By Ernie Palladino
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Terry Collins had to just about shackle Matt Harvey to a wall to keep him from testing out his Tommy John surgery at the end of last season.READ MORE: On Eve Of Early Voting, Top Contenders For NYC Mayor Skirmish Over Crime And If Police Should Carry Guns
He’s put up with Harvey’s sour faces whenever he’s pulled him this year, doing so recently after the former All-Star threw six shutout innings. He has resurrected plans for a six-man rotation. He has skipped starts, all to preserve that valuable right arm for an October that once seemed impossible but now approaches reality.
About the only other precaution Collins could have taken would have involved a roll of duct tape and many yards of bubble wrap. No one knows that better than the pitcher himself.
Yet there he stood Saturday, not only getting on board with agent Scott Boras’ hard, 180-inning no-playoff cap, but basically jumping behind that ship captain’s wheel.
For all the outrage it caused on social media, for all the damage Harvey appears prepared to do to his tough-guy, gamer image, it’s not hard to see what happened here.
At some point down the road, don’t be surprised to hear that the super-agent and player had a rather short conversation where Boras did all the talking. Something like, “Dude, wake up! The heck with the playoffs. I’m saving your career here.”
Implied are the millions of dollars that remain for the two to make — and share. Remember, a healthy cut of that dough goes into Boras’ pocket. He doesn’t represent players for free, and Harvey represents a bell cow in a client stable Boras has filled with prolific milkers.READ MORE: MTA Bus Removed From Brooklyn Brownstone 4 Days After Crash; Many Feared Building Would Collapse
All Harvey did was listen to him. That’s where he went so horribly wrong.
His “I’ll pitch in the playoffs” reversal, published in The Players’ Tribune, marked a good start to returning Harvey’s world to normal. The key is whether or not he follows through on it. If we indeed see him on the mound if the Mets make it to the postseason, then all of the preceding will have been simply a needless tempest caused by an overprotective agent.
It’s that Harvey listened to Boras that was the problem. And he wasn’t the first to do that. Athletes have long gotten themselves in trouble by heeding their agents. At some point soon, another player in another sport is expected to visit the team that wants to pay him $14.8 million after hiding out since a July 4 fireworks accident caused the amputation of a finger. By listening to a ring of “advisors” undoubtedly led by his agent, Jason Pierre-Paul managed to deprive himself of access to the Giants’ medical network, comprised of the best facilities, minds and techniques in the nation.
As the late Giants general manager George Young used to say, every athlete has the right to be stupid. Pierre-Paul has been tragically stupid. On Saturday, Harvey merely sounded stupid. Whether he turns genuinely dumb depends on how closely he cleaves to Boras’ intimation that the difference between 180 and another 14 or so playoff innings risks a lucrative future.
One can only hope that Saturday was just a show to appease Boras. If Harvey insists on shutting it down after the 13 2/3 innings that lie between his current 166 1/3 and 180, he will do irreparable damage to his image and fan favorite, not to mention to the franchise itself. This is an organization that has waited nine years for a postseason spot, a team that in most of those years couldn’t see the postseason with a high-powered telescope.
To bail on that opportunity over a handful of innings — doctor’s and agent’s advice notwithstanding — would turn the Dark Knight into a quitter.
Harvey values his rep as much as his shutout innings. But agents have a way of getting into a head, whispering sweet dollar signs into an ear and turning even the most gung-ho competitor into a halting, doubting mouse. Recall that Boras nearly torpedoed Alex Rodriguez’s Yankees career when he announced his contract opt-out during the 2007 World Series between Boston and Colorado. That embarrassed A-Rod and ticked off the Yanks to the point where Rodriguez negotiated his own new deal. The two formally parted ways in 2011.
If Harvey is smart — no guarantees there — he’ll do a quick, genuine about-face. The present is too important to push aside for the future.
He needs to tell Boras to shut up. Then he needs to pitch and be the warhorse the Mets and their fans deservedly have come to expect.MORE NEWS: Queens Street Renamed In Honor Of Beloved Community Member, Hospital Worker Who Died From COVID-19
If he doesn’t, he’ll have only himself to blame for listening to his agent.