Friday, April 19, 2013

Easy to be Harv

I'm pretty sure that like most Mets fans, I woke up this morning attempting to forget that the last four days ever happened. Sure, there was the one bright moment when the Mets briefly donned Frank Tanana-era throwbacks, but after two snowstorms, three delays or postponments, a blown six-run lead and, oh right, three losses in three games, it would probably do us all a bit of good to forget about the most disastrous trip out west since the Donner Party got stuck. It was a brutal 96 hours in which New York's offense slowly started to fall back to Earth and the bullpen pitched if not worse than I would have then certainly no better.

So, yeah, that was fun.

As New York comes home and licks its wounds, a 7-4 start that seemed strangely filled with promise is now a discouraging and mediocre 7-7, and the truth is becoming readily apparent that not only will the Mets not compete this season, but it seems like the only joy in watching them might come from watching Matt Harvey.

But, boy oh boy what joy that looks like it'll be.

Harvey just might be the only light at the end of the Mets' tunnel right now, which isn't to say the roster is bereft of quality talent. Obviously David Wright is still an All-Star caliber third baseman and the face of the franchise, but Wright, Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy and any other mainstay that has an opportunity to stick around for the franchise's (hopefully) impending renaissance is a known-quantity; they are the intimacy between a married couple that is still enjoyable but without the excitement and mystery that once made everything special.

Until Zack Wheeler makes his debut in the Major Leagues sometime this summer and until top-tier catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud joins him -- which apparently could be much further away than anticipated -- this will be the Harvey show as we all look to learn more about him and make his starts appointment viewing. In not instance is that fact more clear than tonight when Harvey's spot in the rotation is coming up in the Mets' return home opposite Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg.

In a season that appears certain to end with little fanfare and another early offseason, this just may be the most anticipated game the Mets play all season, not because much is on stake for the season, but because it could be a window into the future. Harvey is a bulldog. A tough mound presence with filthy stuff that attacks hitters and leaves them feeling woozy, and while he's still coming into his own without even one full season under his belt, the numbers speak volumes. Harvey's last start made him the first pitcher in the modern era to win his first three starts of the season with a total of 25 or more strikeouts and six or fewer hits across those three games. His stuff has been utterly dominant in a way that has some not just imagining a Doc Gooden-1985-type of excitement, but a clear statement that perhaps one of the game's dominant pitchers for the next decade has sprung fully formed onto the Major League stage.

What makes tonight's start so exciting is that it isn't just Harvey on the mound, but Strasburg playing his foil. Harvey's sample size is small at this point, but it's starting to seem like enough to warrant the hype and the excitement, and one of the few pitchers who has had comparable experience -- and met those expectations -- will be the man he duels tonight. This is, in all likelihood, going to be a great matchup, but what makes the game most exciting for Mets fans that have painfully little else to be excited about is that with both of these pitchers being young and in the same division, this is likely to be just the first of many times the two are facing off.

This is just the beginning of what looks to be, potentially, one of the great pitching rivalries of its era. If that isn't worth looking forward to, I don't know what is. The Mets' season is likely to have more than a few pratfalls and bullpen collapses like the ones we saw in Colorado, and Harvey will almost certainly be the victim of a few of them. But at least for seven innings every five days, we can get a glimpse of the future, and from all indications the future appears bright. That may do little to bring comfort to fans already at wits end from six consecutive seasons without a playoff berth, but for those of us willing to ride it out, whenever Harvey steps on the mound we're getting a glimpse of the future.

And you know what? It looks pretty good.

In one other minor bit of news, the NFL released its 2013 schedule last night, which means the chance to see just where I might be headed for a few road games this fall. More details will develop over time obviously, but circle your calendar for December 8 if you happen to live in San Diego. After four years of waiting for the schedule rotation to come around, I plan on being in southern California to see the Giants visit the Chargers. I plan on making one other trip this fall, but having already seen the Giants in Kansas City (the other road game they'll play against the AFC), the likely candidates are Carolina (Sept. 22), Philadelphia (Sept. 29) and Detroit (Dec. 22). I probably won't make it to the Giants season opener at Dallas (Sept. 8), but a man can dream right? After all, as I've made clear by being a Mets fan, I'm going to be doing a lot of it this summer.


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