By Joe Giglio
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During a week that was slated to showcase Matt Harvey to the entire baseball world, the narrative changed, focusing more on Harvey’s outgoing personality and varied interests off the field than his outstanding talent on it.
Unfortunately, there’s been some backlash towards Harvey, starting with criticism about his ESPN The Body layout, jumping to his love of fashion, and, most recently, his comments in an August issue of Men’s Journal about $200 million contracts and emulating Derek Jeter’s dating prowess.
For some reason, a segment of sports fans can’t reconcile professional athletes having lives, interests and personalities similar to their peers.
Harvey is about to be in his mid-20s, lives in New York City and is highly successful and well compensated for his talent. Within a few years, barring health or a sudden and shocking setback in performance, he’ll be one of the highest-paid young people in New York.
Of course, that makes him just like the other countless former athletes in this town, many of whom enjoyed having fun away from the field, dabbled in interests that had little to do with sports, but still performed at a high level.
The idea of athletes who do nothing but eat, sleep and drink their respective sport is ridiculous, far-fetched and a bizarre fantasy that some antiquated fans pretend to have once been true.
From Babe Ruth to Mickey Mantle to Joe Namath to Dwight Gooden, the best of the best in New York have had their fun off of the field, lived lavish lives, yet performed admirably between the lines. While it’s quite clear that the lifestyle got the better of someone like Gooden, expecting athletes, especially young, rich and famous stars, to have few interests outside of sports is silly.
The only things that should interest baseball fans in this town about Harvey are his ERA, WHIP, K/9, IP, and, of course, long-term health.
Unless Harvey’s lifestyle, which, to be honest, seems less than outlandish, begins to turn up red flags about his preparation and desire to win, the rest is just noise. If anything, the fact that he has a personality should make him more fun to watch and cheer for during his starts.
It’s quite clear, from the ESPN The Magazine shoot to fashion stories in the New York Post, that Harvey wants to expand his reach or brand off of the field. In other words, if his varied interests, tailored shirts and tabloid stories involving beautiful women bother you, stop reading the newspaper or perusing Twitter aimlessly.
Since arriving for his first start last July in Arizona, Harvey has done nothing but dominate, represent the Mets’ franchise admirably and put himself in the discussion among the best pitchers in the sport.
The fact that he’s received criticism — even if just from some small, close-minded circles — about his personality is absurd.
One of the best arms in the world is under team control for at least the next five years. Enjoy it while it’s dominating the National League instead of worrying about details that have little to do with winning or losing baseball games.
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