The Mets have suspended starting pitcher Matt Harvey for three games without pay for violating undisclosed team rules, a seemingly small but actually astonishing development in a season full of seemingly small but actually astonishing developments for the club.
The 28-year-old was supposed to take the mound on Sunday against the Marlins, so the Mets were forced to recall left-hander Adam Wilk from Triple-A to make the spot start. Though the suspension was announced on Sunday, it technically began on Saturday and will run through Monday, meaning Harvey could start again as soon as Tuesday, when the Mets will face the Giants. The timing of the suspension coupled with the Mets’ signature but always bizarre refusal to share details with the press — “We’re going to keep it in-house, the way it’s supposed to be,” manager Terry Collins said about the reason behind the three-game ban — lent extra credence to the speculation that something either really bad or really weird must have happened.
Much of that speculation centered on Dildo-gate. In case you, like Ringer staff writer Katie Baker, lost power over the weekend and missed the latest failed tightrope walk in the cringeworthy circus that is the Mets’ season, here’s a brief refresher: On Friday night, the official Mets Twitter feed posted a photo of infielder T.J. Rivera standing in front of catcher Kevin Plawecki’s locker — and thus in front of the large dildo that a prankster teammate had placed there. Plawecki tried very hard to convince everyone that the sex toy wasn’t his, and for most teams, the misadventure would have concluded amid that cheerful awkwardness. But because these are the Mets, half the internet initially assumed that Harvey had been the dildo-placing culprit, and had been suspended for trying to have fun at the expense of the Mets’ always-fragile image.
We have precious few details about what Harvey did, but reporters quickly disabused Twitter sleuths everywhere of any dildo-centric notions:
Collins held a 10-minute closed-door meeting with the team to discuss the suspension, which indicates that whatever Harvey did, or whatever fallout the team is expecting based on what he did, might merit a more measured reaction than a series of dick jokes.
But we can’t properly react to what we don’t understand, and that makes the Mets’ decision to behave like an SEC football program all the more baffling. A violation of team rules? This isn’t the language or behavior that we associate with professional franchises, because it isn’t the language or behavior that pro franchises typically employ. There’s wanting to protect privacy and recognizing that “there’s things with this job that certainly are internal that the public can’t see,” as Collins told the media on Sunday, and then there’s failing, fully and repeatedly, to understand how your words and actions will translate with the public at large.
As Yahoo’s Jeff Passan noted earlier Sunday, this kind of punishment is “extremely rare.” We associate baseball suspensions with league-mandated bans for PED use. So it’s tempting to say that we’re all overreacting to how bizarre this is or isn’t because it’s the Mets … but that’s kind of the point: It’s uncommon for a team to punish its most famous star without being forced to do so, and despite Harvey’s 5.14 ERA and 5.1 K/9 rate in his first season back from surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome, he’s undeniably still one of the faces of the team. He’s also a tabloid mainstay, making the Mets’ failure to understand that their caginess would only fuel the rumor mill all the more puzzling.
Maybe Harvey did something reprehensible here; maybe he’s the one who deserves our scrutiny. Or maybe the Mets — who are still waiting for shark-fishing enthusiast Steven Matz to return to health, just added Asdrúbal Cabrera to an ever-growing list of roster-wrecking injuries, and as recently as Sunday morning couldn’t get on message about whether or not Noah Syndergaard was going on the 60-day DL — can’t help but act like dildos.