Looking At Matt Harvey’s Apology From A Psychological Point Of View

Matt Harvey walked into media room at Citi Field and delivered an apology directed at the press and fans. This media event occurred after a meeting with the manager, Terry Collins. During the 20 minutes Harvey was clearly uncomfortable. He looked anxious and his voice sounded strained. He was trying to present the truth regarding his absence from the team on Saturday. What he had been doing was very different from the migraine excuse he had initially offered the team.  He acknowledged being out after curfew on Friday night and playing golf on Saturday. Representatives of the team were sent to Harvey’s apartment when he didn’t show up for the game and the team became very concerned about him.

During his apology speech and responses to a number of questions from the press, Harvey wanted to put this event behind him and get back to focusing on helping his team win.  He repeated his positive intentions a number of times as if you keep saying it he would believe it and the manager and the fans would believe it.

Obviously, it is hard to know what is really going through someone’s mind. All we have to go on is what the person says and what he does. Do the behaviors and words line up with each other? If they don’t line up, the words are not true. The words maybe reflective of his conscious intentions, but there is something else operating. The person may want his words to reflect what he truly believes. The words could also be consciously created fiction. With Harvey, it is hard to know what is operating. This is not the first-time Harvey has had some problem following team rules. So, something may be going on with Harvey. It is good to remember that the best predictor of future behavior is what he did last. This is true with all of us. So, what is the general manager Sandy Alderson and Collins going to do?

Collins has a lot to consider. Harvey, when he is right, has been and can be a very important piece of the team’s goal of winning its way to another World Series appearance. When Harvey is not right, he will not only contribute to that goal, he may create an erosion of moral on the entire team. Maybe that has already occurred because the Mets have struggled this year for many reasons including injuries to the pitching staff.  

The players are adults who are making a great deal of money. The fans are not making as much money, but are paying a lot of money to watch these adult players play a game and make millions. To be fair, even though Harvey is rich and an adult, we are all humans with a part of us that is childlike. Also, we all make mistakes, but correcting repetitive negative behaviors requires a willingness to look in the “mirror.” It is another consideration for Collins. I’m sure he cares about Harvey. But, Harvey may need more than caring. I am sure that Terry Collins knows that he cannot sacrifice the team for one player.

Dr. Paul Schienberg is a sports psychologist with 40 years of experience in the field. His practice is in New York City.


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