Amid the unwelcome news that CC Sabathia was headed to rehab because of his problems with alcohol, the thing that struck me most was the almost reverential words so many of the pitcher’s current and former teammates and coaches had to say about him.
Those words gave voice to what we’ve long believed: Sabathia is a great teammate, a go-to guy, a leader -- an ace.
Sabathia was an ace in Cleveland, even in his early 20s. He was an ace in Milwaukee after a mid-season trade there in 2008, seemingly taking the mound every other day -- and risking the huge payday he had on the horizon with free agency looming. He instantly became the ace in the Bronx when he joined the Yankees -- no easy feat when “core four” stalwart Andy Pettitte was still around. Maybe, just maybe, it was no coincidence that the Yanks won their first World Series title in nearly a decade in Sabathia’s inaugural season in pinstripes.
Meanwhile, earlier this week in Queens, David Wright’s words about Matt Harvey weren’t exactly reverential. In fact, the Mets captain wouldn’t even acknowledge Harvey after the hurler missed a team workout because, well, he lost track of time (and if you believe that …). Wright said he was only concerned about the guys who showed up.
Is Matt Harvey an ace? A leader? We know he loves the spotlight. But he doesn’t seem so big on doing the little things that add up to so much.
There are times when it seems like the 26-year-old right-hander is ready to take command of the Mets’ precocious pitching staff, and of the team itself -- especially when Harvey is doing the talking instead of uber-agent Scott Boras. And then there are times like the other day.
Considering how tired I am of Harvey’s myriad distractions, I can only imagine how fed up Wright and his teammates are. Actually, no need for conjecture -- Wright’s words (or lack thereof) spoke volumes.
Harvey hasn’t made big money yet, and he’s got every right to put the long-term health of his career first. And, if even for selfish reasons, Mets fans should prize that over short-term glory as well, because the pitcher has the chance to be one of the great players ever to wear the orange-and-blue.
No one is suggesting Harvey pitch on short rest or anything even remotely close to that. The fact is, the Mets don’t need him to. And, looking down the road a bit, with a potential five-man rotation of Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndegaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler shutting down opposing hitters for years to come, he won’t need to carry the team.
Harvey doesn’t need to be superman, but he does need to show up. He needs to be a leader on the staff and, eventually, with Wright not getting any younger, in the clubhouse. He needs to show the way, by words and example.
If he’s going to be a true ace, now would be a really good time to show it.