2002 NEWS

2002 News > 12/6/02


By Mark Bradley, Atlanta-Journal Constitution

The Braves just let a Hall of Famer leave. That's the bottom line here -- not Tom Glavine's age, not the money the Mets will pay him, not the number of years on his contract. You can rationalize the numbers all you want, but there's no rationalizing what this franchise just did: It let a Hall of Famer leave when he clearly wanted to stay.

Tom Glavine was the cornerstone of Decade-Plus Of Excellence, and cornerstones aren't unearthed lightly. Glavine loved it here, loved playing for Bobby Cox and working with Leo Mazzone, loved hanging around with his longtime pitching pals. The Braves could have kept him without breaking a sweat. They didn't have to match the offers from New York and Philadelphia; they had only to come close enough to make Glavine feel comfortable about taking less. They had only to treat him with the respect he deserved. They did not.

They didn't return his calls. They didn't make a feasible first offer, and their final proposal seemed insulting. They were willing to give him three years at around $9 million per season. In yearly wages, that's roughly twice as much to keep a Hall of Famer as the Braves paid to sign the unlamented Albie Lopez last winter. That's roughly twice as much to keep a guy who won 242 games for this franchise as they gave a pitcher who wound up winning a grand total of one. Anyone out there think Tom Glavine isn't twice as good as Albie Lopez?

In the end, the Braves left Glavine no choice. He'd have looked like an idiot had he taken $6 million less to re-up, and he is, as we know, nobody's fool. The Braves all but drove him into the desperate arms of the despised Mets, and no amount of spinning from John Schuerholz will ever make this seem anything beyond what it is: A mistake of such howling proportions that you'd have sworn it was the work by some maladroit GM. The Mets' Steve Phillips, say.

Astonishingly, no. This was the esteemed Schuerholz, who had never lost a free agent he sought to keep. Indeed, the Braves' mistreatment of Glavine almost makes it seem as if they didn't want him to stay. Only why wouldn't they? He won 18 games with an ERA of 2.96 last season. He's 36, yes, but his skills haven't sustained even a marginal diminution. He's younger than Roger Clemens, younger than Randy Johnson. And Glavine is, lest we forget, the epitome of what the Braves claimed to be about.

He's a standup guy. He does his work. He takes responsibility for his mistakes. He's a presence in the clubhouse, a producer on the field. If you're looking for the model professional athlete, here he is. And there he goes, bound for Flushing, N.Y., because the organization he served since 1984 chose to flush its brains down yonder toilet.

Loyalty isn't the issue. The Braves were right to trade the sainted Dale Murphy when they did because he was conspicuously on the downslope of his career and was about to become a free agent and was playing for a last-place team besides. Tom Glavine isn't Dale Murphy. Glavine can go on winning 15 games a year until he's 40, and his pitching helped the Braves finish first without fail. It wasn't time for him to go, wasn't even close. For reasons that make no sense now and will make less over time, they looked on this Hall of Famer and saw just another disposable part.

Tom Glavine waited as long as he could, longer than he probably should have, for the Braves to make a serious offer. Instead they held the door as the symbol of these last dozen seasons left in a huff. Don't blame Glavine. He wanted only what we all want, which is to be appreciated by our employer. He'll be beloved in New York.

And the Braves? Well, they're free to spend the money they've saved by spurning a Hall of Famer on a half-dozen Albie Lopezes. We'll wait and see where that gets them. Second place seems a reasonable guess