2006 NEWS

2006 News > 7/31/06


By Jeff Schultz, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

It has been 18 years since the New York Mets won a division title, a long and inglorious but occasionally amusing stretch that included Bobby Bonilla threatening a beat writer with the line, "I'll show you the Bronx."

The Mets came to Atlanta this weekend. It's difficult to know whether they actually showed the Braves the Bronx, figuratively speaking, because the tour bus seemed half-empty by Friday. First the Braves lost 6-4. Then they lost 11-3. Then they showed up Sunday with a nervous twitch, dropped into a 7-0 hole and settled for a mild pounding, 10-6.

So completed New York's first series sweep in Atlanta in 21 years.

Nice 1-5 homestand, guys.

If the Mets didn't show them the Bronx, they at least showed them the end.

"You don't expect to come in here ever and sweep these guys," Tom Glavine said. "You don't expect to turn around the [lack of] success in this building. We've been horrible up until this year."

As long as we're beating up on holy history, try this: The year New York last won the East Division, in 1988, also was Glavine's first full season in the majors.

The Mets led the league in wins (100). Glavine led the league in losses (17).

"Things have come full circle, I guess," the ex-Braves pitcher said. "The Braves obviously are not going to win forever. I'm not going to sit here and say they're not going to win this year, but sooner or later they weren't going to win their division.

"Obviously, I had a lot of fun being a part of it --- and it'll be all right being a part of a team that stops it."

Glavine didn't get the decision Sunday. He lasted only four innings and remains stuck on 286 career wins. But otherwise, could this season possibly be sweeter? After three mostly miserable years in New York, his career is back on track. His current team has opened a fat division lead. His former team is keeled over in a dark alley.

This wasn't the same Glavine who started the season 11-2 with a 3.33 ERA. He allowed six runs and 10 hits, and his manager, Willie Randolph, didn't even allow him to come out for the fifth inning. Suddenly, Glavine has gone seven starts (0-2 with five no decisions) without a win, and his ERA has crept up to 3.97. But the bottom line was he had a close-up view this weekend of his present and former teams' turn in fortunes.

"It's certainly a game I wanted to win," he said. "I didn't, but I'm glad we did."

Glavine smiled when asked about his 7-17 record in 1988 (the Braves finished 54-106; the Mets 100-60). "Well, things have changed for me and the Mets," he said. "Hard to believe how long ago that was."

The 40-year-old is at a curious point in his career. For 2 1/2 seasons, his four-year, $42.5 million contract with the Mets looked like an albatross for the organization. But he re-invented himself after the All-Star break last season, stopped trying to live on the outside corner (and beyond) and had a 2.22 ERA in 15 starts. The Mets restructured his contract in the spring, lowering his salary this season but adding an option year in 2007 ($5.5 million if Glavine triggers it, $12 million if the Mets do, but each option with incentives that could escalate his pay to $14 million).

But it's not a lock he'll be back with them. He told MLB.com the other day that he balked at agreeing to the restructuring. "I want to be free," he said. "I wanted the freedom to evaluate where I was and for my family to express their thoughts. That is important to me."

Glavine still lives in Alpharetta. But the Braves wouldn't seem to have a spot in their rotation or the space in the budget to bring him back. Then again, at this point, why not stay with the better team --- in New York?

"Our whole focus is to try to win our series and make it difficult for anybody to catch us," he said.

"Sweeps are hard to come by, but we're of the mind set right now that we expect to win every series we play, and we're surprised when we don't."

Kind of like the team here used to think.

Back in the day.