This is just bizarre.
PORT ST. LUCIE -- Tuesday in Metsland began when I asked Matt Harvey if he wanted to go on the record with his strong and rational case for why he should rehab from Tommy John surgery while around his teammates.
Per the Basic Agreement, Harvey has the right to do his work away from the spring training facility, and wants to for compelling reasons; it is my opinion that he should be able to determine his own best interests, with the help of the training staff. This is not about Manhattan, and its lure of models, restaurants and clothing stores -- it’s about the pull of Flushing, Queens, teammates, and pitching for the Mets this season, which he is convinced he will do.
In the morning, Harvey was under the impression that he was not allowed to grant one-on-one interviews (that perception shifted somewhat later in the day, but we’ll get to that), but he decided to talk anyway. Sitting at his locker, he said:
“The biggest part is wanting to stay with the team. To learn the league. To learn Travis (d’Arnaud). To learn how to bond with the other starting pitchers, and the guys in the clubhouse, and the David Wrights who I plan on playing with.”
And where does the front office stand on this?
“I expressed that seven months in Port St. Lucie is a long time,” he said. “For me, I strongly felt that my best opportunity, and my motivation to come back quicker, stronger, work harder would be to be with the teammates. That’s kind of what I have always said. I have worked so hard to get to the big leagues and be with this team, it just felt like all of a sudden I was shooed to the back.”
Why does he say that?
“It’s just the fact that I have been not allowed to talk to anybody, and that every tweet or Instagram I send is, do not write,” Harvey said. “My locker -- me and (Jeremy Hefner, also rehabbing) was basically in a closet. I didn’t think that was right. I don’t know exactly who was in charge of the situation. [“That was a decision made by clubhouse personnel,” GM Sandy Alderson later told me].
“I have worked so hard to get to the point where I was, and all of a sudden I get hurt, and it’s ‘you’ve got to stay in Florida,’” Harvey said. “‘You’ve got to disappear from New York, you’ve got to do this.’ I took pride in living in New York, and being a New Yorker. I live there all year round. It’s a place I love being.”
To be clear: This stuff was said in the morning. In a moment, you’ll see why that’s an important distinction.
He continued, impassioned: “I love going to the ballpark every day. I love watching. I love being the first guy in the dugout when we have a home game, and giving guys high five every time they come off the field. I take pride in that. And with that, I think being a good teammate is part of being a leader, and that’s how I’d like to see myself.”
About seven minutes into our conversation, Harvey and I noticed Mets PR man Jay Horwitz standing in front of us, glaring.
“He’s alright, Jay,” Harvey said. “Jay, he’s alright.”
“What?” I said to Horwitz.
“I’ll talk to you later,” Horwitz said to me.
“OK,” I said, but Horwitz did not move.
“He’s good, Jay,” Harvey said again. “He’s good. If somebody at the top needs to talk, I’ll talk to him.”
“You’re causing me some problems,” Horwitz said to me.
“OK,” I said, then turned back to Harvey.
“Are you writing something?” Horwitz said. “Can I --”
“Jay,” Harvey said. “If somebody needs to talk to the Players’ Association, I have a right to have him writing about me.”
Not wanting to make the situation any more awkward for Harvey, I turned off my recorder and wrapped up the conversation.
Hearing of the interview, Alderson sought out Harvey shortly thereafter. “I talked with him to provide clarification,” Alderson later told me, explaining that they discussed the rehab process, and whether there was a team-imposed rule against sharing his thoughts with the public.
“My recommendation is to manage doing interviews in a way that doesn’t interfere with his day-to-day-activities,” Alderson said.
So, is the team’s official position to discourage Harvey from conducting one-one-one interviews? Alderson said that his preference was for Harvey to speak only to a larger group in order to save time, but “It’s up to him to manage.”
As for the more important issue of where Harvey will rehab, the GM said that his staff is still working on a plan, and will discuss it with Harvey and make a mutual decision, likely within a week or so.
After his powwow with the GM, Harvey wanted to make sure I knew, and wrote, that he felt much better. Moments later, Horwitz announced that Harvey would address the entire media; it was only fair, he said, given that the pitcher had spoken to one outlet.
Harvey donned a Mets cap, smiled, and repeated his case for rehab freedom to the larger group. His overall tone was much more measured, after what he called a “good conversation” with Alderson. Everyone seemed happier than in the morning.
Got all that?