Remember Harvey for good times

We knew this day would come.

It’s been obvious for a few years now that Matt Harvey’s deteriorating health and ineffectiveness would eventually lead to his retirement - and that day came last Friday in the form of an announcement on Instagram. He retired at the age of 34 after a nine-year MLB career.

This was not the ending he wanted after starting out his Major League career as a budding star for the New York Mets. He became a star right away when he got called up. He was striking out hitters with ease. When the Mets stunk, he was the reason everyone still watched them. We called it “Happy Harvey Day” when he started. He started the Mets' turnaround that had them in the World Series in 2015.

Harvey was so good that Mets fans hoped he would top Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden as the best pitcher in franchise history. He certainly was on his way until injuries derailed his career. Once he had Tommy John surgery in 2013, he never was the same pitcher again. Sure, he rebounded with a good 2015 season, but his injuries caught up to him in 2016 when his velocity went down and he exhibited mechanical problems with his arm. He was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome after experiencing shoulder pain and numbness in his fingers, which ended his season in 2016. His career was never the same again.

He spent the rest of his career trying to hang on by being a nomadic pitcher with stops such as Cincinnati, Anaheim, Kansas City and Baltimore. He did not do well in any of those stops. By then, no team wanted his services anyway. He had no choice but to retire. He couldn’t even retire on his own terms.

In a way, it’s sad how it ended for him. He should still be pitching and setting records such as winning 100 games and being on a pace to win 200. He should still be a New York Met. He would have been a Hall of Famer had he stayed healthy. Maybe he would have written a perfect ending on his way to retirement.

Sports do not work that way, though. Most times, it ends with a harsh reality.

Much has been made about Harvey’s failure to handle success, but that’s not the reason his career did not turn out the way he and every Mets fan want. It was the injuries that hurt him in the end. That’s often the case with most pitchers. Shoot, it seems most pitchers don’t even prolong their careers that much anymore because of the injuries that take a toll on a pitcher’s arm and body.

Harvey was basically a victim of arm abuse in the end. The Mets tried to protect his arm with no success. All teams try to do it with no success. The Washington Nationals tried their best to protect Stephen Strasburg, but even he could not escape injuries that deteriorated his arm. Like Harvey, he also was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, which likely will end his career.
Unlike Harvey, Strasburg may have done enough to be a Hall of Famer. He won 113 games, and he led the Nationals out of the wilderness along with Bryce Harper. He also has a championship and a World Series MVP to boost his Hall of Fame resume.

Harvey wanted all of that. He wanted to be the guy that snapped the Mets championship drought. He wanted to win in the city. He was a guy that was born to pitch here. He just had it. He knew what he was doing on the mound. It was just a pleasure to watch when he started. His starts were must-watch TV for a reason.

I attended the Harvey/Strasburg matchup on April 19, 2013. At the time, it was the second most electric event at Citi Field. It felt like a playoff game. The fans were excited an hour before the first pitch. I felt the excitement once I got off the 7 train at Willets Point. It was a sight to behold that Friday night.

Harvey threw six shutout innings and he got out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning to cap off his great night. He struck out seven Nationals that night. He was in control all night by pinpointing his pitches to the strike zone.

There was no doubt he was ready to go that night. He relished going up against his contemporary, who was making a name for himself since the first start of his Major League career in 2010 when he struck out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates on a nice summer night in Washington D.C. It meant a lot to him to represent the Mets that night at his ballpark, and he was not going to let his counterpart overshadow him. This was his night.

The chants of “Harvey’s Better” was loud and proud as the game went on. This meant something to Harvey. It was the game that made him a New York celebrity.

This is something I will remember forever, and it’s why I will remember Harvey fondly. Mets fans should do the same, too. He gave more good moments than bad for this franchise. He started this franchise’s turnaround. He made the franchise relevant again. He made being a Mets fan cool again.

Harvey wasn’t perfect. He wasn’t an angel. That’s okay. We were born as imperfect sinners. He is human just like all of us.

He was a good guy that had good intentions. He wanted to win here. He was a winner here.

He should be remembered for what he did on the field. He wasn’t a failure at all whatsoever.

Shame on anyone that wants to remember Harvey for his transgressions. That’s a not way of being a good fan if he or she wants to choose that route.

Harvey did more good than bad when one assesses his career. Even his critics have to admit that.

You can read Leslie's Jersey Sporting News columns on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.