2007 NEWS

2007 News > 5/25/07


By Joe Gergen, Newsday

ATLANTA -- There was a smattering of applause, a tentative sign of grudging respect, when Tom Glavine was introduced with the Mets' lineup before the game and later when he batted for the first time. Of course, the cheers were outnumbered by boos, the standard greeting for the pitcher at Turner Field since he left the Braves after amassing 242 victories in an Atlanta uniform. He expected nothing more.

Strangely enough, the player who expressed disappointment with the reaction was John Smoltz, who opposed Glavine last night for the fourth time in his career and the third time this season.

The two were teammates for 14 years and likely will be reunited in Cooperstown sometime in the next decade.

Smoltz, the survivor of an amazing triumvirate (Glavine and Greg Maddux) that carried the Braves to unprecedented domination of their division, is the club ace at 40 and a crowd favorite. Glavine is the enemy, perhaps more so than ever after the Mets dethroned Atlanta in the National League East last year. Yet Smoltz continues to believe the fans will come around and honor the contributions of his close friend, who nailed down Atlanta's only World Series title in 1995.

"I know it's going to come someday," Smoltz said. "And when it does, it will blow him away."

Maybe they're waiting for Glavine (295-193) to join the 300-win club. He's no closer to that goal after last night's 2-1 loss, which was due more to Smoltz's brilliance than any failure of his own. The game held particular significance to the Braves' righthander as well. It was his 200th victory, which, combined with the 154 saves he compiled in a three-year-plus turn as the closer, stamps him as a future resident of the Hall of Fame.

He agreed it would be more memorable because the opponent was Glavine. "I remember my first win," Smoltz said, "but I couldn't tell you what was my 100th win or 150th win." Glavine's presence at their golf club this winter will serve as a constant reminder of No. 200.

But Smoltz would like for his friend, who still lives in the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta, to experience an ovation similar to the one Smoltz received last night. Glavine even contemplated a return to the Braves this season before the club made an offer that can only be described as insulting. The residents treated him like a traitor in his initial appearance as a Met in 2003 and have been only slightly kinder in subsequent trips.

"It bothers him a lot," Smoltz said. "It bothers me. But he deals with it. He won't be hardened by it. It will make him better."

Not that his record against Atlanta reflects dramatic improvement. Pummeled by the Braves in his early years as a Met, he has been much more efficient in the last two seasons despite being saddled with three losses in his last four decisions. He allowed just two runs in six innings last night, and the first of those was partially the result of first baseman Carlos Delgado's inability to field a ground ball in the first inning.

Smoltz simply was better, holding the Mets scoreless for seven innings en route to his second win over the Mets (and Glavine) in 2007. It certainly didn't lessen his admiration for the 41-year-old lefthander.

"I saw him pitch through some injuries that no one knew, some pretty bad injuries, and win 20," Smoltz said. "He was criticized pretty badly after the All-Star Game in San Diego [when he was charged with five runs and nine hits] and he didn't let it bother him. After he won his second Cy Young Award [in 1998], people said he was declining.

"Then the problem with the strike zone [QuesTec]. He made the adjustment. When he went from here to New York, he struggled and people said, 'Oh, he won't win 300.' And here he is."

Glavine is close. Very close. But no closer than he was yesterday, thanks to Smoltz, who credits his friend with demonstrating an approach to the game that has served both men so well.

"He taught me how to be a professional," said Smoltz, one old pro acknowledging another.