How The Mets Mishandled the Harvey/Boras Innings Limit Situation

By: Brian Mangan

There has been a lot of talk about this on twitter today, so I figured the best thing to do would be to jot down my thoughts all in one place. First, some stipulations.

  • The “science” behind arm injuries is sketchy at best and we are mostly guessing.
  • Boras’s duty is to zealously represent his client.

With that said, the Mets have badly mishanded this innings situation. By leaving it vague and open-ended in the spring, and by not limiting Harvey’s use throughout the season so far, the Mets have made it possible for this exact controversy to exist right now.

Here’s what Scott Boras had to say about his client Matt Harvey’s usage this season:

boras

Harvey is currently at 166 innings pitched in his first season back from Tommy John Surgery. He pitched 178 innings in 2013 before his injury, and then missed the entire 2014 season while rehabbing.

The Mets had been careful with Harvey, refusing to allow him to pitch at the end of a meaningless 2014 season, and they have been wise and measured with most of their actions. However, they have failed with respect to the most important parts — setting expectations and controlling his use.

The Mets Failed to Set Expectations

Everyone knew in the Spring that the Mets had a decent chance of competing in 2015, and that Harvey would be watched carefully. So what did the Mets do? Well — nothing. They didn’t set rules, they didn’t set expectations, and they didn’t manage the public relations dialogue.

In one instance, they told Ted Berg at Sports Illustrated that Harvey would have an innings cap of 200, including the playoffs:

200

In another instance, they said there would be a “soft” cap:

soft

In yet another instance, Harvey’s own pitching coach said that he would be “skeptical” of Harvey reaching 200 innings:

warthern

The Mets could have taken the position that there is no science behind innings limits, etc. But they didn’t. They acknowledged in all of their public statements that there would be a cap, either hard or soft, and that they would be careful. Once they committed to that course of action, they had to follow it — and they failed to.

The Mets Didn’t Use Harvey Wisely

The Mets did not skip Harvey starts early in the season; and they did not take Harvey out of games that were blowouts. In at least three games this season, Harvey threw over 100 pitches in games where the Mets had a lead of four runs or more in the sixth inning or later. If this was an issue that was definite or probable, why didn’t the Mets take steps to prevent it?

Even if the cap was agreed upon at 200 innings — the highest number mentioned by anyone this year, and in excess of what Warthen and Boras claim — then Harvey has only 34 innings left this season. Harvey is going to be way over that if the Mets make a playoff run.

Now, The Mets Are Stuck Facing Reality

This is a disastrous situation for the Mets. Not because of the “science” surround his arm, but because Scott Boras can now make noise and wave his arms around and say, rightfully, the Mets agree of the dangers but they they never had a plan. Instead of confronting it in the Spring, the Mets chose to postpone the public relations disaster until such time that it was clear the playoffs were possible.

The Mets simply hoped that this would work itself out. Maybe they’d miss the playoffs, maybe Harvey would have an unrelated DL stint, who knows. But at this moment, none of those things have happened. Now, Scott Boras gets to say things like, “This is not a club’s decision. This is a doctor’s decision,” Boras said. “Any club that chooses to defy a surgeon’s wishes is putting the player in peril.”

Whether he is right or wrong is not the issue, because people don’t know. I don’t know, you don’t know. Even the doctors don’t know, but at least they can render an expert opinion on the matter. But the Mets, by accepting the authority of these doctors and acknowledging a standard of care for Harvey, cannot argue now that there shouldn’t be a limit. It’s too late for that argument.

Right now, Scott Boras is generating an incredible record in his favor. The Mets postponed making a decision on how to preserve Harvey, and now, nobody can definitively tell Scott Boras that he is wrong:

sfaffrds

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Brian Mangan is an attorney living in New York City.