The Matt Harvey news out of Queens, N.Y., on Monday was a blow to the Mets, game of baseball and the idea of trying to keep young pitchers healthy.
As the franchise weighs the decision on whether or not to put their ace under the knife for Tommy John surgery or rehab, the future of Harvey's right elbow is in doubt. With it, so go the hopes of a franchise and fanbase yearning for meaningful games.
Over the next few months, expect Harvey's name to be linked to every former pitcher with an ulnar collateral ligament tear and past Tommy John recipient. For a pitcher that electrified the game of baseball as much as the 24-year-old Mets right-hander did this season, the interest around his recovery will be astounding.
Heading toward their fifth consecutive losing campaign, 2014, led by Harvey's right arm, was supposed to be the tipping point for the Mets to jump back into contention. With millions coming off the books, a bevy of free-agent outfielders, and pitching depth in the farm system to facilitate a major trade or two, the Matt Harvey-David Wright All-Star duo was set to be enhanced by a group of reinforcements.
Now, the team is possibly staring at 2014 without their ace. Until he returns and stays healthy, nothing will be the same, including projecting the future.
Arms, injuries and re-injuries are very, very hard to predict, but for the Mets, Monday's announcement represented the best-case scenario of a very difficult situation. By going down now, if Tommy John surgery is decided upon and conducted soon, Harvey could be back as soon as next August.
Of course, that scenario would make him Stephen Strasburg 2.0. For Mets fans who want their ace to be better than the star in Washington, they'll have to settle for Harvey following the blueprint for success set forth by the Nationals when Strasburg went down.
Due to the high success rate and meticulous planning by organizations over recent years when dealing with Tommy John and elbow issues, Harvey is a good bet to return to form and not profile as the next Mark Prior.
Tommy John surgery, which Harvey is almost certainly slated for when the inflammation in his forearm subsides, has become so prevalent among great pitchers in the game that all past Tommy John recipients aren't widely known or remembered.
Luckily, FOX Sports put together a list of the success stories. If Harvey can follow in the footsteps of John Smoltz, Billy Wagner, Francisco Liriano, Tim Hudson and A.J. Burnett, the New York Mets will be very, very happy.
In 2003, Prior was Harvey before Harvey (and Strasburg before Strasburg), taking baseball by storm with a dominant season. In 211.1 innings, Prior struck out 10.4 per nine innings, posted a 1.10 WHIP, had an adjusted ERA of 179-plus and featured a 4.90 SO/BB ratio. He was worth 7.4 Wins Above Replacement (via Baseball-Reference) for the playoff bound Chicago Cubs.
By comparison, Harvey's 2013: 178.1 IP, 9.6 K/9, 0.93 WHIP, 159 ERA-plus, 6.16 SO/BB. The National League All-Star Game starter has been worth 5.6 WAR (via Baseball-Reference) for the Mets.
If healthy and allowed to finish the season without innings restrictions, it's likely that Prior and Harvey's seasons would have stood side-by-side as two of the biggest breakout performances in decades.
Of course, Prior, unlike Strasburg years later, never recovered fully from his arm issues. By 2006, just three years after his magical season, the Cubs phenom pitched to a 7.21 ERA in 43.2 forgettable innings.
The Mets organization shouldn't be trusted, especially in light of Monday's astounding lack of unanimity when answering questions about Harvey's forearm soreness this season. But they will be careful because Harvey is the best hope for the franchise to rebound and win big.
Alderson says forearm issues for sometime. Collins says yesterday is first he heard of it. That, folks, is all you need to know.— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) August 26, 2013
Much like how the Nationals handled Strasburg with kid gloves in his first full season back, the Mets can ease Harvey up to his full potential. If it takes until 2016 for New York to see the full and complete arsenal and campaign from Harvey, so be it.
The difference in talent between Mark Prior and Matt Harvey was small, but the road to recovery and path back to success should be wide.
Do you expect Harvey to regain his dominant ability?
If the Mets take the cautious route, they aren't guaranteed anything, but will put themselves in a more favorable position to make Matt Harvey the next Stephen Strasburg, not version 2.0 of a Mark Prior sob story.
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