By DAVID LENNON
Those who have been around the Mets long enough remember when it was all Bobby Valentine’s fault. Or Steve Phillips. Or Art Howe. Or Jim Duquette. Or Willie Randolph. Or Omar Minaya. Or Jerry Manuel.
Yet here we are, May 2017. Those people are history. In their place sits Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins, the pilots of the Wilpons’ franchise, which keeps ending up as the eternal butt of the joke.
Or worse. Over and over again.
The Mets announcing Matt Harvey’s suspension before Sunday’s game — incredibly, the one he was supposed to start — was shocking for its timing. But given the Dark Knight’s pattern of behavior, really not all that surprising. And that’s on him, obviously. A source told Newsday that Harvey didn’t show up for Saturday’s game, his absence attributed to a migraine headache, and that alibi apparently didn’t fly with the Mets.
Because a three-game suspension, without pay, is not a slap on the wrist. Alderson refused to say why Harvey was sent home, other than for a “violation of team rules,” but to take this step is significant — perhaps it came in response to multiple offenses. Collins went a smidge further Sunday in describing the nature of Harvey’s infraction before retreating, saying that it had to be kept out of the public eye.
If this were a simple miscommunication, as Harvey’s camp reportedly has claimed, you’d have to believe Alderson and Collins wouldn’t be so hush-hush about the reason. Then again, the Mets often don’t act rationally in their handling of such matters.
“In order to be able to control things, you’ve got to sometimes make tough decisions,” Collins said. “And this is one of them.”
One of too many for Harvey, unfortunately, and we can probably squash any remaining suspense about his future at Citi Field. After this latest incident, and the grievance Harvey reportedly intends to file for the three-game ban, this toxic relationship won’t survive until 2018, when he reaches free agency. Despite all the spring-training signs that Harvey had matured after last year’s surgery to repair his thoracic outlet syndrome, they evidently were a mirage. After a while, the baggage just outweighs the benefit.
But you do have to wonder. Was Harvey always this way? Or were the Mets complicit in creating a player who eventually spun himself beyond their control? The events of the past few weeks, specifically involving Yoenis Cespedes and Noah Syndergaard, seem to point to the latter. The yo-yo treatment of Cespedes’ hamstring condition — we’re still waiting for the Mets to provide anything resembling an adequate diagnosis — apparently catapulted him to a much longer stay on the disabled list.
As for Noah, there’s never going to be a satisfactory explanation for why Alderson took the pitcher’s word and chose to let him skip an MRI of his aching upper arm and shoulder area — before blowing out his lat muscle with 100-mph fastballs a couple of days later. Here’s a novel concept that works for the other team in town: Hurt? Get the MRI. End of discussion.
In a perverse way, suspending Harvey may be the best thing to happen to the Mets in the long run. Finally, Alderson put his foot down. Or was told to. And perhaps that’s the beginning of someone, anyone, stepping up to grab the reins, to assert any semblance of authority for a franchise that’s been sabotaging itself way too often of late. Just a month ago, we were confident these Mets were going to win the NL East, and then be considered an October favorite for their second World Series berth in three years.
Even with all the recent nonsense, compounded by some bad luck, those are still attainable goals. But it’s well past time for someone to take charge at Citi Field and change the current climate. There’s no more Omar or Bobby V. to pin this stuff on. It’s up to Alderson and Collins to demand accountability — not only from the players, but themselves. And that process appeared to start Sunday with Harvey.
After the suspension was announced, Collins held a clubhouse meeting. The topic? Don’t do what Harvey did. Or something along those lines. And that’s ridiculous. A team with World Series aspirations having to be scolded like draftees out of high school?
Too bad Tony Bernazard wasn’t available to deliver the speech.