why i bag on matt harvey

baseball: duke @ carolina, game 3

Matt Harvey was a non-entity to me his freshman year. He started on the weekends, but I was much more concerned with the bullpen, with Alex White and Adam Warren, than I was with the Harv. To the point where I have more photos of Buster Posey (two), who didn’t even play for Carolina, than I do of Matt (zero) from that year. He could have been a name, I suppose — he was one-third of what was to date the best Carolina pitching signing class. His classmates were meant to be Madison Bumgarner and Rick Porcello, who both obviously signed first round contracts and never enrolled at Carolina — but can you imagine? They’d all three still be in the majors now, Bumgarner would still have his ring, Porcello would probably still have seen at least one World Series, and that’s what they would talk about on broadcasts: college teammates, Harvey, Bumgarner, and Porcello, you know?

But he wasn’t. He was the Sunday starter. He helped the team go to a third straight College World Series. I barely remember him.

baseball: unc @ nc state

I call this photo the Matt Harvey Walk Of Great Shame And Despair. He’d just been totally ineffective in four and a third or so against NC State, and that photo expresses everything about Matt Harvey’s sophomore year that made me completely, totally insane. Brilliant, infuriating, ineffective, spoilt.

baseball: florida state @ unc, game one

baseball: florida state @ unc, game one

He spent a lot of time talking to pitching coach Scott Forbes (21) and a series of infinitely patient catchers, including Dodgers AAA farmhand Tim Federowicz, who hated talking to pitchers so much he would actually walk to the back of the mound and clean his cleats instead of participate in a conference, as well as minor leaguers Jesse Wierzbicki, Mark Fleury, and Jacob Stallings.

baseball: nc state @ unc, game one

baseball: nc state @ unc, game one

baseball: nc state @ unc, game one

Then, somewhere along the way, he settled down in his junior year. He needed more pitches, ran more counts full than would make me or scouts happy, but his junior year, he was steady. He wasn’t reliable, per se, but he wasn’t such a walking trainwreck. He might only hit one guy a game. And he quietly, sneakily, became the sort of leader that year’s team needed.

baseball: ga tech @ unc, game one

It was raining this night. We were playing Georgia Tech. As you can see, he was having a good night, this early season ACC game in his junior year. The Ks behind him, you know. I think he struck out 8 or 9 that game.

baseball: ga tech @ unc, game one

He lost the game, though. This photo, on Flickr, is captioned Angriest Harv Face, because the final was 1-0, or 2-1, and whatever the winning run was, it was unearned, runner reaching on E1, because the grass was slick and the Harv’s feet just flat went out from under him trying to field a mediocre bunt. He sat on the ground for a minute, that time, and you could see his resolve shape. This was the only game he lost his junior year. He was a rare junior on a young, talented, untried team that won more than it lost but was certainly not the College World Series caliber teams he’d played on the two years before. He was stubborn, fierce, pitched late into games and threw, probably, too many pitches. He tossed temper tantrums on the mound when Coach Fox tried to pull him from games. He hurled his glove at Scott Forbes in the dugout tunnel, final game of the season against Virginia, on regional television, after being removed from a game in the 10th inning.

It’s a joke about a joke, at this point. Every time I roll my eyes about Matt Harvey taking no-hitters into the seventh, I’m rolling them with affection, the affection of having watched someone grow up in front of you. I bag on Matt Harvey because I watched him grow up. He can win the Cy Young and I’m still going to roll my eyes and go, remember that time he left the Maryland game in the first inning? Because if I don’t remember what came before now, when it comes to Matt Harvey, the way he made a conscious decision to grow up, who will? Everybody can marvel at him, but only shep. and I remember the time he hit three Duke batters in the first inning. Matt Harvey has become a star, but you need to know where he came from to realize exactly how impressive that is.

Grant Bisbee sounds off on the Harv becoming an event pitcher here.

(Next up, a hard-hitting expose about how Kyle Seager leads the American League in doubles because he doesn’t like to have to run all the way around the bases at once*. And just wait til the Seags makes the All-Star Game for the first time.**)

(* The only part of this sentence that is true is that Kyle Seager leads the AL in doubles.)

(** This sentence is totally true, which is why you should never doubt baseball fanatics with cameras, Seager.)

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matt harvey and his mustache

baseball: unc @ duke, game two

In honor of Matt Harvey’s excellent MLB debut last night, Mets fans, let’s all take a moment for honoring another contributor to Matt Harvey’s career path to this debut: Matt Harvey’s mustache. It was kind of patchy, and it was with us only briefly, but it was there, once. And so, let us stand with our hands over our hearts, saluting Matt Harvey’s patchy mustache of 2010 and its contribution to the Harv’s MLB debut.

Sadly, I cannot find any photographic evidence of the brief but amazing 2009 ACC tournament Mohawk, and gratefully there is no photographic evidence of the time I drunkenly poured a beer on him in Zebulon.

Congrats, Matthew John Harvey, you jerk. You were great last night.

baseball: va tech @ unc

baseball: va tech @ unc, game two

baseball: vatech @ unc, game 3

Twenty six and twenty seven.

The Heels sent seniors Ryan Graepel, Mike Cavisinni and Colin Bates (a redshirt junior who graduated in May) off with a resounding series sweep of Virginia Tech this weekend. Bittersweet because we’re still out of the ACC tournament thanks to Georgia Tech failing to get it done in sweeping BC, and because it was almost hard to watch them play as well as they’re capable this weekend when they’ve hardly done that for the rest of the season, but truly sweet as well, for the victories. Those three boys and Matt Harvey deserved nothing less.

Yesterday was the last game we’ll see live this year, and now they’re on ice for a week while the team waits to see if an RPI of 21 will sneak them into the NCAA tournament. Obviously we’re in no position to host a regional, like we have the last four years, but I’d like to see the seniors, who’ve been to three straight College World Series (and Cavi’s been to four), have one last chance. Fresno State made it to Omaha and won the whole thing as a four seed1 in 2008. Maybe these boys can, too.

Regardless of whether or not we play on, and as I say every year: thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

1: essentially a four seed in a ncaa regional is the equivalent of a 12-16 seed in the ncaa basketball tournament, except that you have to play no fewer than 10 games over the course of the baseball tournament to win it all, and usually you’ll have to win 11 or 12 because of the chunks of tournament that are double elimination. the ncaa baseball tournament is complicated but basically fresno state winning it all as, like, a 13 seed in 2008 was a big deal.

baseball: unc @ duke, game two


baseball: unc @ duke, game two, originally uploaded by minervacat.

Twenty five. (Albeit without a new photo, because I went out without a battery in the camera last night, like a complete moron. This one’s from early March.)

If you’d told me two years ago that I would get a little vapoury when Matt Harvey left last night’s Carolina/VaTech game in the 8th inning, I would have punched you in the face. Or at least called the men in white coats to come get you. Matt Harvey drove me crazier than any other baseball player ever has, so much fucking potential and his first two years for Carolina were full of walks and wild pitches and departures from games in the 2nd inning with no outs and the bases loaded, due to “back spasm”, which is code for “Matt Harvey’s bruised ego and inability to spot his breaking pitches and also his fastball”.

But last night, I cried. He’s projected to go late in the first round or early in the supplemental round in this year’s MLB Draft, and he’ll deserve it, when it happens. Matt Harvey turned down third round money — a lot of third round money if gossip is to be believed — out of high school to come to Carolina and grow up, and this year he’s done it. He’s in the top ten all-time at Carolina in strikeouts. He reduced his career BB/9 to below 4. He has been the one reliable thing on an unreliable team. Last night was his final start at Boshamer Stadium, because even if Carolina sneaks into the tournament, they won’t host a regional this year.

And when Coach pulled him — albeit a bit too late, after back to back homers cut Carolina’s lead to 13-6 — yeah. I cried a little. I cried when Coach talked about him on the radio show after. And even though he’s been a huge pain in my ass for three years, I’m going to miss the Harv. Whoever drafts him will draft an adventure, and a boy who grew up, and a really solid pitcher.

baseball: wake forest @ unc, game 2

Twenty three.

A large part of Carolina’s problems this season can be linked to the fact that, before yesterday, they hadn’t won a game on a Saturday since March 20. It’s nice to go into Sunday knowing that you’ve already taken the series, and that, in all likelihood, your opponent, who is even more of a mess than you are, has trotted out the last weapon that they had and he threw 122 pitches yesterday, so probably you won’t have to see him again. (Aside from an unearned run on three errors and a solo home run, Austin Stadler shut the Heels down pretty damn well.)

Chris Munnelly is settling down into a really promising starter, and Colin Bates was absolutely beastly out of the bullpen. And we hit.

80% of my photos were out of focus, though. On the upside, it was also too hot to want to shoot much, so 80% was only about 40 shots.

baseball: nc state @ unc, game three

Nineteen.

Just a couple of hours after I took this, no one on the UNC baseball team had any hair anymore. (Photos of that are here.)

baseball: nc state @ unc

baseball: nc state @ unc, game one

baseball: nc state @ unc, game two

Seventeen and eighteen.

Players will ALWAYS look for shortcuts; if you told Pat Burrell he could legally avoid second base and just run directly from first to third straight over the pitcher’s mound, he’d do it. — Rob Iracane for Walkoff Walk