The man’s been a scout for as long as I can remember and quite possibly, and more important, for as long as he can remember. He’s seen his share — and many other shares — of players and ballparks and organizations. He’s good for a beer and a story and a laugh, like most scouts. Otherwise, they tend to live alone in crowds, which is a neat trick if you can pull it off. The job requirement that they stand at a reasonable distance and decide how something is going to turn out, that can be lonely too. This particular scout prefers to call while he’s driving, usually with something particular on his mind, one narrow observation that turns eventually into a hundred.
He called one recent afternoon, I forgot where he said he was almost as soon as he said it, and when I answered he spat, “Do something!”
Before I was too offended, he continued, “What have they done? Huh? What have they really done?”
Who? I asked.
“Any of them,” he said, settling a bit. “They’re in the league a year or two or three. The organization treats ‘em like kings. The press turns ‘em into gods. The fans tell ‘em they’re so great. But what have they done?”
Well, I said …
“So this is what happens,” he said. “What happened in New York.”
The world changes. Young men arrive in the big leagues without secrets. Since they were maybe 16, they’ve been measured and picked over and ranked and projected into their mid- and late-20s, and maybe they’re already wealthy, and maybe they’re already feeling the anxiety of living up to the bank account and whatever they’ve been projected to be, which is all to say none of this is as easy as it looks.
Not being the guy doing the projecting. Not being the guy in charge of raising this young man into what he’s supposed to be. Not being the man with the title in the big leagues who’s been handed the young man/king/god. And not being the young man himself.
This is not to say there’s not a right and a wrong way to call in sick, and that a 28-year-old man might have sorted that out by now. And not to say the Mets were right in swinging a sledgehammer when the heel of their shoe might have done.
But, when you’ve been told you’re a god by enough folks, eventually, if you’re not careful, you may come to believe it. And if you’ve played your part in turning them into gods, eventually you’ve got to remind yourself who’s in charge around here, and the Mets are getting now-weekly lessons in leadership and accountability.
Whether you’ve done anything or, you know, not.
The guess here is Harvey does not see the end of 2018, when he is scheduled for free agency, as a New York Met. He will not forget who threw that sledgehammer. They will not come off the opinion that it required throwing. And they haven’t even gotten to the grievance process yet, which presumably is coming.
The point of the suspension was to hold Harvey to the scrutiny of his teammates and to the public, to scold Harvey in the open air, and the Harveys of the world do not go quietly to the doghouse. Neither do they come out quietly.
Harvey does not tell friends he has difficult relationships on the Mets, neither in the clubhouse nor the front office. Perhaps that has changed. But this is from where his confusion stems. There is no perfect employee, and there is no doubt Harvey has an active life in the hours around the game, and there also is no doubt this disagreement will be held in all of their stomachs.
So, change very likely is coming. The erstwhile king/god who’s now a couple surgeries in, who’s 31-30 with a 3.08 ERA heading to his fifth big-league summer, who was going to own the city that counts more than all the others. Harvey will pitch his butt off in order to win, and also in order to make himself pretty to the other 29 teams. And the Mets will clap him on the back so he will pitch his butt off and therefore convince the other 29 he is worth another prospect or two.
This is the way it works. The way it’s always worked. Guess it’s time to do something. Time that everybody does something.
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