Matthew Cerrone, Lead Writer
Yes, one player can change a franchise. That’s what several baseball coaches, managers, players and executives told me before the Home Run Derby in Citi Field.
Tony LaRussa told me about Albert Pujols. St. Louis turned the corner, but did it on the back of Mark McGwire and an older roster. Pujols injected a confidence and energy that pushed and pulled teammates — and fans — to another level of success.
Davey Johnson credited Doc Gooden with a similar bold confidence and power. Darryl Strawberry was electric. Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter were the generals. But, Doc’s power, his ability to shut down an entire opposition, and the confidence, anger and focus he did it with, spread like a wildfire throughout the city and stadium in a way that no other player on the roster was capable of doing.
Matt Harvey has that ability, most everyone I talked with told me. He starts tonight for the National League, center stage for all of MLB to see, during the All-Star Game, which airs at 8 p.m. ET.
Harvey can change the Mets, not just on field, but off the field. It’s nothing against David Wright, who is the field general for this team, he’s an elite player and an even better guy. The difference is that Harvey has a tough swagger, a glare in his eye, and a seriousness about winning and never backing down that can inspire a team to change its identity and style of play.
“The question is, ‘How will he handle it all in New York?'” Davey Johnson asked rhetorically, likening Harvey’s popularity and charisma to Gooden’s fame in the same city, roughly 30 years ago.
To see Davey Johnson, Mike Trout, Joe Mauer, Clayton Kershaw, Joey Votto and others share their thoughts on Harvey after he was named starting pitcher for the NL, watch this: