By Joseph Staszewski
New York Mets ace Matt Harvey has a chance to earn more than wins and strikeouts with his blazing fastball and model good looks. He has shown the potential to make the city his and be the Mets’ version of Derek Jeter during his career.
That’s a statement at face value that may anger New York Yankees fans and even some Mets faithful. Being a pitcher makes his effect on the game different than Jeter, a shortstop who plays every day. Many may say the Mets have their answer to Jeter in David Wright. To those, even as a Mets fan, I say this is Jeter’s city right now and Wright has just been living in it during his career. Now Jeter is at the tail end of his career while Harvey is just beginning his. The throne could be vacated soon.
Harvey, in his first full season, has already shown a mainstream appeal. The 24-year-old right-hander was the best pitcher in the National League through the first half of the season. He has already had a Sports Illustrated cover story, been featured naked in ESPN the Magazine’s The Body Issue and did an designer clothing photo shoot for the New York Post.
Harvey nailed a pre-All-Star Game bit on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” where he asked random New Yorkers questions about Matt Harvey with them unaware they were talking to the man himself. He then threw two scoreless innings against the American League’s best and got a standing ovation from Mets fans as he walked off the field.
He is a die-hard New York Rangers fan and is close friends with goalie Henrik Lundqvist. It was at Madison Square Garden where he met current girlfriend and model Anne Vyalitsyna. Remember the days when all the gossip pages cared about was who Jeter was dating, whether it was Mariah Carey, Jessica Alba or Jessica Biel? Harvey has recently said that Jeter is the model on how to limit your personal life from the public spotlight. He is now the guy who can bring this generation’s fringe fans over to the Mets the same way Jeter did with the Yankees in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Pitching every five days gives Harvey a different feel as a player. It creates an event atmosphere, a palpable buzz whenever he is on the mound, especially at Citi Field. You could see Jeter play 150 times a year. Harvey is on the field only about 30. It’s like getting to watch a rock star perform in limited engagements.
Harvey still has a way to go before he is even close to Jeter. There has to be plenty of winning, too — something the Mets are not doing enough of right now. If things turn around, Harvey will be the face of it, the dominant and confident player in New York City on a winning ball club. He’s already put himself out there a bit more than Jeter ever had, but has handled himself well.
Mets fans should enjoy who and what Matt Harvey is: the key to a future run to the World Series along with the battle for New York City.