NEW YORK -- Matt Harvey, the brash, fireballing pitcher who assumed a superhero persona as he rose to prominence in Queens, then tumbled back to mortality amidst injuries and controversy, announced his retirement Friday from professional baseball.
“Goodbye, baseball. And thank you,” Harvey wrote on Instagram, captioning a longer missive in which he reminisced on his career and thanked his family, friends, fans and former teammates.
A first-round Draft pick of the Mets in 2010, Harvey captivated New York three years later when he went 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA over 26 starts, starting the All-Star Game at Citi Field and making frequent appearances on the gossip pages of city tabloids. That summer, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated alongside the title “The Dark Knight of Gotham,” spawning a nickname that would stick for the rest of his career.
“I’ve been fortunate to be around some greats, but there’s nobody who brought that extra attention or that charismatic, Broadway-type performance aspect to the mound with them every fifth day like Matt did,” longtime Mets teammate David Wright said Friday in a telephone interview. “It was just this can’t-miss, you-better-tune-in-because-something-special-could-happen every fifth day.”
But Harvey’s story quickly became one of lost potential, as he underwent Tommy John surgery that August and missed the entire 2014 season, publicly sparring with team officials over details of his rehab.
The next year, he returned to the mound and enjoyed renewed success as part of a wave of young pitchers that came to include Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, all while fans and team officials kept close watch on his innings total. Initially reticent to pitch in the postseason, Harvey eventually relented and responded with the capstone performance of his career: eight scoreless innings in World Series Game 5 against the Royals. But manager Terry Collins' decision to leave him in for the ninth -- at Harvey’s urging -- resulted in two runs that led to defeat.
“I know it ended badly, but he pitched into that ninth inning,” Matz said, reminiscing Friday in St. Louis. “He was such a fun guy to watch and watch him compete. He started off really well, and he really fed off what was going on in New York. It was fun for me to come up and see him doing that.”
In retrospect, that night was the climax of Harvey's career. His 2016 campaign wound up being a shell of what had come before, and it was revealed around midsummer that he needed surgery to remove a rib and alleviate symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome. Harvey never truly recovered. Amidst flagging velocity, he produced a 6.70 ERA the following season and was traded in 2018 to Cincinnati, where he began the process of bouncing to five teams in four seasons.
In Anaheim, Harvey became embroiled in controversy following the death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs from an accidental overdose in 2019. Harvey testified that he had provided Skaggs with drugs while the two were teammates. His testimony came during the trial of Eric Kay, a former Angels employee who was ultimately convicted of giving Skaggs the oxycodone that led to his death. MLB suspended Harvey for 60 games in 2022 for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program.
In 2021, Harvey returned to Citi Field for the first time as an opponent and received multiple standing ovations. He pitched in Baltimore’s Minor League system in 2022 but did not make it back to the Majors, becoming a free agent last November.
Harvey’s last act in a high-level competition was to pitch for Team Italy in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. There, he experienced enough success to entertain thoughts of a comeback, but two months later, Harvey announced his retirement.
He finished his big league career with a 50-66 record, a 4.42 ERA and 867 strikeouts over 966 1/3 innings.
“To the fans, most importantly the NY Mets fans: you made a dream come true for me,” Harvey wrote on Instagram. “A dream I never could have thought to be true. Who would have thought a kid from Mystic, CT would be able to play in the greatest city in the world, his hometown. You are forever embedded in my heart.”