2006 NEWS

2006 News > 3/25/06


By Marty Noble, MLB.com
Original Article HERE

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Ron Darling stopped at each locker on Pitchers Row one morning in Spring Training in 1991, asking each colleague for his age. "How old are you, Sid?" he said, and "Bobby O., how hold are you?" and so on with D avid Cone, Dwight Gooden and John Franco. In each case, Darling phrased his question the same way until he came to Alejandro Pena, the veteran reliever whose age occasionally was discussed with eye brows and suspicions raised.

"And Al," Darling said, increasing his volume, "what year were you born?"

Pena had prepared his answer -- 33. It was always 33, the year before and the year after. But the year of his birth, that was a different story, one not so easily provided. Math was required. Pena began the process. You could see him calculate, "Let's see, 1991 minus 33."

But he provided no answer, only a telling smile that prompted a burst of laughter from his teammates.

Age hardly is an issue in the Mets' clubhouse these days. Julio Franco and his 47 years locker over there. And 17-year-old Fernando Martinez has spent some time there this spring as well. No age between those wide parameters causes much of a stir. So it was that the 40th birthday of Tom Glavine arrived Saturday with relatively little fanfare.

There was a clubhouse cake a few days ago, and one of those "Over the hill" cards for a guy who's had quite a run on the hill. Glavine went home Thursday, his son Peyton's birthday.

Glavine is more about other numbers at this stage.

Do the math: 300 minus 275. The answer is more important than 40 at this point, not that 40 doesn't enter into the equation that could create a place of lasting distinction for the Mets pitcher. Twenty-five more victories in his career account, and Glavine will have achieved 300 victories.

Ten years ago, Glavine might have taken care of most of the 25 in one season. But his production has slowed since he joined the Mets in 2003 -- nine victories in '03, then 11, then 13. When he reached 275 last year, he acknowledged he had arrived one year later than he had expected. And now the years pass more quickly. When he arrived at 40, he acknowledged it had come some 20 victories earlier than anticipated.

"When I signed here, that's when I figured I'd get [to 300], when I was 40," Glavine said.

Glavine's teammates recognize 300 victories represent a milestone. They'd like to see him reach it -- as a Met if possible -- for sure, regardless of where he continues his career in 2007. That's why veteran reliever Chad Bradford said if he could, he would give Glavine a small birthday present.

"A small package of 25 victories," Bradford said.

Others had different gift ideas:

David Wright: "The ability to pull a pitch."

Al Jackson: "A blessing, so he'd be able to do whatever he wants to do after age 40."

Chris Woodward: "A bobblehead doll of him with no gray hair."

Brian Bannister: "Scores under 40 on the back nine for the rest of his life."

Willie Randolph: "More confidence in his curveball. He throws a nice little curve I'd like to see him use more. Tommy John had the same pitch. He'd started guys off with it, and they'd never swing at it."

Steve Trachsel: "A bottle of 'Gloom Away.' It was some silly citrus spray Tom and Al [Leiter] found in a hotel in Houston a couple of years ago. It was supposed to make you feel better. We gave it to Ricky Botallico. Then, we switched hotels in Houston. We couldn't find any more."

Aaron Heilman and general manager Omar Minaya had similar ideas for Glavine:

Heilman: "I'd give him back his strike zone."

Minaya: "We could smash QuesTec for him."