me about the NCAA Finals and other stuff which is rare even for a veteran pitcher to do a few moments before his starting assignment but that is Matt Harvey.
Make no mistake however when he crosses that first base line he is all business and can be very intimidating even for a veteran team like the Phillies. "I am only concerned with executing pitches and really do not get caught up with whom I'm facing", says Harvey, "because executing pitches is the one thing I can control." And that confidence is best illustrated on how he pitches with a lead. So many young hurlers have trouble pitching with a lead early in their careers as they have trouble staying focused. But not Harvey. He gets stronger as the game goes on actually sensing the fact that he could put the game away.
Growing up in Shea Stadium watching Mets baseball in the late 60's I got to watch Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman who in my opinion, are the gold standard I use for 1-2 pitching combos in this sport. And Harvey reminds me so much of Koosman in the way he approaches the game. By that I mean the fire in his belly and the refusal to back down from anyone. Harvey said in spring training that being mediocre is not good enough because he came here to win-period. This organization needs a dose of that of that and Harvey has provided it in the early stages of the 2013 season.
I can tell you from speaking to Met fans there is nothing they like better than watching a pitcher develop before their eyes and more precisely--a home-grown pitcher. And this organization has possessed a plethora of them from Seaver to Koosman to Ryan to McGraw to Gooden. Now, Matt Harvey is a long way from being compared to those guys as you are talking about Met royalty. But this kid has that secret sauce that those guys also had and coupled with killer stuff he could one day be compared to them. For now, he is just content being a major leaguer. And for the Mets, they know they have a young pitcher that on every fifth day will frustrate even the best hitters in baseball. And that moves the Mets one step closer to mattering again. One huge step.