By Jason Keidel
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The man with the golden arm has melted.
There has been a tear inside the most valuable limb in sports, and to the fabric of the hard-luck Mets, who always seem to find the shadows in a bright future.
So young and gallant and gifted and gift-wrapped with his own handle — The Dark Knight of Gotham — Matt Harvey has fallen. But not to Bane or the Joker or some other outsized villain. The Mets’ best pitcher since Doc Gooden was felled by bad luck.
Only with the Mets does this happen. Even when they do nothing wrong, they mess up.
This wasn’t about pitch counts or inning restrictions. This is about the karmic tax the Mets have been paying for decades. Some will say they haven’t been right since they traded Tom Seaver in his prime. Some will say they haven’t been right since 1986.
The ’80s behemoth won just one World Series, while everyone who was there admits it had the talent and temerity to win several more. Even when they won in ’86 they needed a dash of divine intervention to squirt through Bill Buckner’s legs.
Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez said that the ’85 iteration was even better, and they didn’t even reach the playoffs. The curtain call came in 1988, when they ran and hid with the National League East, only to run into a right-handed buzz saw named Orel Hershiser.
You don’t have to be a Mets fan to feel the loss. No one wins here. Even the most ardent Yankees groupie can find no humor in this. The city loses, the sport loses — and, as always, the Mets lose.
The Mets and Yankees share a city, but not the success. They share 8 million fans, but not the pennant flags. They share limitless TV revenue, but not the ratings. They share real estate, but not the same reality.
When I heard about Harvey the first thing I thought of was Endy Chavez. On an October night that started with so much promise, Chavez leaped from the warning track and somehow snagged a fly ball destined for heartbreak.
It was one of the greatest catches in MLB playoff history, and the already frothing crowd, on the lip of the 2006 World Series, cheered and stomped in unison, making old Shea Stadium shake for the last time in the old, blue-collar building’s history.
Turns out the catch only pushed the heartbreak back an inning. One of the endless line of Molinas (Yadier, in this case), who love to torment Big Apple baseball teams, swatted a homer in the ninth. And then Adam Wainwright froze Carlos Beltran with a hypnotic curveball to end not only a game, a series and a season, but also a franchise.
The Mets were never right after that. Wainwright’s perfect pitch put the Mets in a haze they never quite shook, blowing two titanic leads in September the following two years. Then they blew it up again and started fresh with Sandy Alderson.
But from Steve Phillips to Omar Minaya to Alderson, the end is always the same. Some act of some cruel god seems to strike the Mets at the most promising moments.
Just ask Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Or Generation K. Or Pedro Martinez. Just ask Johan Santana, the bridge between then and now. After throwing the first no-hitter in franchise history, he discovers his effort essentially ended his career.
WIth Harvey and Zack Wheeler ready to lead the Mets into contention, and countless millions coming off the books, the Mets had the Big Apple in the palm of their young hands.
But it never quite works out that way in Queens, where the Mets never quite become kings.
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