2003 NEWS

2003 News > 2/8/03

GLAVINE TALKS ABOUT WHY HE LEFT THE BRAVES

By Bill Zack, The Augusta Chronicle

His two Cy Young plaques hang on a wall in his study, one at the foot of the circular staircase in his 12,000-square-foot mansion.

The lineup card and pitching chart from his 200th win are nearby, framed and signed by Atlanta Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone. His 1995 World Series MVP trophy is on a table, a short stroll from an enormous oak desk. Framed jerseys from the nights of his 200th win and 2,000th strikeout dominate another wall.

As much as Tom Glavine loves the life he has carved out for himself, his wife Chris, and their four children in their white-columned palace in the suburb of Alpharetta, he won't be spending much time here in the coming months. He has a new address this spring, one that many Braves fans can barely stomach to say aloud: Shea Stadium.

After 16 seasons in a Braves uniform, Glavine moved to the hated New York Mets this winter, agreeing to $35 million over the next three years with an option for a fourth year.

"For the most part, I've turned the page," Glavine said in a recent interview, leaning back in a leather chair that could have doubled as a throne and putting his feet up on his desk. "It's still hard to totally do it because I have friends who talk about it and still can't believe it and don't understand it. But it's a little bit easier to say 'we' when I talk about the Mets than it was at first. It's going to take time to totally set in. I try and get used to it on a daily basis."

When Braves pitchers and catchers report Thursday to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Glavine will be across the state at the Mets' Port St. Lucie spring training headquarters.

"There are going to be certain things along the way that kind of bring you back," said Glavine, who bought a house in Greenwich, Conn., about a 25-minute drive from Shea Stadium. "I'm sure that first day of spring training is going to be different, my first start, all that stuff. But honestly, I don't feel like I have any longing or any regrets, I really don't. When all is said and done, the appropriate things were thought about, and looked at, and considered, and the right decision was made."

He never envisioned pitching for any other team than the Braves, but now that the day has arrived, he's not apt to look back.

"I have no regrets now," he said. "I don't know that I had regrets soon after, but I had questions. I had a tough weekend after I signed, really coming to grips with the change that was going to take place and how we were going to make it all work."

IT'S HARD TO fault Glavine, who turns 37 in March, for turning his back on the Braves. He wasn't exactly ushered out the door by the team, but he didn't feel like a member of a family.

General manager John Schuerholz told the New York Times that Glavine "took the larger contract. He shouldn't be painted as an ogre for that. He took the bigger contract. There's nothing wrong with that."

Schuerholz's assertion is technically correct, but it hardly tells the whole story. In an age in which pitchers are paid like movie stars, Glavine's demands were modest.

He wanted the same contract his teammate, closer John Smoltz, received last winter: three years, $30 million. The team offered Glavine a one-year, $9 million deal while the Mets and Phillies were offering two years and $18 million. The club then offered him two years and $18 million at the same time its rivals already went to three years and $27 million.

Finally, during a six-hour meeting, Schuerholz and team president Stan Kasten reluctantly agreed to Glavine's proposal - under one condition. The contract would be structured so that half of Glavine's $10 million salary in the last two years would be deferred at no interest.

Glavine, who deferred $4 million at no interest in his last contract, politely declined.

"I stood there face-to-face (with Schuerholz) and said, 'This is what it's going to take to sign me and it's far less than everyone else has on the table right now,"' Glavine said. "I wanted to try and stay here at a fair price, knowing that it would be less than everyone else, but not do it in such a way that I squeezed every last penny out of the Braves. We couldn't get it done."

Ironically, the Braves are now using Glavine's outstanding numbers over the last decade to argue that Greg Maddux should be paid $13.5 million this year, not the $16 million he's seeking in arbitration.

Like Dale Murphy, who was traded to the Phillies after a distinguished career in Atlanta, Glavine leaves some very unhappy people behind.

His departure provoked an outcry, as sports columnists and talk show commentators accused the Braves of being cheapskates and readers and listeners dismissed him as just another greedy ballplayer.

"The first time I come back here it's going to be strange," said Glavine, who likely won't fulfill a dream of winning his 300th game in a Braves uniform.. "The first time I pitch against the Braves is going to be strange. But I don't envision myself standing on the mound being ticked off. I'll probably stand on the mound and have to keep from laughing."

GLAVINE LEFT A team that has 11 consecutive division titles and played in five World Series. Over the long haul, as the Braves reduce their payroll, the eight-time All-Star liked his chances of winning another World Series ring in New York more than he did in the South.

"It's easy for everybody to look at the Mets last year and say, how could he go there?" Glavine said. "Well, do you think anyone thought that free agents who signed with the Anaheim Angels last year were geniuses? Was Terry Pendleton a genius when he signed with us in 1990? Long-term, I see the Mets making more of a commitment to spending money than the Braves are, unless something changes."

Glavine doesn't expect anyone to understand, or really care, about why he chose to leave. He spent 19 years in the Braves organization and, though he claims he has no regrets about his decision, there's a residue of bitterness toward team officials who clearly counted on his family and strong commitment to the community to keep him here at a price well below market value.

"I feel like my loyalty to the organization and my commitment to my family here played a role in the assumption (by team officials) that there was no way I was going to leave," Glavine said. "It turned out that they were wrong."

Let his new life begin. And when he's inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame, which team's cap will he wear?

"Ask me in four years," he said.