Matt Harvey: Can He Become One of the Rare Young Leaders in Sports?

Jed Hughes@JedhugheskfCorrespondent IMay 10, 2013

Matt Harvey was nearly perfect in his last start, allowing one hit over nine innings with 12 strikeouts. Harvey is 4-0 on the season with a 1.28 ERA.
Matt Harvey was nearly perfect in his last start, allowing one hit over nine innings with 12 strikeouts. Harvey is 4-0 on the season with a 1.28 ERA.Marc Serota/Getty Images

Matt Harvey, the big right-hander for the New York Mets, might have the goods to be the latest in the string of top-notch pitchers developed by the organization.  The 24-year-old Mystic, CT native was selected as the seventh-overall pick in the 2010 MLB draft, and he is already drawing comparisons to Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, who led the 1969 Mets to the Promised Land at the same age. 

The 6'4", 225-pound Harvey began his career with a win against the Arizona Diamondbacks and set the Mets record by striking out 11 in his major league debut. 

A standout at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Harvey has infused the Mets franchise with a confidence that seems contagious, particularly when he is on the mound.  Many fans have already labeled him "The Real Deal" for a team that has had many promising home-grown pitchers disappoint since the much-hyped "Generation K" in the early '90s. 

Matt Harvey's teammates and GM Sandy Alderson have praised both the young Mets pitcher's ability and his maturity.  Although starting pitchers take the mound only once every four days, the best ones can carry their teams.  

Greats such as Tom Seaver and Justin Verlander (age 23) for the Tigers in 2006 literally carried their teams on their shoulders.  Madison Bumgarner threw eight shutout innings at age 20 in the 2010 World Series against the Rangers and tossed seven innings of two-hit, shutout ball against the Tigers last October at age 22. 

Sometimes, the title is official.  Derek Jeter, David Wright and Paul Konerko are the only captains in the major leagues.  However, it has been more than a quarter-century since there was a full-time player-manager in baseball.  Pete Rose was the game's last full-time player-manager with the Cincinnati Reds from 1984-86, although, in the early days of the game, it was relatively commonplace. 

Hall of Famers Mickey Cochrane, Joe Cronin, Leo Durocher and Frankie Frisch all were successful player-managers.  Connie Mack and John McGraw, the two winningest managers in baseball history, also started as player-managers.

Lou Boudreau was just 24 years old when he took over as player-manager of the Cleveland Indians in 1942.  He not only guided the Indians to the 1948 World Series title, but he also won the MVP award.  

At age 27, Bucky Harris became the youngest manager to win a World Series, as he led the Washington Senators to their only title in 1924.  Roger Peckinpaugh was just 23 when he managed the New York Yankees for the final 20 games of the 1914 season. 

Lane Kiffin became the youngest NFL head coach at age 31 when he took over at the helm for the Oakland Raiders in January 2007.  John Madden was just shy of 33 when he took over as coach of the Oakland Raiders.  Don Shula was 33 when he began coaching the Baltimore Colts.  Both went on to become NFL legends.

Can someone be a leader while in his or her early twenties?  Yes.  But the age of "maturity" often depends on the sport.  In women's gymnastics and ice skating, athletes in their early 20s are considered veterans. 

At 27, Michael Phelps is considered an elder statesman in swimming.  Magic Johnson was just 20-years-old when he led a Lakers team that already included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the NBA championship in the 1979-80 season. 

Second-year player Gabriel Landeskog became the youngest captain in NHL history this year when the Colorado Avalanche named him their on-ice leader at age 19.  According to The Hockey News, Landeskog was just 11 days younger than Sidney Crosby was when he took over as captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2007.

What sets leaders apart?  Performance is at the top.  Teammates want to emulate performers who are successful, competitive and consistent.  Leaders—young and old—respond to adversity, encourage teammates to take accountability and perform in the clutch. 

They don't look for excuses.  They identify areas that need improvement and inspire others to raise their game.  We've seen teenagers and athletes in their early 20s emerge as big-time leaders.  Age is often irrelevant.


Jed Hughes is Vice Chair of Korn/Ferry and the leader of the executive search firm's Global Sports Practice. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter @jedhughesKF.