2005 NEWS

2005 News > 4/5/05

GLAVINE LIKES FLYING UNDER THE RADAR

By Marty Noble, MLB.com
Original Article HERE.

CINCINNATI -- His uniform number is Mets' 47. His status is Mets' No. 2. And Tom Glavine is comfortable with each. He will be both Wednesday evening when the Mets and Reds play the second game of their season-opening series. The Mets' No. 2 starting pitcher, starting the Mets' second game. Makes sense, particularly to Glavine.

He is as familiar with the role as he is with the number on his back. Glavine has had more than his share of No. 1 moments in his career. The eight innings of no-margin-for-error, shutout pitching in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series come to mind. And his resume includes two Cy Young Awards, five seasons of at least 20 victories and 262 career victories, more than all but seven of the left-handed pitchers in the game.

And yet, he is perceived now as he probably will be perceived for as long as his name is discussed. He's No. 2. Like Garfunkel to Simon, Pippen to Jordan, like Friday night to Saturday night.

Truth be known, Glavine was the Braves' No. 1 pitcher in 1991, when the team began the remarkable run of division championships and again in 1998 when he produced a 20-6 record and won his second Cy. But in between those seasons and subsequent to '98, his image as "the secondary No. 1 pitcher" has been nurtured to the point of permanence.

Greg Maddux joined the Braves for the 1993 season and won the second of his four straight Cys, and the Glavine fade to subordinate status began. Right or wrong, the spoken sequence of Braves starters almost always was Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, even when Glavine deserved top billing. He was No. 2. And he is again. Now he's the Mets' No. 2 to Pedro Martinez after two years at the top of their rotation, such as it was.

Glavine has no quarrel with his standing. He speaks of Martinez in words of praise and admiration. He is comfortable in his skin, his uni and his career; understandably so.

"The number doesn't mean everything," he says. "It's got good and bad with it. It's nice to be considered the best on your team. But when you're No. 1, you don't get any slack. If you win 13 games as the No. 3 guy, you're wonderful. If you win 13 as the No. 1 guy, it's probably not enough."

Glavine spoke that sentence after two seasons as the Mets No. 1 starter in which he won nine and 11 games. Not since 1988, his first full season in the big leagues, had he won fewer. As a result, his image clearly isn't what it used to be, though his performance last season, particularly before the taxi accident in August, was comparable to his best work with the Braves.

He often was a victim of poor support last year. The team he faces Wednesday night, for example, beat him twice in June last year despite his allowing merely four earned runs in 12 1/3 innings (2.92 ERA). The Mets offense didn't treat him like the No. 1 starter.

But Glavine retained that identifiction, somewhat by default. Al Leiter had a better record and a lower ERA -- 10-8 and 3.21 to Glavine's 11-14 and 3.60.

"Sometimes groupings get names," Glavine said. A sequence of names don't vary even though performances might. Last year, it was Glavine, Leiter and whomever. "We had variations in Atlanta,'" he said. "But it usually was (Maddux), me and John (Smoltz)."

Proper recognition is obscured by the sequence, sometimes being linked helps. Some baseball folks think Don Drysdale benefited from being No. 2 to Sandy Koufax's shimmering No. 1.

Not that it applies to Glavine in the same way. And he wouldn't quarrel with a 1A standing if it did. "1A is fine with me," Glavine said. He is No. 2 with the Mets though, the pitcher now charged with the responsibility of getting Willie Randolph his first managerial victory.

It's quite appropriate. Glavine is completely accustomed to the second game scenario. He made two Opening Day starts with the Braves -- 1992 and '99. "We'd start whoever won the Cy Young Award the year before," he said, explaining a selection procedure no other team could implement. He made two with the Mets.

He started the second games of six Braves seasons, producing a 2-0 record and four no-decisions. "There's so much fuss about Opening Day," Glavine said. "It's nice flying under the radar" as he did throughout Spring Training.

No lack of respect here. This isn't what the Mets did in the '80s when they staged an Opening Day II and had Rodney Dangerfield throw out the first ball ("I thought they might have me throw out the second ball," the comedian said.

"I'll take it," Glavine said last week. "I like it."