Raissman: Mets’ Matt Harvey takes over as NYC’s diamond star

By on February 15, 2015

Returning Mets ace Matt Harvey has more marquee value than anyone on the Yankees.RYAN STONE RYAN@RYANSTONEPHOTOb.COM Returning Mets ace Matt Harvey has more marquee value than anyone on the Yankees.

While the uncertainty of coming off elbow surgery accompanies Matt Harvey into this new baseball season, there also is a bright reality for him and the Mets.

Harvey now has more marquee value than anyone on the Yankees.

The media buzz will be with him, surround him. For all those years, with all that star power lighting up the Bronx, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and others were the focus, the hot properties.

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Now it’s Harvey who is primed to leap into a dizzying atmosphere where sports collides with entertainment’s sprawling landscape.

With the Captain gone, and a tarnished Rodriguez returning but not knowing if he can even hang on, Harvey will claim center stage for himself. Without producing a darn thing except showing promise and promoting hope for a struggling franchise, Harvey is on his way to becoming one of the few crossover, and potentially transcendent, personalities the Mets have ever produced.

That’s saying a mouthful considering he doesn’t even have two full seasons in the major leagues under his cap. In short order, he has combined glimpses of mound brilliance with a bulldog attitude. Harvey’s personality is suited for the clubhouse and late night television.

RELATED: MARK FEINSAND’S FIVE BURNING QUESTIONS FOR YANKEES

Assorted Seamheads point to Harvey’s “swagger.” The main attraction is his fearless side. Harvey uses it to his advantage on the mound and outside the lines. This is a cat who says what’s on his mind, not serving up pap to boss scribes.

This is a guy who believes in doing things his way, even if it rubs the Mets’ front office and ownership the wrong way. That was the case last season during his rehabilitation after surgery on his right elbow.

And there’s the rub. Considering his past, Harvey won’t be veering off the road he’s traveled while building his brand. That means a lot of talking and a lot of man-about-towning. Mets brass was not thrilled over the pitcher’s extracurricular activity. Will there be more conflict with management when he does his own thing while on the comeback trail?

Will this create juicy headlines and friction, and enhance Harvey’s reputation as an independent soul?

This is a crucial year for Harvey. Still, all the outside stuff — appearances, endorsement opportunities — will be available for him to embrace. How are Mets brainiacs going to deal with this?

There also could be on-field issues. Like how Harvey reacts to the innings limit he will be placed under. Will he be down with Sandy Alderson/Terry Collins’ plan? Harvey is not going to hide his feelings if he isn’t. Then again, in his brief career, controversy has been part of Matt Harvey’s charm.

What would a star be without some?

ALL-STAR SHOTS

There are a few reasons for us to watch the NBA All-Star Game Sunday. And it’s not to see if Carmelo Anthony plays.

One is to find out if James (Guitar Jimmy) Dolan shows up at the Gulag. Another is to see whether he is in his familiar baseline seat. Still another is to see if TNT, unlike the MSG Network, sticks a camera in Dolan’s face.

And yet another is to hear whether Marv Albert, or his partners, bring up Dolan’s email caper. If Dolan is in the house, and none of this happpens, only one conclusion can be reached.

That Adam Silver ordered TNT to lay off the “consummate New Yorker.”

THAT FIG-URES

Nelson Figueroa will soon become SportsNet New York’s third full-time Mets studio analyst.

MLB TV moles say Figueroa, the loquacious journeyman pitcher who was with the Mets in 2008-2009, agreed to a deal with SNY late last week.

Figueroa will replace Bobby Ojeda, who spent six seasons in SNY’s Mets pre- and postgame studio. Ojeda wanted to return this season but he and SNY suits could not reach agreement on financial terms of a new deal.

In 2009 Ojeda replaced Lee Mazzilli, who was SNY’s first Mets studio analyst.

So now Figueroa, who was born in Brooklyn and went to Lincoln High, has big shoes to fill. Ojeda was straight-talking and outspoken working with Chris Carlin and, most recently, Gary Apple.

Figueroa, who has done work with MLB Network, is taking the new gig seriously. Sources said he and his wife and daughter will move from their home in Arizona to New York.

STUDIO GRIND

The coming of Figueroa raises a broader question:

Where is the next crop of local baseball TV analysts coming from? These guys will be harder to find. More and more, baseball analysts will be coming from the ranks of players who are not exactly household names.

Here’s why: The salaries major league players make, from the stars to middle-level players, are astronomical compared to what they were 10 or 15 years ago.

And the money is only going to get even bigger. If a player takes care of his moo-la-dee he won’t be forced to work when he retires. By comparison, analyst gigs pay peanuts.

To excel, and survive, takes intense daily preparation for at least six months.

A studio job requires an analyst to show up early in the afternoon to prepare for the pregame show. Then, they watch the game on TV, preparing for the postgame show. Not exactly glamorous work.

The same holds true for game analysts who spend much of the season on the road. Does anyone really think Keith Hernandez would be working in TV if he earned the kind of money players of his caliber now make when he was playing?

This is why more players who are retiring are opting for a less “intense” line of work. Some stars will continue gravitating to network gigs (ESPN, Fox, Turner) where they only have to show up once a week until the postseason arrives.

That’s still easy money.

CALLING DEION

NFL Network suits acted quickly to bounce Warren Sapp after he got busted for soliciting a prostitute the morning after the Super Bowl.

Industry sources say NFLN brass is not in a hurry to find his replacement. With its roster of former players to chose from, NFLN already has plenty of candidates.

The decision could be made not to replace Sapp. That would still leave five warm bodies working “GameDay Morning.”

Then again, those NFLN guys have always been interested in using Hall of Famers with Super Bowl rings. And since Sapp was the only defensive player on the panel, NFLN execs might want to replace him with another defender.

That would make Deion Sanders a prime candidate with an inside track to fill the vacant seat. 

* * *

DUDE OF THE WEEK: TIM WALSH

With the NBA honoring its stars Sunday in the Garden, this space salutes the Nets head athletic trainer for the way he performs, especially under pressure. Earlier this month Nets scout Jim Sann went into cardiac arrest during a practice. It was Walsh and his staff who, between using CPR and a defibrillator, brought Sann back to life. Sann is the father of two young children who lost their mom to cancer three years ago. Last month, after Mirza Teletovic suffered shortness of breath during a Nets-Clippers game in L.A., Walsh, taking a possible life-saving precaution, refused to let the Bosnian fly home on the team plane. Teletovic remained in the hospital where doctors discovered blood clots in both lungs. Quick thinking. Quick reacting. That’s Walsh — a true All-Star.

DWEEB OF THE WEEK: JAMES (GUITAR JIMMY) DOLAN

For his email stylings. The lyricist in the Gulag boss (Adam Silver’s “consummate New Yorker”) emerged when he wrote The Ballad of Irving Bierman. With lines like, “Alcoholic maybe,” and “You most likely have made your family miserable,” Guitar Jimmy flirted with writing what must be considered an American classic. Seriously though, what struck us most about this episode is the following: Dolan has all these lackeys around to protect him from himself and they fail time and again. This is not the first time they’ve let him escape the reservation, or in this case hit “send.”

What Carmelo Anthony said: “Now, I’ve got to start thinking about the future.”

What Carmelo Anthony meant to say: “Future? I got my money. My future is set. Now, take me to the operating room.”

Recommended article: Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.
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