2006 NEWS

2006 News > 5/16/06


By Rick Hummel, St. Louis Dispatch

Though the New York Mets played in the World Series in 2000, the last time they won a division championship was lefthander Tom Glavine's first full year as a major leaguer.

If you think that Glavine has been around a really long time, you are correct, because his first full season as a major leaguer was in 1988, when he pitched for Atlanta.

As a member of the perennially strong Atlanta staffs, Glavine was one of the reasons the Mets haven't won any division crowns in 18 years. And now, he is one of the reasons that streak might end this year

. The Mets, who will make their only appearance of the season at Busch Stadium for a three-game series that begins tonight, have led the National League Eastern Division from the first day of the season. They won eight of their first nine games and have had little reason to look back until the past week, when the slow-starting Philadelphia Phillies cut their lead to one.

Glavine, who was only 33-41 in his first three seasons with the Mets, has opened with five wins in seven decisions and has an earned run average of 2.19. He opposes righthander Jeff Suppan, who has won four in a row, tonight.

The five wins for Glavine give him 280 for his career and if Glavine, 40, gets 20 more, he might be the last 300-game winner you see for the next 10 or 15 years.

"I think he's going to get it," Cardinals star Albert Pujols said.

Glavine almost never misses a start. In the 14 seasons of a full 162 games since 1990, Glavine has made the following numbers of starts: 33, 34, 33, 36, 36, 33, 33, 35, 35, 35, 36, 32, 32, 33.

Against the Cardinals, Glavine has pitched the equivalent of a full season in his career. He has made 34 starts against them. He also has compiled the best record against them of any active pitcher who has 10 or more wins vs. the Cardinals.

Glavine is 17-6, compared to the 25-18 record compiled by former Atlanta teammate Greg Maddux, now with the Chicago Cubs. Glavine's last appearance against the Cardinals was in May last year, when he held them to four hits and no runs over seven innings.

But Glavine hasn't been effective against all of the Cardinals all of the time. Third baseman Scott Rolen has a .360 lifetime mark with two homers against him, Juan Encarnacion has a .353 mark and Pujols is nine for 17 (.529) - but all of Pujols' hits against Glavine have been singles.

"My numbers are too good to say I have difficulty against him," said Pujols, smiling. But Pujols has immense respect for Glavine.

"It's the same thing that makes Maddux so good when he wins 323 games. These guys know how to pitch," Pujols said. "They know they probably don't throw as hard as everybody else in the league, but they win a lot of games every year, more than anybody else who throws 95 (miles an hour) plus.

"They've been doing it forever and the one thing about those guys is they don't make a mistake. And if they do make it and you miss it, you won't see it again. They only make one mistake a game, compared to other guys who make two or three every at-bat.

"If you beat those guys, you're going to have to beat them by hitting the ball the other way. You know that (Glavine) is going to beat you most of the time and you have to give credit to the pitcher but you always think you're better than him. That's the way you have to be against those guys.

"(Glavine) doesn't have overpowering stuff, but he has good stuff. I'd put him and Maddux on my team any time because those guys are going to give you 14 to 15 wins and maybe 20, if you give them some run support."

Glavine's feeling about Pujols, the game's pre-eminent hitter, is quite the same.

"He's on an ungodly pace," Glavine told mlb.com. "What he's doing is sick. Given the way he's swinging the bat, you are stupid if you let him beat you.

"You're going to have to pitch to someone between (Jim) Edmonds, Rolen and Pujols. Obviously, right now, Albert is not the guy you want to find yourself in a position to have to pitch to. But it's no bargain either to have to pitch to Edmonds or Rolen either, if the game is on the line."

Glavine likens Pujols now to Barry Bonds at his best.

"Right now, the way Albert is swinging, it's hard to imagine that Barry was any better or any hotter at one point," Glavine said. "When he gets hot, he's a lot like Barry in that there's not really anywhere you can attack him in the strike zone.

"It's just a matter of getting him to chase your pitch, so to speak. But if he's going good, he isn't going to do that. He's not going to chase that pitch."

Both Glavine and the Mets have options for 2007, which would be Glavine's fifth in a Mets uniform. If he racks up another 10 wins or so this year, he would be appealing to bring back, but if becomes a free agent, the Braves might want Glavine to return as he makes his run at 300.

The only other pitcher who seems to have a chance at 300 is Yankees lefthander Randy Johnson, but Johnson is 32 wins away, is coming up on 43 years old and seems to have lost his confidence. It appears unlikely he would be in anybody's rotation at age 45 or 46 to get to 300 wins, but Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan got to 300 at age 43 and then pitched three more years.

After Johnson, nobody else is even close, so fans should be advised to enjoy Glavine's quest. The Yankees' Mike Mussina is next, but he is 70 wins from 300.

Glavine is a master of deception and location; his top pitch probably is a changeup, although he has struck out 2,395 hitters. When he starts tonight, he will be just two strikeouts behind legendary fireballer Sandy Koufax although, as Glavine said earlier in the season, "I think I have more innings than Sandy."

About 1,682 more, in fact.

Cardinals righthander Jason Marquis played with Glavine for three years in Atlanta and said he learned a considerable amount about preparation and the mental side of the game.

"The one philosophy he really preached and has shown all through his career is that he never gave into a hitter," Marquis said. "He was really fierce and hard-nosed about, 'He's going to hit my pitch.' Obviously, he still goes about it the same way and his success is a testament to that.

"He has 280 (wins) already? I definitely think he'll get it. As long as stays healthy, I don't think he'll have a problem doing that."

When the Mets come here, it will be a matchup of division leaders and the two teams with the best records in the National League - the Cardinals are a half-game better at 24-14. Then, when the Mets leave here, they will go home to play the New York Yankees in the first week of interleague play. The teams never both have been in first place when they've met during the season.