What's the right course of action with Matt Harvey?
Harvey's in the news for all the right reasons.
The Mets ace (er... um... one of the Mets aces...) is pitching like the superstar we all knew he was. The Dark Knight has cranked out quality start after quality start in August and is, along with many other key players, one of the main reasons the Mets find themselves in the enviable position of a 6-game division lead with 29 games to play.
But with great power comes great responsibility.
(That's from Batman, right? No? Superman? Eh, we'll just go with it.)
Harvey is pitching in his first full season since having Tommy John surgery last year, and Tommy John is not something the modern-day player messes with. Innings limits are usually strictly observed for fear of re-injuring a surgically repaired arm.
Guess who also doesn't mess around with Tommy John:
The superstar's agent.
Guess who doesn't care about innings limits, and instead cares about winning baseball games:
The superstar's team.
And therein, as they say, lies the dilemma.
Harvey has pitched 166 innings this year, dangerously close to his proposed limit of 180. His agent, Scott Boras, is one of the most powerful businessmen in sports, and Harvey is one of his biggest clients. Harvey is a gold mine for Boras, and another year on the sidelines - what Boras fears could be the consequence of extending Harvey's limit - would be a major blow to Boras' bottom line.
To be sure, no one involved wants Harvey to get injured. But Boras, who has no stake in the Mets' wellbeing as a team, is bound to be more careful than the team, who wants to have their ace available during the playoff push and the playoffs, if the Mets eventually make it (fingers crossed).
The issue is complicated because there is no hard and fast science that proves that 180 innings is the limit for a recovering pitcher. Some have pitched more without a problem. Some have pitched fewer and have ruined their careers overextending themselves. Everyone is different, and there's no way how Harvey will react to inning #167 or #210.
We just don't know.
With all that said, what should the Mets do?
There are four major decision makers here: Boras, Harvey, manager Terry Collins, and Mets GM Sandy Alderson. In theory, it should be up to Harvey to decide how his arm feels. In truth, it's probably going to be a power struggle between Boras and Alderson, the two businessmen.
If I'm the Mets, I think I'm taking my chances - within reason.
Harvey is a beast. And having him around for the playoffs makes a huge, huge difference in the team's chances to really make some noise for the first time in years. This is a starved fan base, and holding back one of your best players is no way to instill faith.
The Mets should rest Harvey as much as possible in September, while they still have a fairly comfortable lead over the Nationals. I'd skip at least two more of his starts in the regular season and leave him right around that 180 inning mark come the beginning of the playoffs.
In playoff time, the gloves come off. It's win, now, mode.
If Harvey complains of stiffness, then you sit him down. No doubt about it.
But if he keeps pitching like he has been, the Mets have to go for it.
Might their chances of winning a World Series be better next year than they are this season? Maybe. But why take the chance?
If you're trying to win baseball games, you play your best players.
Throw those gloves in the trash can and let the man show why he's New York's Dark Knight.