2006 NEWS

2006 News > 6/1/06

GLAVINE'S 300TH WIN ON THE HORIZON

By Marty Noble, MLB.com
Original Article HERE.

If he were so inclined at this point, now that his 40th birthday is two months passed and the encroachment of self-doubt has been halted, Tom Glavine could allow himself the fantasy. He could let his mind wonder through the realm of round numbers that, for reasons of divisibility by five, are more important to us than the interim integers, and envision his arrival at the next nicely-rounded landing -- 300.

Here's the thing, though -- fantasy no longer is the vehicle that gets Glavine there. Now reality does the job. His 300th victory is there, just beyond the blue and orange (and recently added black) horizon. If Glavine was carrying the ball rather than pitching it, he would sense the sweet scent of the end zone by now.

Let the 20-year-olds fantasize; he's going to get there for real. He needs 17 victories, and the dramatic about-face he has executed since the All-Star break last season will produce them. Not this summer, unless the Mets have some fantasy run of their own cooked up. But, based on the prognosis updates his muscles and joints provide every fifth day and how he's performing, some time before the charcoal embers of the next Memorial Day barbecue lose their glow, Glavine will bask in the glow of 300.

Goodness knows, he doesn't speak about it with such certainty. His New England upbringing and sense of what's right to say publicly prohibit spending more than an occasional New York minute in the realm of I-me-my. The ESPN coffers aren't so influential that we ever will see a "Glavine on Glavine" spin-off.

Glavine says, "I'm not comfortable talking about it." But he does allow an "I hope so" every so often when the topic turns to the milestone that will validate a career that needs no validation.

Glavine allows himself that much now that he has taken a few strides in the gunlap in the run to 300.

Another stride may come Friday night when he makes his 12th start of his fourth Mets season, against the Giants at Shea Stadium, where he has been a force -- a 4-1 record and 1.38 ERA in six starts and 39 innings. Glavine opposes one of the two teams that have beaten him thus far and the only team that has scored more than three runs against him.

The Giants, with an assist from the oddly shaped strike zone of home-plate umpire Eric Cooper, scored six in 6 1/3 innings against Glavine on April 24 on the banks of McCovey Cove.

Glavine has won each of his six subsequent starts, and he has been particularly stingy in doing so. Eleven earned runs in 40 2/3 innings yields a 2.43 ERA. That work has left him with an 8-2 record and a 2.59 ERA for the season. A victory Friday will give him an in-season record seven games over .500 for the first time since his last appearance with the Braves.

He finished that 2002 season at age 36 with 242 career victories; 300 seemed so near, yet so far away. Had he remained with the Braves, who knows? His first two Mets teams didn't help much. They won 137 games, while the Braves won 197 in those years. Glavine won merely 20. Even in his first two full seasons, 1988 and 1989, he exceeded that, notching 21 victories.

He prefers not to dabble in the hypothetical, especially when it involves his career change. So he shuns the "what if" of being a Braves lifer and allows only the "what is" of being a Met and the more specific "what ifs" of the last three seasons.

"It's not about how good the Braves have been since I came here. It's about how we have played," Glavine said.

If he had stayed with Atlanta, perhaps he would have 10 more victories. Better run support, better fortune, better defense, better bullpen and "better pitching by me" would have resulted in 10 more victories as a Met, too.

Even so conservative a sum would have him at 293 now. And with at least 20 starts remaining this season, he would have enough opportunities to reach the round number that he assumes will make eventual Hall of Fame election a foregone conclusion.

"I don't regret coming here," Glavine said. "Life would have been easier if I stayed in Atlanta -- easier because of my family and the travel. And maybe it is cool to have your whole career in one place.

"But we've had a lot of fun here. And I think you may limit yourself if you play in one city -- or if you just miss this city. There's so much here."

Glavine has embraced the New York market and the city in particular as few Mets have -- reminiscent of the likes of Keith Hernandez, Todd Zeile, Al Leiter and Mike Piazza. Broadway isn't far from his in-season Connecticut home. He's found a restaurant or two in Manhattan. Early in his first Mets season, he asked a reporter about the Museum of Natural History. There are sufficient golf courses in the satellite areas to meet his passion. And, from the start, he wanted to be relatively close to his parents, who still live in his native Massachusetts.

"In the long run, playing here has been a benefit," Glavine said. "I've developed relationships here that will serve me for a lifetime that I never would have had if I stayed in Atlanta."

That said, he remains non-committal about where he will play his 2007 season. His family is the primary consideration. The restructuring of his Mets contract, done in Spring Training, guarantees nothing other than the terms of 2007 compensation should he decide to take the final strides toward 300 with the Mets.

He acknowledges, though, that the baseball components of his decision probably will favor the Mets.

"I am very comfortable here," Glavine said. "And we're a good team."

An appearance in the postseason -- and ending the Braves' run of division championships seemingly would enhance the chance.

His return to the postseason would complete his renaissance and enhance his Hall of Fame credentials as well, not that they need it.

Glavine still addresses that issue in the conditional. Hall of Fame designation is in his thoughts, but not yet in his plans. It was there late in 2004 and in the first half of last season when victories were scarce and self-doubt was bullying his confidence, but the image was faint. And, yes, there were instances when the bully won, for at least a night.

He heard and read phrases and words applied to him and his career, including "washed up" and "done." It was troubling.

"My faith, my wife's faith and our friendship allowed me to deal with it," Glavine said.

Pitching coach Rick Peterson's input allowed him to mute the criticism.

"He helped me a ton," Glavine said.

Peterson enjoys a good analogy the way George Hamilton enjoys a tan. So when Glavine's golf game threatened to surpass his pitching in the first half of last season, Peterson questioned the two-time Cy Young Award winner and five-time 20-game winner in a way that hit home.

Glavine had won 268 games as a two-pitch pitcher and a monument to stubbornness. He threw his fastball and his changeup, and he seldom pitched inside.

"It got me where I was," Glavine said now. "Why change?"

A number of harsh answers were presented to him: his 4.94 ERA, opponents' .325 batting average against him and his 6-7 record.

Peterson presented a remedy, too.

"You wouldn't play a round of golf with two clubs, would you?" the coach asked. "Not when you can have 14."

"My stubbornness already was going away," Glavine said.

So he implemented Peterson's advice -- pitch inside more, throw more breaking balls. At age 39, the old dog learned new tricks.

From the day in August 2004 when Glavine lost two teeth in a taxi accident near LaGuardia Airport until the 2005 All-Star break, he had a 9-11 record. His ERA in that span was 5.20, the fifth-highest among Major League pitchers with at least 150 innings.

Since Glavine changed his approach and relearned to "trust my stuff," he has a 15-9 record, and his 2.37 ERA is the second-lowest in the big leagues.

"That," Steve Trachsel said, "is a 180."

En route to a 300.