There should be no debate or criticism as Mets manager Terry Collins made the announcement last Thursday that Matt Harvey will be the Opening Day starter for the Mets against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday night, April 3, in a World Series rematch at Kauffman Stadium.
I understand that the question surrounding Jacob deGrom’s availability came into play for Collins. DeGrom and his wife are expecting their first child on April 5. Put that aside for a moment, Harvey deserved the nod.
I know that Collins said he had four options for the honor of opening up the 2016 season when you look at the eye-opening depth of quality arms in the Mets starting rotation. But often times we get too caught up in a debate of who deserves it and who has earned the honor.
Harvey went 13-8 last season with a 2.71 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP over 29 starts. He made four starts in the postseason, including the World Series opener, and went 2-0 with a 3.04 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings of work. Unlike a year ago, there will be no innings limit. No more distractions when it comes to his agent Scott Boras, and no more post Tommy John surgery protection.
And there there’s this. Matt Harvey wants to be the Mets’ leader. He wants to be the best starting pitcher in that clubhouse. He is the Alpha male of the pitcher’s room. He really represents the beginning of the change at Citi Field.
When you look up the definition of Alpha male, it states that the individual has “certain unmistakable characteristics. A natural leader, he is a pack-builder. He leads, provides for and protects his pack (his significant other, his buddies, his teammates).”
Yeah, we can still quibble about his overall leadership because of the innings limit disaster from a year ago. But remember, Harvey was the first starter of this bountiful group of power arms to crack the major leagues in Arizona on July 26, 2012. He was the first sign of hope that things were eventually going to change in Flushing, Queens.
For Collins, if what is best for the team is for Harvey to start because he knows he will get the best out of Harvey, then how does he make any other choice than the one he made?
Collins is paid to not only manage his teams during the games, but to also know what makes his players tick. You have to be a clubhouse psychiatrist. If this is what Harvey needs - the spotlight, the love and the validation by giving him the Opening Day start, then that is fine by me.
Plus, I do believe Harvey deserves it. We can debate the long-term future of Harvey and the Mets at a later date and another year. Right now, this is all about trying to win a World Series in 2016, avenging the loss in last year’s Fall Classic and bringing a title back to Queens for the first time since 1986.
All the reports coming out of Port St. Lucie is that Harvey looks focused and ready to go. He has even flashed the long lost slider in the spring, a pitch that is a sure game-changer when he has it going.
Harvey looks set and ready to go for a big 2016 campaign. He gets the start on Opening Day, and there was really no other decision for Terry Collins to make.