As spring training nears, fan discussion naturally turns towards expectations of the season ahead. It should come as no surprise that those expectations vary widely. There are those among us who believe that the Mets have a legitimate shot to contend for a playoff spot. When you ask those fans what makes them so confident, you will almost undoubtedly hear about the impending return of staff ace, Matt Harvey. When he toes the rubber for the first time since August 24, 2013, he will do so with much fanfare and an unreasonable expectation that he's the difference maker.
Make no mistake, Harvey is the real deal. He has the mindset most fans crave out of their peak performers and at a minimum, had the abilities to back it up. I hope you caught that. Had... Because when Harvey does return for the Mets, he will return having had Tommy John surgery. Although that is no longer the bleak fate for pitchers it once was, it still comes with its own special set of uncertainties.
What fans should expect from Harvey is some control issues. Come April, Harvey's sabbatical from Major League Baseball will have reached twenty months. That's plenty of time for any pitcher, even one of Harvey's ilk, to have acquired some rust. Combined that with what has historically been a decrease in velocity in the first year back from Tommy John surgery and Harvey may be much more hitable than the guy we all remember. This all assumes he makes it through spring training without a setback, of course.
Let us pretend for a minute that Harvey returns to form and takes the mound at Citi Field in full Dark Knight fashion. The blistering fastball and the hellacious slider on full display. What then? I think a fact that's lost on most Mets fans is that in 2013...the season in which Harvey was considered dominant...the season in which he started the all-star game for the National League, the Mets went just 13-13 in the games he started. No pitcher, regardless of greatness, can lead his team to glory if it doesn't score any runs for him.
I don't mean to infer that Mets fans shouldn't be excited about the return of the team's ace. At a minimum, the Mets will be a better team on paper with him, than they were last season with him sidelined. However, there are multiple factors that are well beyond his control. Factors which will almost certainly play a roll in his 2015. Will Harvey be great in 2015? I don't know, but I don't think it makes or breaks the Mets season either way. I'm not sure any player who only takes the field every fifth day could. So be happy he's back, but remember there's only so much the Dark Knight can do.
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