To all of you.
Over to you, the 8,035 fans who came to Citi Field on Wednesday afternoon, who stood up and applauded as Matt Harvey took the mound at the bottom of the first inning, who clapped even louder when Harvey came to bat at the top of the second, which offered a final standing ovation as he took the long, lonely ride at the bottom of the fifth when the wheels finally turned.
And to those of you who surely would have been there, and who surely would have paid a similar tribute, if only you had been allowed to be there.
Good for you, to remember the good times. Good for you to dismiss memories that are not frosted with affection. Good for you. You brought a 32 year old man to the verge of tears – tears of gratitude, raw emotion, grateful for this moment, for this opportunity to walk again where he was once young, dominant and bulletproof.
“What the fans gave me there was pretty amazing,” Harvey would say later, after that 7-1 Mets win was etched in the books. “I was holding back my tears, I’m not going to lie about it. It brought back many great memories and was very special to me. It was something I will never forget.
Harvey admitted he wasn’t entirely sure what the reaction might be, as he knows better than anyone how badly it ended here – not just his performance, which was never quite the same after thoracic surgery in 2016, but his demeanor and immaturity and chronic petulance.
Here’s what he should have known about New York City, though:
The people here celebrate the good more than they will ever denigrate the bad. Grudges are not often held here. New York has a long memory, and always forgives, and understands that sometimes you have to taste the web a few times before you really understand how good a good time is.
And when you’re ready for reconciliation, New York is there for you.
New York was there for Harvey on Wednesday afternoon, and will be for the duration. Mets fans’ memories will forever frame the night of April 19, 2013, when he prompted them to sing “HARVEY’S BETTER!” to Stephen Strasburg. And the night of July 16, 2013, when Harvey pitched two clear innings in the All-Star Game. And the night of April 14, 2015, when he beat the Phillies to a sold-out house, his first game at Citi Field back from Tommy John.
And, of course, on the night of Nov. 1, 2015, when he pitched eight shutout innings to the Royals in Game 5 of the World Series, when he demanded the ball in the ninth inning and Citi Field nearly went berserk in the game. arguing – even though there was a cruel twist that awaited this tale. All of those memories happened here at Citi Field. Harvey was the first true curator of the new Mets baseball home. New York remembers.
“This,” he said, “is a very special place for me. “
Things were never the same for Harvey after Game 5. Not here. Not in Cincinnati, Anaheim, or Kansas City. Baseball threw some hay at him. Life kicked him in the kneecaps. He was humiliated. And if he really did find a second act in Baltimore – remember how good he was against the Yankees a few weeks ago, after all – he deserved that curtain roll. Earned every second.
“I embarrass myself, causing some of these problems,” Harvey said, in an astonishing moment of self-reflection. “I feel for these fans, I feel like maybe I let them down.
He added: “The past two years have been extremely humiliating. I learned from my mistakes, finally being healthy and trying to reinvent myself there. This has not been easy.
And then: “I wish it had ended differently. “
He was not alone. Those 8,035 people who greeted him three times, each of them would change the story in the last six years if they could. Everyone would wish Harvey another day as the Dark Knight, as the brightest baseball star in baseball’s biggest city. Deep in their hearts, he should be in his eighth full year as the Met, approaching perhaps 150 career wins, possibly playing Koosman at Jacob deGrom’s Seaver.
Maybe take on the role of co-Seaver, if things got really bad.
They did not do it. Harvey is 32 and is hanging on to his last shot in the greats. New York was there for him on Wednesday, perhaps for the last time. New York wanted to say thank you. New York wanted him to know: no hard feelings.
“Things are happening,” said Matt Harvey.
So make some connections. Well done to you, New York, for making this possible. Kudos to Harvey for opening his heart.