Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Matt

By Jason Keidel
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All day the tarp loomed over the diamond like an ominous blue canvas, covering a long-lost portrait, freckled by endless rain. Then the skies cleared, as if the deity just remembered that the artist, Matt Harvey, was ready to paint.

If you didn’t love last night, then either baseball is in the bowels of your sporting allegiances or you have a galactic hole in your soul.

The game had everything befitting a baseball game or boxing match. Talent, old and young. An inherent hatred on both sides. Frothing fans. And a relatively full house. (No doubt the swaths of empty seats were attributable to the wet ways of our city for the last month, where spring is now merely a speed bump between winter and summer.)

There was a palpable tension charging from the fans up to the booth to our televisions. And it was the perfect stage from which Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling could spin their wisdom around us.

Not only are Mex and Ronnie the preeminent color commentators in any sport, they aren’t resident shills for the old Shea crowd who only want to be told only what they want to hear.

And it didn’t take a jeweler’s eye to see the endless symbolism last night. Between the haves and have-nots. Between the youth, vigor, and violent pitching of Matt Harvey and the cagey graybeard Hiroki Kuroda matching goose eggs, there were plots, subplots, and trap doors to every theme.

Of course, just hours after my drooling homage to Mariano Rivera, he blows his first save since 2011 (or at least it feels that long). But even as a Yankees devotee, it was impossible for me to hate the night or the fight we lost.

And the gem of the night, if you watched on SNY, was indulging in Dwight Gooden while he dissected Harvey’s carving of the Yankees’ lineup.

Kevin Burkhart camped next to Gooden for a good seven innings, right behind home plate, sliding an analytical IV into the good doctor’s baseball vein. It had all the bona fides of a torch being passed.

About a month ago I wrote that Matt Harvey isn’t quite Doc Gooden. And in some way I still feel that way. Maybe it’s a classic case of projection. Like many of you, I was in high school and still open to the notion of athletic gods when a 19-year-old Doc dominated baseball and the back pages, his visage soaring up the flanks of skyscrapers in midtown. It felt like he had the entire city dangling from his divine right arm.

But there just isn’t that sense that Harvey has his congregation equally spellbound. But that’s not his fault. Doc’s 1984 club was exponentially better, and there was an almost universal sense that the Mets were on the lip of living large for at least five years. Harvey just doesn’t have a posse ready to ride him to the World Series.

But the good doctor was wildly impressed by the phenom, and his commentary wasn’t contrived or forced or redundant. Not even his gratuitous book plug sailed wide of the strike zone.

Last night, in Queens, normally a graveyard of baseball promises, something surreal happened. It was one of those moments you enjoy about once a decade, and you don’t get it unless you were there when it happened.

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