The United States Department of Labor’s website describes Labor Day as “a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
When the idea of Labor Day was hatched more than 100 years ago, it’s hard to imagine a struggle involving a wealthy laborer would so aptly define the ongoing battles between the workforce and management, but that’s exactly what we have now on the holiday here in 2015.
The worker, Matt Harvey, is making in excess of $600,000 to pitch for the New York Mets this season. That’s quite a bit of money to most of us, but it’s also a pittance compared to what Harvey, still relatively young, stands to make in the future when he becomes arbitration-eligible and ultimately a free agent.
He missed the entire 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. This year, he has been a driving force for a Mets team leading the NL East and poised to reach the postseason for the first time since 2006.
But the new model — whether be it science, guesswork or some combination thereof — is to restrict the innings of a pitcher returning from such an injury. Harvey has thrown 166⅓ innings this season; his agent, Scott Boras, said recently that the famed Dr. James Andrews has advised that Harvey doesn’t exceed 180 this year.
That would be a problem for the Mets since Harvey figures to reach that mark after roughly two more starts — one of which comes Tuesday — and could not pitch in the playoffs if that plan was adhered to and the Mets made it that far.
So Harvey’s agent —who is looking after his long-term health and wealth in addition to his own wealth — is on one side.
“They are obviously putting the player in peril,” Boras said recently.
But the Mets are trusting their own plan, and an unnamed Mets official told ESPN.com, regarding Harvey and the postseason: “Trust me. He’s pitching.”
And Harvey? He’s riding the fence.
“I’m going to always play,” he told reporters recently, while declining to guarantee he will pitch in the playoffs. “Like I said, I hired Dr. Andrews to do my surgery. I hired Scott for a reason, and that’s to prolong my career and put me in the best possible position. Moving forward with that, I have one start in mind, and that’s Tuesday.”
The issue is distinctly modern, though it is not entirely new. Boras also represented Stephen Strasburg in 2012 when the Nationals shut him down in September under very similar circumstances to Harvey. Washington made the playoffs but lost 3-2 in the division series.
Strasburg bumped his innings up in 2013 and 2014 but has missed a lot of time this season because of back, neck and oblique problems. The Nationals still haven’t won a playoff series during his tenure. It’s hard to say if the cautious approach has helped Strasburg’s long-term health, but he does figure to cash in when he becomes a free agent in 2017 as long as his arm holds out until then.
There are a lot of best interests to consider as we bring the attention back to Harvey. It will be fascinating to see who wins out in the end.